Huntington Library & Gardens, A Perfect Spring Break Venture

 

Spring break represents a change of pace from work, school, and life.  The day-to-day responsibilities of homework, tests, basketball games, business meetings, and life are set aside for one week to relax and re-energize.

The economy has changed how people vacation on spring break, with more people choosing “staycations,” or short road trips, over elaborate holidays.  This year, my family chose a road trip from Phoenix to Pasadena, where we combined R & R with a college visit, as well as  time to reconnect with family friends.  We chose Pasadena because my family loves to stay at The Langham Huntington, and it was in close proximity to the college we were visiting.  We also wanted to visit the Huntington Library, which consists of a research library, art collection, and beautiful botanical gardens.  A “museum” might seem like an odd place to go for spring break, but for my art and history loving family, who relished the beautiful Pasadena weather, as well as the gorgeous spring flowers in bloom at the gardens, it was heaven.

The Huntington Library was founded by Henry E. Huntington, a railroad and real estate magnate, who together with his wife, Arabella, established a world class collection of books and art at his Beaux Arts mansion.

© The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Today, the library houses over 9 million books, of which only a tiny portion are available for viewing; the remainder are available to qualified scholars for research.  Many rare and one-of-a-kind books are part of the Huntington collection, including a rare 1450 edition of The Gutenberg Bible, one of only 11 copies that exist on vellum, as well as an early folio of William Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death.

The Gutenberg Bible, 1455 The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

First folio edition of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, 1623. The Huntington
© The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Art collection incorporates British, French, American, and European art, including Blue Boy, by Thomas Gainsborough, and Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence.
 

The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1770 © The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Sarah Barrett Moulton, “Pinkie,” by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1794 © The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Huntington purchased the Huntington land, originally a ranch, in 1903, and commissioned the gardens to accompany his residence.  Today, the gardens cover 120 acres, with over 14,000 varieties of plants, including the Camellia collection, with over 80 different species, and 1200 varieties of Camellia.

Specialty gardens include the Shakespeare Garden, Australian Garden, Desert Garden, Jungle Gardens, Japanese Gardens, and the 3.5 acre Chinese Gardens.

 

The gardens, as well as the library and art collections, enjoy over 500,000 visitors a year, including about 12,000 children, through their many school enrichment programs.

The new Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science (open Oct. 2005) is an interactive science education center with hands-on exhibits as well as an indoor display space for tropical plants.  Pictured:  observing a carnivorous Sarracenia .
© The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

To give you a little perspective, I came to the Huntington Library with three boys: my husband, my son, and one of my sons friends, who was traveling with us.  A library, art gallery, and botanical gardens are not usually the place where one would bring three boys, especially teenage boys, yet my boys enjoyed every moment of our visit.  My son and his friend practically squealed at the History of Science exhibition, where they viewed original manuscripts by Ptolemy, Isaac Newton, Copernicus, and Albert Einstein.  (This gave them a chance to actually see the works of the famous scientists they study in school.)

Rare astronomical works are on view in the Library’s permanent exhibition on the history of science.
© The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

My sons friend had the added surprise of seeing one of his favorite actors (Tony Goodwyn) from the hit show, Scandal, who appeared to be planning a scene in the gardens. My husband loved seeing Blue Boy, as well as the Chinese Gardens.  Me?  I loved everything!

Enough talk.  It’s time for you to see why you should bring your family to the Huntington Library and Gardens for spring break, too…

As you can see, the whole place is gorgeous!  Walking through the gardens was a peaceful sojourn from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, and the experience of art, literature, and botanical gardens in one place was a delight to the senses…the quietness of the garden paths soothed our frazzled brains; the scent of newly bloomed cherry blossoms, jasmine, and camellia tickled our noses; the vision of colors in the art work and flora was enchantment for our eyes.

We did not get a chance to visit the tea room on this trip, but plan to on our next vacation.  The Rose Garden tea room is available for reservations, and features a pot of tea and scones at the table, plus a tea sandwich, salad, and petite dessert buffet.  The tea room is casual and kid-friendly.   There is also food available at the Cafe’, near the Shakespeare Garden, as well as the Chinese Garden tea shop, which features Chinese cuisine.

Shrimp Spring rolls at the Chinese tea shop

There is also a coffee cart at the entrance to the grounds, near the gift shop.

I recommend that you spend every moment that the Huntington is open visiting the many exhibits.  We arrived later because of the college tour we had that morning, and stayed about two and a half hours, until we had to leave for another appointment.  Two and a half hours was not enough time to see everything, so we will have to come back to finish viewing. This is fine for children of all ages, although you will have to supervise your children carefully in the inside gallery areas.  Wear sunscreen and bring bottled water, as you will spend most of your time walking in full sunshine outside.  I also recommend one of the Chinese lotus or almond cookies, at the Chinese tea shop, for a quick snack break for kids.

The Huntington Library & Gardens is open Mon-Friday from 12 noon – 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 – 4:30 p.m., and is closed on Tuesdays.  (During summer months the Huntington is open 10:30 -4:30 everyday except Tuesdays.)  For more information about admission and hours, visit the “Plan Your Visit” section of their website.  For more information about the exhibits at the Huntington, please visit their website.  You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

(Disclosure:  I received complementary visitors passes to experience the Huntington Library.  This was our second visit to the Huntington, and will visit again in the future, as this is one of our favorite family vacation destinations in Southern California  My opinions are 100% my own.  Unless noted, all photography is copyrighted by A Little Bite of Life.  Indoor photography was not permitted, so five of the photos, including: the Henry E Huntington portrait, the Gutenberg Bible, the Shakespeare Folio, the conservatory, and the Science/Astronomy Exhibition were provided by The Huntington Library.  The Huntington photos are copyrights of the © The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens)