When you’re racking your brain for things to do with those adorable rugrats of yours, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino should be top of your list. This 207-acre space, just 12 miles from Downtown LA, will treat your family to a day of culture, breathtaking beauty, and perhaps most interestingly (at least in your tikes’ minds anyway), a chance to see and maybe smell, the Corpse flower—one of the garden’s most famous, flowering plants.

photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Gardens are home to 16 breathtaking gardens spread across 120 acres and impossible to see it all in just one trip (but bring a stroller to maximize your garden views). Here are the four garden spots we think your kids will dig most.

The first stop should be the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden where tikes of all ages can romp and run among topiary animals, make music with pebbles, frolic under rainbows, discover magical fairy doors and play with magnetic forces in their hands.

Little ones will also love the Japanese Garden featuring a moon bridge, Zen garden, bonsai court, ceremonial teahouse, and tea garden, and “Japanese Tea House Tours” offered the second Mon. of every month. Also, be sure to check the Chinese Garden with its stunning 1.5-acre lake, a teahouse and tea shop, stone bridges to explore, waterfalls to admire and “Music in the Garden” events every Wed. from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Finally, don’t forget to swing by the Conservatory, a 16,000 sq. ft. greenhouse showcasing interactive exhibits designed to inspire pint-sized curiosity and engage families in the scientific exploration of plants. This is also where you’ll find the Corpse Flower, a foul-smelling plant that blooms on rare occasions, located in the Rain Forest section.

photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library
As one of the world’s most impressive independent research libraries, The Huntington Library houses more than nine million items from the 11th-to-21st centuries. In the Library Exhibition Hall, an ongoing exhibition titled Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times: Highlights From The Huntington Library features an unrivaled collection of 150 rare objects drawn from the Library’s vast collections.

Stand-outs include manuscripts from the Middle Ages to the development of the American West. Visitors can view the Ellesmere Chaucer—a beautifully decorated manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, documents from Abraham Lincoln’s life, Henry E. Huntington’s prized copy of the Gutenberg Bible, writings from Susan B. Anthony during her fight for women’s suffrage, and early editions of Shakespeare’s finest works.

photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Art Collections
The Art Galleries are another site to behold with an incredible collection of American art from the late 17th to late 20th century, as well as European art from the 15th to early 20th century. American art highlights include Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt —one of the first American women to achieve international recognition as an artist and the only American to exhibit with French Impressionists, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro. Also featured are paintings by John Singelton Copley, Benjamin West, Edward Hopper, and Gilbert Stuart, as well as the sculpture Zenobia by Harriet Hosmer—one of the most prominent female sculptors of the 19th century.

European highlights include Portrait of a Man by Dominico Ghirlandaio, Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough, and bronze sculpture Diana the Huntress by Jean-Antoine Houdon. Truth be told, antsy kids may not last long in this part of The Huntington, but it’s worth a quick walk-through nonetheless.

Upcoming Exhibitions
Celia Paul:  Feb. 9 – July 8
The Huntington Art Gallery is featuring an exhibition of seven paintings by contemporary British artist, Celia Paul, curated by Paul’s friend and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Hilton Als.

Nineteen Nineteen: Sept. 21 – Jan. 20
The Huntington’s Centennial Celebration kicks off with “Nineteen Nineteen,” a major exhibition that examines the institution and its founding through the prism of a single, tumultuous year, with a display of more than 250 objects drawn from The Huntington’s library and art collections.

photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Special Family Events
The Huntington hosts four major family days a year, including Shakespeare Day and Earth Day Weekend, among others so be sure to check the calendar. On weekends, in both the Japanese Garden and Chinese Garden, look for discovery carts—themed activity stations where kiddos can get creative on a variety of craft projects.

Also, free family drop-in programs are often available on weekends where kiddos can participate in various hands-on activities like garden parties, story hours, cupcake making and even studying plants under microscopes. There are a variety of children’s workshops on any given weekend as well for a fee. These might include anything from Chinese brush painting to building your own bonsai tree. Tickets for fee-based events are available, in advance, online.

photo: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens via Facebook

Where to Eat
The Huntington features five delicious dining venues but is probably most well known for its glorious Rose Garden Tea Room. Set in the breathtaking Rose Garden, the tea room offers a traditional English tea service with a Cali twist, including a special $20 children’s tea for kids aged 9 and under.

If you’re looking for something a little more casual, the 1919 Café offers everything from brick-oven pizzas and sandwiches to soups and salads. Mom and Dad—the bar here offers cocktails as well—wink-wink.

Other fabulous dining options include mouthwatering notables by famed LA mega chef, Susan Feniger, including the Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle Shop, and the Patio Grill. For a super quick nosh or a simple caffeine pick-me-up, pop by Red Car—a coffee shop with a wide variety of coffees, teas, baked goods, grab-and-go grub, and Fosselman’s ice cream.

Hours: Daily except Tues., from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Admission: $25 for adults; $13 for kids aged 4-11, and advance tickets are available online. Huntington members may reserve free tickets at any time.


1151 Oxford Rd.
San Marino
Online: huntington.org

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–Jennifer O’Brien


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