In the midst of chaos there is serenity at the Huntington

“Here I sit, the splashing of water echoing in my ears from small waterfalls scattered around the park. The trees are beginning to change from green to a red or yellow. It is perfect serenity.” – Misty Severi

The world outside the walls of the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens is a mess. The COVID-19 pandemic and allegations of election fraud and voter suppression are all people on the news seem to talk about. People feel even more isolated as California’s governor Gavin Newsom issues yet another stay-at-home order for Southern California. Inside the Huntington however, the only reminders of a pandemic are the masks that cover the faces of the guests and employees and the screening stations set up in front of the entrances.

Located in San Marino, California which is adjacent to Pasadena, The Huntington Library is a world-class destination. It is well known to visiting scholars and artists. But it has something for every fan of nature and the humanities.

The Huntington estate was founded in 1919 by Henry and Arabella Huntington although it did not open to the public until 1928. The estate consists of the library, multiple gardens with various influences such as the Chinese, Japanese and desert gardens and an art museum located inside the Huntington house.

The library holds many important manuscripts which include: Shakespeare’s first Folio, the Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Isaac Newton’s Principia, and a Gutenberg Bible.

The art museum is home to an extensive collection of art, ranging from 15th to 20th century European art and 17th to 20th century American art. Although the collection is vast, the amount on display at any particular time is drastically smaller. Highlights such as Thomas Gainsborough’s painting “Blue Boy,” Thomas Lawrence’s painting “Pinkie” and Jean-Antoine Houdon’s statue of “Diana the Huntress” are always on display.

With the pandemic however, the art collection and library itself are closed.

The Japanese Garden is one of the most popular gems at the Huntington. From it’s stunning bridges and koi ponds to the famous recreation of a turn of the 20th century Japanese house, the calm and quiet atmosphere makes it a haven for guests from all over the world. The Huntington also recently acquired a Japanese house from the 1690s that is located in the Japanese Garden as well.

A view of the moon bridge in the Japanese Garden.

The Chinese Garden, called the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, spans over 15 acres and is newer than the Japanese Garden but it’s my favorite part of the Huntington. Surrounded by Chinese walls, the gorgeous garden is picturesque and features multiple bridges, Chinese pavilions and various plants and flowers native to China. An expansion of the Chinese Garden is in the works and a part of the expansion is now open to guests.

Bridge in the Chinese Garden.

Despite the changes to the park in response to COVID-19, the Huntington offers a quiet escape in a time when peace seems to be scarce. Many times in my life, I have found solace in the Huntington when I did not expect to. As an extrovert, being in nature can make me feel isolated and alone. With the virus, people are spending more time indoors, but humans are not supposed to be indoors all the time. Being outdoors has huge benefits on our mental health and with the added chaos of the pandemic, going to the Huntington can be the perfect reprieve.

I encourage everyone to visit the park, especially if your mental health has taken a toll because of the lockdowns and isolation. Whether you visit for the full day or just a few hours, reconnecting with a part of God’s creation can be the perfect escape from the pandemonium of today.

Visiting the park: The Huntington has one free day a month, the next of which is Jan. 7, 2021. Reservations are always needed for the free day. Reservations are also needed to visit the gardens during COVID. Admission is $25 for adults, $21 for students, and $13 for children ages 4-11. There are also year passes available starting at $159 per year pass, which is good for two named adults. For more information, you can visit