A Great Way to Spend a Day: The Huntington Gardens in San Marino

Ah the weekend! How I live for it (while simultaneously dreading it a bit) because I'm left wondering how I will entertain and inspire my incredibly active 6 year old son.  Kid-centric activities are good for sure, but I also like to seek out options that satisfy both adult and child alike and if they're close by, even better!

I live in South Pasadena which is nearby to so many amazing cultural institutions like the Norton Simon Museum, The Gamble House, and the Huntington Library and Gardens just to name a few. I like to visit the Huntington Gardens in the spring when the flowers are blooming and it's beautiful weather without the blistering heat of summer. They have a great kids area that has some fun water features (a volcano with water vapor!) and a tunnel that kids can run through. I recently purchased a family membership and we've been using it all the time.

My favorite part of the Huntington is without a doubt the Chinese Garden. It's incredible. It's just like setting foot in a traditional Chinese garden without the long airplane flight! They have a beautiful asian fusion restaurant called Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House, a partnership of chefs Kajsa Alger and Susan Feniger. I wish they would do a traditional dim sum with cart service!

Bowl of rice with crispy fried cauliflower peanuts and scallions with chopsticks

My favorite dish is the crispy cauliflower bowl. Yum!

Chinese paved trefoil shaped stone floor with red loafer and purse in frame

The Huntington is big so be sure and wear comfortable shoes! These trusty Loeffler Randall flats do the trick. Beautiful tiling stone floor with elaborate patterns throughout the Chinese garden.

Janna Conner Iola gold basket hoop earrings on Japanese apricot trees prunus meme

Janna Conner Iola hoops - I just had to make good use of all the amazing smelling Japanese apricot trees (Prunus mume) in the Chinese garden.


marble chess board with hands and rose quartz and opal rings

Janna Conner Sidwell stacking rings and Stasya open opal ring 

I always wanted to learn how to play chess but have never found the time. My son takes chess now and hopefully one day we'll be able to play at this amazing marble chess board in the Chinese garden!

Chinese musicians in traditional costume with instruments in Chinese garden

Chinese musicians in traditional garb during Chinese New Year festival. They  have instrumental performances every Wednesday from 1-3 pm in the garden. 


Chinese character calligraphy on red paper squares

During the Chinese New Year celebration they had a calligraphy station where adults and kids alike could practice their brush skills. I took weekly calligraphy classes when I lived in Hong Kong but I'm seriously out of practice and was a lot harder than I remember. The Huntington has a wide range  of seasonal activities, which is another reason why I got a membership. They have Bob Baker marionette performances at the holidays, the before mentioned Chinese new year celebrations which was packed btw!, Easter celebrations and more.

bamboo garden with light and shadow

Bamboo garden on the way to the desert garden

koi pond reflection in water

Koi fish in the Australian Gardenpink tipped succulents and cacti clusters

So many varieties of cacti and succulents like these pink tipped ones.


desert garden cacti at sunset with light in distance

Dusk is also a beautiful time at the garden.  

silver metal nautilus shaped Orbit Pavilion at night with palm trees 

Orbit Pavillion

Now that Dries is older and can walk longer distances we can explore more of the property. A favorite at the Huntington is the the Orbit Pavilion,  designed by Dan Goods and David Delgado, visual strategists at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who collaborated with composer Shane Myrbeck and architect Jason Klimoski of StudioKCA. Dan Goods, also happens to be my neighbor so we were really excited to see what he had been up to!  The result is Orbit Pavilion, a soundscape representing the movement of the International Space Station and 19 Earth Science satellites. This sound installation interprets the data collected by these satellites as they pass over the earth on their individual missions in the form of both human and nature sounds. The pavilion is the shape of a nautilus, to enabling you to walk through and experience the sounds as they reverberate through the metal panels that make up the exterior. Similar in effect to how when picking up a shell at the beach and you hear the whole ocean within its tiny microcosm. If you haven't already seen this, it's a must see, and you are in luck because they've extended the exhibit through September 2018!

nautilus shaped orbit pavillion aerial view

Orbit Pavilion pictured from above at the May 2015 World Science Festival at New York University. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

building of orbit pavillion

Construction of Orbit Pavilion for the May 2015 World Science Festival at New York University. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech


Have you been to the Huntington? What are your favorite parts? Tell me in the comments below!

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Everything about Huntington Gardens is breathtaking. Your photos are so vibrant I feel as If I was there. I love spending time in nature .

tachira wiltshire

The gardens look really beautiful – adding this to my list for the next time I visit LA – hope they still have the Orbit pavilion when I get there!

Susan, Call To Excellence

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