The Huntington, Los Angeles
The Huntington offers a wonderful permanent art collection and consistently terrific traveling exhibits. The gardens, divided into geographical botanical collections (desert, Australian, English, Japanese, etc.) are each quite large and all are beautifully manicured. My favorite is the wonderful Japanese garden - I think it's one of the most peaceful places in the Greater LA area. There's a lovely tea house in the middle of the grounds; it provides a terrific opportunity to rest your feet and have a bite to eat.
As I mentioned in my tip for the Huntington Gardens...this is a vast place. The same holds true for the art galleries and library located on the grounds. We soon discovered that to do justice to this beautiful place several visits are necessary. During our visit, our main interest had been the gardens, however, I was able to whet my appetite by making a quick survey of several of the buildings...I definitely wished we had more time.
From the Rose Garden I could see the portico entrance to the The Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art. This is a beautifully appointed gallery with the work of some the finest American artist including John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper. Attached to this gallery is the new Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery which will eventually house the expanding American Art collection. At present much of the 16th - 19th century European art which is usually housed in The Huntington Gallery (to be closed several years while major renovations are completed) is on display here. The stunning contemporary building designed by architect Frederick Fisher includes a glass-fronted loggia (see picture #3 for this tip).
On the grounds you should also visit the Huntington Library. Much of the library is closed to the general public and available only to "qualified scholars". My interest was in the original Gutenberg Bible from 1455...perhaps the most important technological development of the world of information and literacy.
As I wondered through the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena (technically San Marino) and snapped photos of this beautiful place, I have to admit thinking "These are going to look great on Virtual Tourist". Well, the pictures are not bad but as an effort to capture the magic...they fail. What I realized after I returned home was that it was the immersion into the environment that stirred the emotions and provided the "Wow".
You will, of course, see many wonderful and exotic plants but I've seen many of them before. What seems special is the incredible quantity and undeniable critical mass. Seeing one cactus is "interesting"...seeing a thousand cacti all together is "exciting" or as we used to say "mind-blowing".
We absolutely loved this place. If there was any disappointment at all it was that it is so vast. If you're really into gardens, this is not a quick visit. You need time and a lot of energy...unfortunately, on this particular day we had little of both.
The Gardens are divided into about fourteen different themes including, for example, the Desert Garden, the Chinese Garden, the Rose Garden and the Palm Garden. Carol and I split up at one point to cover more area...unfortunately we only had one camera, so what you see here is just what I saw.
Carol and I visit gardens where ever we travel and without a doubt this is world class.
The Huntingon Library has a collection of rare books and artifacts in its library. It also has a botanical garden containing some rare plant species, like the corpse flower. Other attractions include Japanese zen garden. In addition, there are regular exhibits and events throughout the year. It's a great location for photographing natural species and scenery.
Because The Huntingon is located in San Marino, an upscale, historical neighborhood with architecturally significant mansions, it's fun to drive around the neighborhood and gawk at the big houses.
10 minutes from downtown Pasadena.
The Huntington is tucked away in a residential neighborhood in San Marino, a city several miles east of L.A. Its complete name--Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens--gives you an idea on what to find there.
The Library has an excellent collection of old books and manuscripts. The more significant ones, like the Gutenberg Bible and the Ellesmere Chaucer, are on display.
The Art Collections are housed in the Huntington Art Gallery and the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery. The Huntington Art Gallery was originally the residence of Henry Edwards and Arabella Huntington, the founders of this great institution. It focuses on European Art and is heavy on English painters like Thomas Gainsborough (you'll find his "The Blue Boy" there), Thomas Lawrence, Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and John Constable. The Scott Gallery focuses on American Art. My favorite painting there is Mary Cassatt's "Breakfast in Bed."
The Botanical Gardens are impressive in their diversity and quality. In the sprawling grounds, you'll find a Desert Garden, a Jungle Garden, a Water Lily Garden and several others. If you see all of them in one day then you are in excellent physical shape indeed!
Admission is free every first Thursday of the month.