Part 1 The Gardens
Cost-Pricier than many of my recommends (see admission prices here). I suggest a yearly membership of $120 which gets your spouse and children in for free for one year. One visit isn't enough to truly explore this magnificent property and it is always expanding.
If you have never heard of The Huntington you are not alone, but you have probably seen bits and pieces of it in many, many movies, postcards, calendars, Pinterest boards, Flickr, etc... It's highly photographable, and deservedly so. It's one of my favorite places in SoCal and I feel I just can't do it justice in one post. The Huntington naturally divides into three separate entities, Library, Art Museum and Gardens, and so, three separate blog posts, the first of which-Gardens. It's a lot to take in. After dozens of visits I'm still overwhelmed with the beauty of the place and the ever evolving changes.
Just driving into the parking lot I feel I've stepped into another world. Trees shade much of the lot, and despite the crowds of people it's hushed, except for the birds. It used to be that I'd walk down an avenue of flowering trees to get to the main entrance, but those trees are gone now, replaced by a new building, shop, cafe, and field of wildflowers. While the flowers are stunning I do miss the trees. I'll discuss in a future post the research library near the entrance where qualified scholars can study the rare books on the premises. If you are a bibliophile like me you will want to visit the books on display for the public.
The mansion turned art museum was originally the home of Henry Huntington and his wife. Huntington was a powerful railroad magnate, but he and his wife were also collectors of rare books and art and a lover of gardens. The Botanical Gardens cover 120 acres and contain plants from around the globe. The gardens are always expanding and changing, most recently, besides the new entrance, they've added a stunning Chinese Garden that continues to grow and change.
I know I'll forget a garden (they are divided by region) and that I've missed getting pictures from one or another. Its spring and I went where the blooms took me. Normally I go in March when the wisteria is so dense in the Japanese Garden that the beauty almost makes you cry. I missed the wisteria this year, but April is a time for roses and the display in the Rose Garden is brilliant.
The Desert Garden is always a surprise. It's expanded over the years. When it blooms-wow. Its almost like visiting another planet. Cacti and succulents aren't everyone's cup of tea-they weren't mine-but walking through this garden just might change a few minds. It's incredible.
Continuing down the hill are the Lily Ponds, a great place for small children to check out the frogs and ducks and run on the grass or sit under the incredible trees. Continuing up is the Subtropical Garden. The Japanese Garden must have been photographed many millions of times over. It's a stunning vista. I, myself, must have hundreds of photos, before kids, with my babies in strollers, school kids staring in wonder at the goldfish, my teenagers trying to act bored but not succeeding, and now on my own again. It's a special place no matter the stage of life or interests.
The Zen Garden is quiet and peaceful no matter how many people are passing through. A Bonsai Court has been expanded and includes the most amazing trees I have ever seen.
There is a Camilla Garden (not blooming at the time of my visit, unfortunately), an incredible Children's Garden where it is impossible not to wish yourself back into childhood, and a Conservatory for older kids to experience botanical science first hand.
I'll finish up with the Chinese Garden. No words can really do the place justice. Such care and thought have been put into the design, it's truly a work of art.
There is plenty of space for strollers, and it's a lot of walking so be prepared. There are two tea houses on the premises, English and Chinese. You'll need a reservation for the English tea, but no reservation to grab something from the cafe behind it, or for the Chinese tea house. The Huntington is closed on Tuesdays and they have a free day on the first Thursday of the month. A reservation must be made online for the free day.
The Huntington Library and Art Museum