Today the Huntington is a private nonprofit organization, but back in the early 1900s, it was a railroad magnate's humble home. Before he died in 1927, Henry E. Huntington amassed a collection of rare manuscripts and valuable paintings, planting the seeds of a legacy that includes the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. These days, one of the Huntington's most visible landmarks is the Japanese Garden, which Mr. Huntington himself helped cultivate a century ago. It's among the most beloved and bucolic spots in the Southland, with a network of koi ponds, a dramatic, half-moon-shaped bridge and a traditional Japanese house. There's also a bonsai court, a bamboo forest, a collection of “viewing stones” (suiseki, or big, smooth, ancient rocks that we're meant to not just view but also touch and feel) and a raked-gravel dry garden (karesansui) that's part of the Zen Garden. The Huntington's nine-acre Japanese Garden reopened in April after a $6.8 million overhaul, with a brand-new waterfall and ceremonial tea garden, which includes a teahouse donated by the Pasadena Buddhist Temple in 2010. Besides improving the overall guest experience, the Huntington hopes the garden will “build awareness and appreciation of the traditional Japanese 'way of tea.' ” If the past is any indication, it will succeed. 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. (626) 405-2100, huntington.org.
—Tanja M. Laden