If you know it at all as separate and apart from the wild and wonderful whole that is Los Angeles, then you probably know Pasadena as the home of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. Plenty fun enough but this gorgeous city within a city is home to many other equally wonderful things--and at least one thing that can justifiably be called a mind-blower--and I do not say that lightly. The Huntington is so vast and lovely that it is on a scale that I, for one, simply could not imagine before a recent visit there.
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More properly called The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens and technically in San Marino just over the line from Pasadena, this is an institution that is very worth a visit.
The library alone includes one of the 11 vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible known to exist, an original copy of the Magna Carta, the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer, the manuscript of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, the first seven drafts of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, a complete Birds of America by John James Audubon, and first editions and manuscripts from authors such as Charles Bukowski, Jack London, Alexander Pope, William Blake, Mark Twain, and William Wordsworth.
The art collection includes such European masterworks as 'Blue Boy' by Thomas Gainsborough and 'Madonna and Child' by Rogier van der Weyden and a variety of American masterworks by the likes of Warhol and Rauschenberg.
The decorative arts collection is equally impressive and has, for example, one of the largest collections of works of William Morris in the world.
The botanical gardens cover over 120 acres and include such standouts as The Japanese Garden, the Desert Garden and the new and spectacular Chinese Garden.
All in such elaborate, vast and graceful grounds that it feels almost otherworldly.
Pasadena may strike one as out of the way in the great sprawl of greater Los Angeles. It is not. From downtown LA, we were a mere 20 minutes away. I'm pretty sure people take longer trips for coffee in that town and, for what it's worth, I was utterly smitten! So much so, I would consider building a trip around a visit to the Huntington. Yes, from this side of the country! It's that impressive and it's that inviting.