The Huntington Botanical Gardens, Library and Art Collections in San Marino, California, make for a perfect day trip from Los Angeles.
On a recent trip to California, we spent an entire day at Disneyland.
It was a lot of fun and very exciting, but also pretty intensive, so the day after we took it easy.
We went to the super chilled Huntington Gardens for a day and it was a wonderful, relaxing experience.
Located just a short drive from LA, this day trip was part of the packed itinerary on my private tour in California with Tierra Marina Tours.
The Huntington is a bit of a hidden gem, so it was good to go there with local guides.
What Is There To Do at The Huntington Gardens?
The answer is: Plenty!
The Huntington opening hours are 10 am–5 pm (closed on Tuesday) and you can easily spend an entire day there.
There are so many things to see and the place is massive, so I do recommend you spend as much time as you can there. It will let you explore the place at a leisurely pace.
If you don’t have the whole day, just visit the highlights.
1. Themed Gardens
Chinese garden, Japanese garden, desert garden, Australian garden, rose garden, Californian garden, herb garden, jungle garden and the list goes on…
2. The Huntington Library
A collection of rare books and manuscripts and ongoing exhibitions.
3. The Huntington Art Collections
Impressive European and American art collections, with a large range of items to explore.
4. The Huntington Store
One of the best gift shops I’ve ever seen. Even if you’re not into gift shops, visit this one; it’s like visiting another gallery.
The Huntington Themed Gardens
There are so many amazing gardens at The Huntington, that you will probably feel overwhelmed at first.
You’ll get a map when you enter the gardens, that makes navigating the place a bit easier.
There was a super friendly member of staff who welcomed us and suggested a route to take, while showing us some points of interest on the map.
There are no less than 16 botanical gardens at The Huntington. You can find the full list of gardens on the Huntington website.
Here are some of the highlights that I recommend:
The Chinese Garden
This one was my favourite, though the Japanese Garden was a close competitor 😉
In one word, it’s gorgeous.
The Chinese Garden at The Huntington is called The Garden of Flowing Fragrance. Its poetic name refers to the scents of the flowers and trees.
Beyond the flowers and trees, the lake and the Chinese architecture are just as remarkable in this garden as the plants are.
The place really looks like a painting and it’s wonderfully peaceful and tranquil.
The Japanese Garden
The walk from the Chinese to the Japanese garden is dreamy.
They are right next to each other and the view is magical.
I’ve been a fan of Japanese gardens since my trip to Japan and always try to find them when I travel in other countries too.
This Californian Japanese garden is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen.
It’s a large, picturesque garden with many fascinating things to see, including a traditional Japanese house and a Bonsai collection.
The Desert Garden
If you like cacti and succulents, this garden is for you.
I’ve never seen so many types of succulents in one place… turns out there are over 2,000 species of desert plants in that garden.
The collection is really impressive, so take your time exploring this garden.
The Rose Garden
One of the more popular gardens, and a perfect spot for a selfie of yourself surrounded by roses 😉
If you visit this garden during spring and summer when it’s in bloom, the smell is just amazing.
It’s the many varieties of roses in different colours that make this garden so pretty and elegant.
The Jungle Garden
After just a couple of minutes in this garden, you may actually start to feel like you’re in a tropical jungle.
The tall trees, the flowers and other plants create a captivating atmosphere.
The Huntington Art Collections
The large and impressive art collections at The Huntington are part of the attraction of the place, alongside the gardens and the library.
The European Art collection is displayed in what used to be the original residence of Henry and Arabella Huntington.
Arabella Huntington was a keen art collector.
The artworks include paintings and drawings, tapestries, porcelain, furniture and much more.
The architecture of the house itself is also fascinating.
Exploring the elegant drawing rooms made me feel for a moment that I was in France…
When you visit the European art collection, I recommend you use the audio guide available at the entrance.
The audio guides is informative, interesting and the knowledge is presented in conversational language that makes the art very accessible.
The Huntington also has a gallery of American Art, but we didn’t get a chance to visit it. Find out more about it here.
The Huntington Library
This library is primarily a research institute, but it is accessible to the public.
It is famous for its collection of rare books, photos, maps and manuscripts, mainly from the US and Britain.
Only some are on display at any given time, as it’s a large collection.
The exhibition is fascinating and puts the historical documents in context.
Everything is presented in an engaging way that makes you want to know more.
Where to Eat at Huntington Gardens
There are several places to eat at The Huntington: 1919 café, Freshwater Pavilion Noodle House, Patio Grill and Red Car coffee shop, as well as the Rose Garden Tea Room
We had our lunch at the 1919 café, a large place with mostly American and Mexican cuisine.
Vegan and vegetarian options are marked on the menu.
More About the History of The Huntington
The Huntington is the estate of Henry and Arabella Huntington.
Find out more about them and the history of The Huntington in this video:
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I was invited on the tour by Tierra Marina Tours. All opinions are my own.