The Huntington Library
Massive botanical gardens, beautiful art collections, picturesque scenery, but in truth, kids are only going to be interested in the Children’s Garden.
Our choice to visit the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens was influenced by my parent’s visit. The Huntington is an destination best suited for a more mature crowd that can appreciate the beautiful scenery and peaceful atmosphere. Two boys are not going to be that interested in looking at flowers. To them it felt more like hiking, but instead of seeing one kind of environment, you hike through all kinds of different ecosystems…which they may or may not find interesting.
We visited the Japanese and Chinese gardens while the day was young. The boys posed for photos, skipped rocks across the pond, and bounced along the creek bed connecting the two gardens. These aren’t tiny gardens, and there is a significant amount of walking. My youngest, who we often refer to as “little legs”, was having trouble keeping up. If it wasn’t for the fortuitous passing of a motorized service vehicle, we probably would have had to carry him all the way up the sizable hill that leads to the Australian desert.
As promised, our next stop was the Children’s Garden. The garden itself is more for toddlers. Even my 8-year-old felt like it was a little beneath his age-level. But they did experiment with the water fountains, frolic in the mist bath, drop rocks down the musical stone chute, and especially enjoyed the magnetic coil. But they were done in about 30-minutes, whereas I could see a four-year-old spending all day there.
What both of my boys DID truly appreciate was the Brody Botanical Center. To enter the Children’s Garden, you have to pass through a massive greenhouse that has been divided into different ecosystems. My boys wanted to explore each-and-every one.
They loved the hands-on experiments and microscopes in the Plant Lab; even I thought it was cool. The kids were able to explore the different ways seeds spread, they got to feel the differences between plant textures, learn about roots, view spores through the microscopes, and sample different fragrances. They quite enjoyed each station.
Next they delved into the rain forest…complete with sporadic showers. They were then able to compare that experience to the cloud forest room, which hosted plants found in cool, mountain-top rain forest. Of course they loved the bog with its carnivorous plants. The Venus Flytrap gets all the hype, but here the boys could learning, touch, and experience a variety of of bug-eating plants.
By this time, we were passed lunch. There are a few enticing dining options at the Huntington, but because we had kids in tow, we ended up at the Grill for expensive quesadillas and cheeseburgers. But they were at least upscale quesadillas and cheeseburgers, with some interesting flavors and unusual pairings that made them fun to eat.
Around the corner was the rose garden. It wasn’t even in season, but the fragrance was just heavenly. Once again, the boys were surrounded by flowers, but having just eaten, they were able to wear off some energy by racing down the rose aisles.
In addition to the Botanical Gardens, the Huntington also has various art museums scattered across the grounds. The sun was starting to hang low, so we decided to pass through the American Art Exhibit on the trek towards the exit. The Art Exhibits are not for children. Security confiscated all of our bags and water bottles at the entrance, and hovered like hawks around our kids. I mean, it was REALLY intimidating. I’m not making it up. Security was crazy-tense having two boys in there. So we made a hasty b-line for the exit. We just breezed by everything and got out as soon as possible.
So by the time we left, we had spent an entire, beautiful, sunny, California day in a gorgeous botanical garden. The adults enjoyed the scenery, the kids enjoyed learning in the Plant Lab, and all of us left in good spirits. Am I going to buy a season pass? No. If I lived close by and wanted to have a go-to spot for brunch with the ladies, it would be different. But I live too far away and my kids are too old and disinterested for me to pretend I’m going to hang out there frequently.