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The jewel of San Marino, California, Huntington Library is not your typical lending and borrowing library. Its collection contains over five million books, volumes, manuscripts, photographs and other works mostly related to American and British history, literature and art.

Here, you’ll find rare original works of literary and historical icons from Shakespeare to Henry David Thoreau, Oliver Cromwell, Walt Whitman, Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Jack London, Abraham Lincoln and many more.

The library dates back to Henry E. Huntington, who purchased the grand estate in 1903. Henry and his second wife began to fill their mansion with world-class collections of art and literature. Who would have thought – there wasn’t room in the mansion to house all of Henry’s artifacts, which had required multiple railroad trains to transport from New York.

The Huntingtons, then, built a separate library building and made the mansion an art museum. Following Huntington's instructions, the Huntington Library, Gallery & Garden was opened to the public in 1928, a year after his death.

Many who visit the Huntington Library, however, spend the majority of their time in the attached Botanical Gardens – which boast a majestic 120 acres and 12 themed gardens home to over 14,000 plant species. Don’t forget the 12-acre desert habitat, which is quite interesting to explore.

We particularly enjoyed the Rose Garden Tea Room after the long walk and exploration. There’s also a nice gift shop and bookstore where you could spend an hour browsing. (The store stays open an additional half-hour after the Library closes so visitors have a chance to stop on their way out.)

For more info: huntington.org.

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