The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

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Recently, I visited The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden. It was a wonderful surprise and is well worth seeing if you are in the Los Angeles/Pasadena area. The address is 1151 Oxford Road in San Marino, which is next to Pasadena, and the mail entrance is on Orlando Road at Allen Avenue. They are closed on Tuesdays and major holidays, but the rest of the week they are open in the summer from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. You can check their website for more information at www.huntington.org.

Admission varies, but on weekdays adults are charged $15.00, senior $12.00, students $10.00 and children between 5 and 11 are $6.00. The rates are higher on weekends and the crowds are larger. My suggestion is to go on a weekday and to get there early.

There is a lot of walking involved, so bring your sun lotion and a hat, plus some water. Refreshments are available at the Rose Garden and also the charming Chinese garden.

After you park (parking is free), you will enter the entrance pavilion. Here you will pay for your admission and there are also rest rooms and a gift shop located here. Get a map, since it will help you plan your tour. My suggestion is that you do the major walking through the gardens first, since it’s cooler earlier in the day. When you leave the entrance area, go left to the Desert Garden. The variety of plants is amazing and I personally never knew that desert plants could be so beautiful. After you go through these gardens, you will find yourself close to the water lily pond on the right. Take this in and then continue on the road to the Australian garden. Just past this is the entrance to Japanese garden, which is best visited by going through the bamboo forest. You will arrive at the Bonsai Court and then a Japanese house and gardens. Both of these areas are beautiful and the garden bridge is one of top attractions. After you have taken many photographs here, go back to the main road. Double back a bit to where you entered the bamboo forest and head in the direction of the lily pond again. You will find signs that direct you to the jungle garden and here you can see a beautiful waterfall. If you follow this path to the top, you will come out at The Huntington Gallery. This was the home of Henry Huntington, who bought this land with his fortune and founded this amazing collection. Go into the galleries, and you will see how beautiful the house is, but while you are on the fist floor be sure and see the prize painting in this collection The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. We’ve seen reproductions of this famous painting our entire lives, but this is the original and not to be missed. There are many more painting worth seeing, so spend a bit of time here.

After leaving the galleries we headed to the rose garden. Here we had lunch at the café and it was delicious. There’s a variety of salads, sandwiches and dessert for a reasonable price. The more formal and expensive Rose Garden Tea Room serves lunch and tea, but you definitely need reservations to go there–call 626 405-2142. After some refreshments, exit the rose garden back to the Japanese garden area and follow the signs to the Chinese Gardens. These are among the most beautiful with a koi pond and different pavilions. This is also another place for refreshments and it’s much quieter than the rose garden café. Leaving here you will pass the Boone Gallery where there are changing exhibits that might be of interest to you. Then go to the American art galleries where you can see some very famous paintings (don’t miss Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt). The final stop should be the Library Exhibition Hall (next to the entrance pavilion) where you can view the Gutenberg Bible and The Canterbury Tales manuscript.

You’ve basically gone in one large circle and all of this can be done in 3 to 4 hours. Use your free map to follow where you are going and there are signs all along the way to guide you. Take your time and enjoy the beautiful gardens and then go into the cool comfort of the galleries, as the day gets warmer. On the day we visited (a weekday in the summer) it was not very crowded, so we really enjoyed being there. With all the tacky Hollywood places to visit, the Huntington’s natural beauty and classy exhibitions are a welcome relief from the glitz and fake glamour.

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