L.A.’s Lushest Library: The Huntington Gardens

Approximately 11.5 miles northeast of Los Angeles is one of my most favorite places in Southern California: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. Encompassing 207 acres of land in the San Gabriel Valley, it is an Olympic feat to see it all in one day.

Railroad and real estate businessman Henry Edwards Huntington bought this ranch in 1903 and amassed extensive library, art, and botanical collections for two decades before opening up his home to the public in 1928.

The Library

If you make it as far as The Library, you can get a glimpse at diverse books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, and other objects, such as the Ellesmere manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a typed draft of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and the Gutenberg’s Bible on vellum — one of only 12 in existence.

The Art Museum

The galleries are destinations onto themselves with as many as 40,000 objects in their collections. The Huntington Art Gallery is located within the original 55,000-square-foot home palace of Mr. and Mrs. Huntington. There are also two smaller galleries that exhibit decorative arts and folk art, paintings, prints and drawings, photography, and sculpture.

The Botanical Gardens

This is the draw. It was the reason I splurged on a membership. While living in California, it was my favorite place to go for a walk. (I failed to see the allure of over-crowed, over-hyped places like Runyon Canyon). It also never looked the same twice, with different gardens blooming throughout the year. You could easily spend an entire 8-hour day here and still not see it all.

Only have time for a quick visit:

There are 16 stunning themed gardens to peruse, but if you’re short on time and/or stamina, choose to explore the Chinese Garden, the Bonsai Collection, the Japanese Garden, and the Desert Garden above the others.

If you go: The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino (a small community within Pasadena). As of this writing, advanced timed tickets are required for weekend visits. The garden is closed on Tuesdays.

Must-experience Experience: I became a fan of English high tea only after I experienced it at The Huntington Tea Room. The service, the special blends, the setting, all conspired to make me feel like a lady in waiting. Not to mention, it’s also the perfect respite after spending the day exploring the gardens. As of this writing, The Tea Room will re-open winter 2022.

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