Pasadena, CA: Huntington Gardens and Art Galleries

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, California is a private, non-profit institution established in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington.  Huntington had a special love for books, art and gardens. Today the property is 207 acres and over half are landscaped gardens.

It was a warm summer day when I arrived at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. I was immediately impressed with the institution’s accessibility when I saw an ample amount of handicapped parking spots as well as a drop-off spot if needed. Near the ticket office is also where accessible restrooms, the gift shop and coffee cart is located. If it’s a warm day and you did not bring a water bottle with you, it’s highly recommended you buy one at the coffee cart because there no places to buy elsewhere and the grounds get awfully warm. Also in this area, near the restrooms, are lockers and one is set up for wheelchair access.

For someone in a power wheelchair, getting around the entire property will be no problem. However, someone in a manual chair may find some areas to be too steep, especially if having to push him or herself.  If this is the case, then it’s best to have a good look at the map and see where the steep areas of the property are so one can plan the most comfortable route accordingly. I got a really good workout because I failed to use the map and got myself into some steep situations. (It is also good to ask ticket office about any closers as to not waste time and energy.)  There is a Special Assistance Vehicle which operates as a shuttle between the Library Exhibition Hall, the front of the Conservatory, the Chinese Garden, the south entrance of the Japanese Garden and the restrooms at the Lily Ponds; look for SAV signs. The SAVs can accommodate both manual and electric wheelchairs. The only drawback is that it comes about every thirty minutes and does not operate in the rain.

I spent nearly the whole day exploring the grounds in a manual wheelchair by myself but I did not see everything.  The property felt like it kept growing. Each time I went out the back of a building or garden, more would appear. At one point there was even a conservatory with a rainforest and cloud forest exhibit. At the Chinese Garden there was a lovely Tea House where food was also being served. The outside patio area was full with people enjoying their meal and beautiful scenic backdrop. Other than the Chinese Garden, the other sit-down place for food is located at the Rose Garden Tea Room, overlooking 2 acres of roses, and seems to get booked up weeks in advance so reservations are recommended. Around the Rose Garden the walkway is made up of large tiles with grass in between and is not completely level so be cautious if using a manual chair.

The dozen themed gardens were my favorite attraction but the property also holds a large art collection, featuring many English portraits and French eighteenth-century furniture. There was also an extensive collection of rare books. For one, it is the only library in the world with the first two quartos of Hamlet. The Huntington Library also holds the manuscript of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and the first seven drafts of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden among many other great treasures. The buildings holding the artwork and books were kept at a very cool temperature and accessing all of them was easy. Visible signs direct where the ramp is or museum attendants are everywhere to assist. Even the two-story Huntington Art Gallery building had an elevator.

Fees into the institution start at $20 for adults on weekdays and holidays and $15 during the week.  Discounts for seniors and children are available; kids under 5-years-old are free. There are no additional parking fees.

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