The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens is my FAVORITE place in all of Southern California. Whenever friends and family are visiting town, I always advise them to visit this gem. It reminds me a bit of Kew gardens in London, if Kew gardens also had amazing art galleries. I like it better than the Getty because of the extensive collection of gardens and because the art and collectibles are almost as “famous” as the Getty’s. As a book lover and fan of John Singer Sargent, the Huntington is hands-down my favorite and we’ve been multiple times since we’ve lived here. We used to be members but finally stopped renewing our membership because we’re just too far away to visit regularly.
Super cheapskates can try for the “free” days, these are on the first Thursday of the month. You have to reserve these free tickets in advance. But they go very, very quickly and you have to be online immediately when they are available in order to snag them up. However, it only costs about $25/adult to visit the Huntington and this cost of admission should not deter any true fan of the arts. Just think—your money is going to support this glorious institution, so cough up the moolah! I promise it’ll be worth it.
One of the highlights of dining at the Huntington is the “traditional” afternoon tea that is served in the building next to the rose gardens. This is far from the traditional English tea you might be familiar with, and I like to think of it more as a “California tea.” In other words, it’s an all-you-can-eat tea buffet. Typical tea sandwiches are served, like cucumber and cream cheese, but they also had some different flavors like curry chicken salad. They also have a huge assortment of other dishes like olives, cheeses, meats, crackers, charcuterie, hummus, dips, salads, and more. Each table gets a basket of scones, jam and cream, and of course each person gets tea. The desserts are not as “fancy” as traditional English tea desserts, and the price of the full tea is expensive at about $50/person. However, it’s a fun experience, and you’ll definitely be full if left somewhat nostalgic for the true English tea experience.
My favorite gardens are the High Desert Garden and the Chinese garden. The Chinese garden is a great place to grab a quick drink and have a seat. The High Desert Garden feels like being in a Tim Burton movie. Really, it’s wacky! When the desert plants are blooming, they’re like something out of a foreign landscape. I love the crazy variety of desert plants—they are truly fascinating!
Another one of my favorite parts of the Huntington is the library. You can see first editions of Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Chaucer along with extensive collections of other items.
What’s the best part of the Huntington? It’s gotta be the gift shop. Expanded in 2015, the gift shop will have you going gaga over all the ways you can shop, spend, and support this museum. The selection of William Morris-related items is staggering, so W.M. fans—beware! You’ll find yourself walking out with a Strawberry Thief tote, coasters, t-shirt, and umbrella if you’re not careful. I like to come here in the fall and do some Christmas shopping.
The grounds ARE extensive, with my foot problems, I’ve had to borrow a wheelchair a few times I’ve been here and it is fairly accessible to those using wheelchairs or scooters. If you’re walking, there are lots of benches and places to stop as you go from garden to garden, or gallery to gallery.