The Huntington is a private, non-profit institution that was founded by Henry Huntington in 1919. Henry Huntington made a fortune with his business acumen in railroad companies, utilities, and real estate. In his personal time, Huntington was fascinated with art, gardens, and books. During his life, he put together one of the world’s finest research libraries, accumulated a world renown art collection, and cultivated a botanical garden with plants coming from geographic regions all over the world. All of these can be enjoyed by the public at The Huntington, in San Marino, California.
I’ve been going to The Huntington ever since I was a kid, and know first hand how overwhelming it can be for first time visitors. Just one of the botanical gardens alone can fill an entire day! In this guide, I hope to provide an overview of The Huntington and a visiting plan for those hoping to see as much as possible during a one day trip.
- The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108. The easiest way to arrive by car is to exit the 210 freeway on Allen Dr. and head south. Allen Dr. will dead-end into the Huntington parking lot.
- Hours: 10:00AM to 5:00PM Wednesday to Monday. Closed on Tuesday.
- Price: $25 on weekends and $23 on weekdays. Seniors and students are $21 and $19. Youth 4-11 are $10. Under 4 are free.
- Service dogs are allowed
- The park is wheelchair and stroller accessible
- Many dining options
- See more here and here
The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Different people have different interests, so don’t feel tied to my sequence of exploration for The Huntington. I personally like to start out by walking through all of the botanical gardens first thing in the morning while it’s still cool outside and I have lots of energy. After the gardens, it’s nice to take a break and have something to eat, then follow up with the library and art collections.
Brody Botanical Center and Children’s Garden
After entering The Huntington I take a right hand turn and follow the west entrance to the Brody Botanical Center and Children’s Garden. The Brody Botanical Center is named in honor of Frances Lasker Brody, who donated $120 million dollars in support of the Botanical Gardens. At the Brody Botanical Center, you’ll see the The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science.
The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science is a great place for adults and children alike, with fifty interactive exhibits spread across four galleries. Inside your find the rain forest, cloud forest, plant bog, and plant lab.
Right behind The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory, you’ll find the Children’s Garden. This is a great place to stop with youth, but skippable if you’re trying to see the rest of The Huntington.
The Chinese Gardens
After leaving The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory, my next stop is the Chinese Gardens. The Chinese Gardens at The Huntington are some of the largest outside of China. For the Chinese Gardens, architects and artisans from Suzhou, China, worked with California builders and gardeners. The garden is called “The Garden of Flowing Fragrance” and combines the botanical aspects of a garden with the artistic and scholarly. The perfect embodiment of Henry Huntington.
In the Chinese Garden, you’ll see the Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House. This is a great place to stop for lunch if you’re feeling ready for food. You can see the menu here.
After visiting the Chinese Gardens, the Japanese Gardens are the next place to visit as they’re right next door. The Japanese Gardens have taken on a new level of significance since I returned from a trip to Japan. The Japanese Garden has been one of the most popular fixtures at The Huntington for over a century. Over 20 million visitors have seen the Japanese Garden since it opened to the public in 1928. With koi filled ponds, bonzai, the famous Moon Bridge, and a traditional Japanese House, it’s easy to see why.
The Rose Garden
As you exit the Japanes Garden from it’s front entrance, you’ll be walking right into the Rose Garden. The Rose Garden was originally created in 1908 for Henry Huntinton and his wife, Arabella. The three acre rose garden now contains 3,000 individual plants with 1200 different cultivated varieties.
In the Rose Garden you will find the Rose Garden Tea Room. If you’re interested in having an English tea service experience, this is your place.
Lily Ponds and Desert Garden
From the Rose Garden, I like to head through the Jungle Garden and Lily Ponds to make my way to the Desert Garden. You’ll notice on the map that I’m leaving out the Australian Gardens. These can be nice to visit, but don’t make the cut on a one day trip.
When most people hear about desert gardens they think about cacti and sand. It’s easy to see why, and for this reason I think a lot of people skip this part of The Huntington. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the park, and one you should definitely not skip.
The Huntington Library
After a nice midday break and a morning of walking, head over to the main library. The Huntington Library has 420,000 rare books and 7 million manuscripts. The library also houses other rare items like prints, photographs, and maps. Obviously, only a very small portion of the collection is on display to the public.
“The Library collections date from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. The greatest concentration is in the English Renaissance, about 1500 to 1641; other strengths include medieval manuscripts, incunabula (books printed before 1501), maps, travel literature, British and American history and literature, the American Southwest, and the history of science, medicine and technology.” –The Huntington.
The Huntington Art Collections
The Huntington Art Collections have two distinct areas of concentration, European art from 1400-1900 and American Art from 1600-1950.
The Huntington Art Gallery houses one of the most distinguished collections of 18th- and 19th-century British paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts outside London… -The Huntington
European Art Gallery
The American Art Collection
In this guide I intentionally left out a lot of the fine details, history, and specifics of the gardens, library, and collection. In my opinion, that would spoil some of the fun! I hope this guide overview gives you a good idea of what you’ll see at The Huntington and provides you with a roadmap for the ‘must see’ sites on a one day visit. As always, feel free to leave me a comment below with any questions you might have about visiting The Huntington.