The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens are the grand dame of Southern California Botanical Gardens. (It’s as big and formidable as its name.) It’s a place for in-depth research in its libraries or viewing art in the museum, where visitors can see Huntington’s new commission, “A Portrait of a Young Gentleman ”by Kehinde Wiley from LA. (the artist who painted the famous portrait of President Barack Obama), until Jan. 3, in the same room as his inspiration, Thomas Gainsborough’s iconic 18th century painting “The Blue Boy”.
If you go, plan a day spent strolling through the 130-acre Huntington Gardens, a sprawling collection of extraordinary roses, authentic Chinese and Japanese gardens, and areas dedicated to Australian plants, Shakespearean plants, herbs, desert plants, jungle and subtropical plants (you can almost hear Tarzan bellowing somewhere in those towering, vine-dripping trees) and, of course, a whimsical garden to delight the kids. The dishes offered are varied and very good. Jade Court Cafe in the Chinese Garden offers a range of food, as well as beer and wine. There’s also Cafe 1919 near the entrance and Cafe Red Car for take-out coffees, ice cream cones, and sandwiches – and outdoor seating. (The Rose Garden tea room is closed for renovations until winter 2022.)
If you want a free day ticket (the first Thursday of each month), you’ll need to be strategic, ready to jump on a 9am reservation the previous Thursday. Due to the huge demand, people are randomly assigned a number once they enter the line waiting room for free tickets. If your number is selected, you can receive up to five tickets per household (babies also need tickets on free days).
Hours: Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesday. Closed July 4, Thanksgiving, December 24 and 25, and January 1.
Admission: Prices start at $ 25 on weekdays and $ 29 on weekends; slightly lower fees for seniors, students and children. Members and children under 4 enter free. Note that Huntington’s free days – the first Thursday of each month – require advance reservations made the week before, and places fill up quickly. Members are not allowed on free days. Annual memberships start at $ 159; you can apply up to $ 50 of your membership admission fee within 24 hours of your visit.
Food is available in several cafes on site. No pets allowed except trained assistance dogs.