Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Sculpture Garden

Queen Califia's Magical Circle Sculpture Garden in Escondido CA
Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Sculpture Garden is the last major international project and the only American sculpture garden created by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002).

Ready for the illustrations from a children’s story to pop out of the book and appear bigger than life? Then check out Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Sculpture Garden located at Kit Carson Park in the Iris Sankey Arboretum in Escondido, CA. (See the map to 3333 Bear Valley Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92025)

The Inspiration

For her inspiration, Niki de Saint Phalle used California’s rich history and culture and Califia, the fictional warrior queen of the mythical Island of California.

The eagle is featured prominently in Native American and indigenous Mexican myths and art from which Niki drew inspiration and she claimed it as her personal totem.

The Sculptures

A 400 ft “snake wall” from 4 to 9 ft high encircles the garden and its central 24 ft sculpture of Queen Califia in her golden armor atop an eagle. (Seen in the image above.)

The entrance to the garden opens into a maze. Black, white, and mirrored mosaic tiles cover the short walls. Bright colors and hand-cut mosaics add to the beauty and charm of the sculpture.

After finding their way through the maze, visitors enter a courtyard where the sculptures of Queen Califia’s Garden reside.

The Artist

Niki de Saint Phalle partnered with the city of Escondido to build and maintain the sculpture garden. Up until her death in 2002, Niki de Saint Phalle lived in La Jolla, CA up. After her death, her granddaughter, Bloum Cardenas along with her assistants completed the installation in 2003.

Everything about this garden is whimsical and fun. Definitely a must-see in Escondido.

Operating Hours

  • Tuesdays – 9 a.m. – noon
  • Thursdays – 9 a.m. – noon
  • 2nd & 4th Saturdays of each month – 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The garden is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Learn more about Queen Califia’s Magical Circle Sculpture Garden