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A Visit to The Huntington Library & Gardens

written by Julie Cohn

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When planning a visit to Los Angeles, California, make time for a unique day trip to The Huntington in San Marino, near Pasadena.  More than just a museum, the Huntington Library & Gardens is a great family educational adventure with a research library, extensive art collection, and gorgeous botanical gardens.

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The Huntington Library and Garden

The Huntington was founded by Henry E. Huntington, a railroad and real estate magnate, who, together with his wife, Arabella, established a world-class collection of books and art at his Beaux Arts mansion.  Huntington purchased the land (originally a ranch) in 1903 and commissioned the gardens to accompany his residence.  Today, the gardens cover 120 acres, with over 14,000 varieties of plants, including the Camellia collection, with over 80 different species and 1200 varieties of Camellia.  A popular setting for weddings, the specialty gardens include the Shakespeare Garden, Australian Garden, Desert Garden, Jungle Gardens, Japanese Gardens, and the 3.5 acre Chinese Gardens. The Huntington has been featured in several films and television programs, such as Ironman 2, Memoirs of A Geisha, The Holiday, The Good Place, West World, and Scandal.

 

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The library houses over 9 million books, of which only a tiny portion are available for viewing; the remainder is available to qualified scholars for research.  Many rare and one-of-a-kind books are part of the Huntington collection, including a rare 1450 edition of The Gutenberg Bible, one of only 11 copies that exist on vellum, as well as an early folio of William Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Many other renowned books are on public display.

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The Huntington Library & Gardens has a gorgeous art collection, consisting of 650 paintings and 440 sculptures, incorporating British, French, American, and European art.  More well-known works include Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie, and one of the world’s most extensive collections of William Blake.

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As you can see, the whole place is gorgeous!  The Huntington Library & Gardens are a peaceful sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and a nice outdoor activity on a busy family vacation.  The quietness of the garden paths soothes frazzled brains, the scent of newly bloomed cherry blossoms, jasmine, and camellia tickled our noses, and the kaleidoscope of colors in the paintings and gardens was an enchantment for the eyes.

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Lodging

We stayed at the incredible Langham Huntington Pasadena, one of the most beautiful resorts in Southern California, only about 10 minutes from the Huntington Library & Gardens.

Dining

We did not get a chance to visit the Rose Garden Tea Room on this trip, but the menu looked wonderful.  The tea room is available for reservations and features a pot of tea and scones, plus a tea sandwich, salad, and petite dessert buffet.  The tea room is casual and kid-friendly.   There is also food available at the Cafe’, near the Shakespeare Garden, as well as the Chinese Garden tea shop, which features delicious Chinese cuisine.  There is also a coffee cart at the entrance to the grounds, near the gift shop.

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Tips

  • I recommend you spend every moment the Huntington is open visiting the many exhibits.  There is so much to do that it will take hours to see and do everything.
  • Parking is free.
  • Most buildings and garden paths are wheelchair accessible.
  • Picnicking is not allowed on the grounds; please eat in designated areas near the entrance only.
  • The Huntington is smoke-free.
  • The Huntington Library & Gardens is family-friendly and appropriate for children of all ages, although you will have to supervise your children carefully at the inside gallery areas.
  • Strollers are allowed in the outside walkways.
  • Wear sunscreen and bring bottled water, as you will spend most of your time walking in full sunshine outside.
  • I recommend one of the Chinese lotus or almond cookies at the Chinese tea shop for a quick snack break for kids, they were delicious.
  • Bring a camera to take photos, but no flash photography is allowed at the indoor galleries; commercial photography is not permitted without prior approval.

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The Huntington enjoys over 500,000 visitors a year, including about 12,000 children through their many school enrichment programs.  The Huntington is open Mon-Friday from 12 noon – 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 – 4:30 p.m., and is closed on Tuesdays.  (During summer months the Huntington is open 10:30 – 4:30 every day except Tuesdays.)  For more information about admission and hours, visit the “Plan Your Visit” section of their website.  For more information about the exhibits at the Huntington, please visit their website.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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