The 9th largest city in Los Angeles County, California, Pasadena is a haven for visitors who enjoy sports, the arts, or the sciences. The city is known for many things; from the annual Rose Bowl football game to the California Institute of Technology, there are numerous landmarks that make Pasadena a great vacation spot for the entire family. The Southern Californian city is also known for the Tournament of Roses Parade, an annual event held since 1890 to showcase creative floats made with flowers and greenery.
1. Norton Simon Museum
© Norton Simon Museum
Housing one of the most remarkable private art collections, the Norton Simon Museum has artwork and artifacts collected by industrialist Norton Simon from the early 1900s onward. There are over 12,000 objects in the permanent collection at the museum, and visitors are privy to view over 1,000 of them on display in the galleries or the sculpture garden.
The museum hosts many classes, programs, and lectures, meaning visitors can take up a drawing class or an art-making workshop. Some of the more celebrated works include the Branchini Madonna by Giovanni di Paolo, Portrait of a Boy by Rembrandt van Rijn, and Mulberry Tree by Vincent van Gogh.
411 West Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91105-1825, 626-449-6840
2. Huntington Library and Gardens
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Founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, The Huntington Library and Gardens is an ode to the three things Henry loved: books, art, and gardens. The art collection is scattered throughout three galleries on the Huntington grounds, and it is one of the most comprehensive collections with 18th to 19th century British, French, and American art.
After viewing the marvelous pieces on display, visitors can then wander into the 120-acre botanical gardens that have an ever-changing exhibition of color – Henry H. started the garden with an array of plants from around the world, and visitors can now see them in the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, or the Chinese Garden.
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108, 626-405-2100
3. The Gamble House
© The Gamble House
The Gamble House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978, and rightfully so. The house takes visitors on a journey to 1908, when architects Charles and Henry Greene furnished and designed the house for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company.
Architecture aficionados will appreciate the outstanding model of American arts-and-crafts style architecture that the house displays. Visitors can enjoy one-hour docent-led tours on Thursday to Sunday from noon onwards, and there are also specialty tours available for those who want a more focused tour of the house, its furnishings, and architecture.
4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena CA 91103, 626-793-3334
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If you are looking for an authentic historic downtown experience, Old Pasadena will not disappoint. The diverse city is ten miles from downtown LA and is filled with numerous activities for adults and kids; museums, galleries, movies, restaurants, and shopping are abundant in the area.
Visitors are invited to enjoy the many scheduled musical and outdoor events that occur throughout the year such as the Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour or one of the many street exhibitions. Combining old world charm and modern convenience, visitors can shop in a combination of over 200 specialty boutiques or national retailers.
23 E. Colorado Boulevard, Suite 200, Pasadena, CA 91105, 626-356-9725
5.Jet Propulsion Laboratory
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Managed by Caltech for NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is responsible for the construction of robotic spacecraft, astronomy missions, and many deep space projects. Some of these include the famed Mars Science Laboratory, the Curiosity rover, and the NuSTAR X-ray telescope.
Visitors are invited to tour the facilities, but reservations must be made in advance. Live demonstrations of JPL science and technology, a multimedia presentation, the von Karman Visitor Center, and a tour of the Space Flight Operations facility and Spacecraft Assembly Facility are all part of the two and a half hour tour.
4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, CA 91109, 818-354-4321
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Sitting on 170,000 square feet, City Hall has been one of the town’s most historic landmarks since 1927. Visitors can tour the building, which was influenced by early Renaissance and 16th century Italian architecture and designed by John Bakewell and Arthur Brown.
There are over 235 rooms and passageways that run through the architectural marvel, and the dome of the building is 26 feet high and 54 feet across, on top of which is a lantern. Visitors of all ages will appreciate the architecture and historic beauty found in City Hall.
100 Garfield Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-744-4000
7.Eaton Canyon Nature Center
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Located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Eaton Canyon Nature Center is a great place to spend the day immersed in nature; visitors of all ages can come explore the 7,600 square-foot building and the surrounding 190 acres of zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve that it sits on.
Explore the streams, rocks and minerals, native plants, habitats, and the wildlife in the surrounding area. The center itself is filled with fascinating exhibits and displays, as well as live animals. Visitors can also enjoy hiking and equestrian trails, and there is a staging area and picnic area available for use. Tours and scheduled walks are also available.
1750 N. Altadena Dr, Pasadena, CA 91107, 626-398-5420
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8. Kidspace Children's Museum
© Kidspace Children's Museum
Launched in 1979 at Caltech, the Kidspace Children’s Museum is a place for children to be inspired and release their creativity through an informal, hands-on educational approach. With over 200,000 guests annually, the museum is filled with exhibits and hosts events and programs, allowing visitors to unleash their imagination.
Some of the exhibits include the Arroyo Adventure garden, the Stone Hollow Amphitheater, and the Galvin Physics Forest. Art, nature, science – everything is a go at the Kidspace Children’s Museum. Some of their more popular features include the Kidspace Critters area, which houses a live collection of reptiles and bugs, and the Imagination Workshop, where kids can discover the inner workings of everyday objects.
4 80 N. Arroyo Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91103, 626-449-9144
Amazebowls was Los Angeles' first açaí bowl truck at its opening in 2013. Today, the business offers a number of permanent locations throughout the Southern California region in addition to its roving food trucks, including a location in Pasadena. It strives to make healthy eating hip and accessible for all diners, crafting high-quality superfood bowls that are 100% vegan, dairy-free, and free of refined sugars. Diners can enjoy the company's signature Amazebowl, which features an açaí base topped with bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and vanilla almond granola. Other signature bowls highlight ingredients such as kale, matcha, spirulina, kiwi, and whole-grain oatmeal, served up in clever containers like half coconut shells. Diners can also craft their own bowls, choosing from açaí, pitaya, turmeric ginger, and activated charcoal bases topped with their choice of superfood ingredients.
55 S Madison Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101, Phone: 323- 610-2099
10.The Caltech Science Museum's Beckman Room
© The Caltech Science Museum's Beckman Room
Dedicated to the history of chemistry and the scientific and philanthropic work of Arnold O. Beckman, the Beckman Room of Caltech’s Science Museum boasts a plethora of information. The institute celebrates the doctor’s extraordinary life – from his beginning years at Caltech, earning his Ph.D., inventing the pH meter to joining the Caltech faculty and even the time after he left and built an industrial empire.
Other than an in-depth look into his life, visitors will also see a recreation of a 1920s chemistry lab, gaining insight on the tools that were available to Arnold Beckman during his time at Caltech.
1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125, 626-395-2704
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11.USC Pacific Asia Museum
© USC Pacific Asia Museum
Dedicated to the culture and art of Asia and the Pacific Islands, the USC Pacific Asia Museum was established in 1971 with the aim to encourage intercultural understanding. The museum focuses on the classic and contemporary arts and houses over 15,000 objects, many of which date back to over four thousand years.
Current exhibitions such as “Royal Taste” take visitors on a journey through the luxurious lifestyles of princely courts in China. Visitors can explore the various exhibitions, view performances, attend festivals, or take part in the many lectures, classes, and workshops the museum hosts. Some of the classes and ongoing programs offered include yoga, tai chi, Chinese calligraphy, and haiku writing.
46 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-449-2742
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12.Rose Bowl Stadium
© Rose Bowl Stadium
Built in 1922, the Rose Bowl Stadium is a National Historic Landmark as well as a Pasadena icon. Having recently undergone a $164.5 million renovation, the Rose Bowl Stadium maintains the overall look and feel of the old stadium while benefitting from much-needed improvements such as a new press box, wider tunnels, and restoration of the field hedge.
Visitors can attend a variety of events at the stadium, which is famed for the Tournament of Roses Football Game, and you can also attend celebrations, religious services, as well as the world’s largest flea market. There are guided tours of the stadium so visitors can experience countless historic moments in US sports history.
1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena, CA 91103, 626-577-3100
13.Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens
© Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens
Former home of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., the Tournament House is the operating headquarters of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, the organization that oversees the annual Rose Bowl Game and Rose Parade. Visitors can tour the grandiose Italian-Renaissance-style mansion’s 21 richly paneled rooms, the ornate molded plaster ceilings, and the beautiful inlaid marble floors.
The mansion is filled with displays on former Rose Bowl games, Rose Queens and Royal Courts, and various other objects. Surrounding the mansion are the four-and-a-half acre Wrigley Gardens, a floral display of over 1,500 varieties of roses, camellias, and annuals.
391 South Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91184, 626-449-4100
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14.Pasadena Museum of California Art
© Pasadena Museum of California Art
California has a rich and eclectic history of culture and art, which the Pasadena Museum of California Art has been bringing together since 2002 with exhibitions and programs for visitors to appreciate. Visitors can explore the various objects and art pieces that encompass the influences and cultural dynamics that are unique to California.
Filled with both historical and contemporary art, the museum exhibits various craftsman and artists such as William Bragdon, Chauncey Thomas, and William S. Rice. The museums hosts many events throughout the year, one of which is Family Day, where fun art projects await the entire family, no matter their age.
490 East Union Street, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-568-3665
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15.The Raymond 1886
© The Raymond 1886
The Raymond 1886 is one of Pasadena's most important restaurants, housed within the caretaker's cottage building of the city's former 19th-century Raymond Hotel, which featured 300 rooms and entertained celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton during the 1920s. Though the hotel was closed and razed in 1931 due to the Great Depression, its legacy continues today in the restaurant helmed by executive chef Jon Hung, which has been acclaimed by international publications such as Food and Wine, The Huffington Post, and Thrillist. Excellent land and sea entrees are served up throughout the week, including pork belly with sweet and spicy chili, steamed blue mussels in green curry sauce, porchetta vignole with roasted cherry tomatoes, and dry-aged ribeye service for two.
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105, Phone: 626-441-3136
16.Pasadena Symphony and POPS
© Pasadena Symphony and POPS
The Pasadena Symphony and POPS provides the Pasadena area with musical performances, and it participates in the betterment of the community with its educational programs. Some of the sites associated with the Symphony include All Saints Church, Ambassador Auditorium, LA County Arboretum, and Pasadena City Hall.
They perform stand-alone events like An American in Paris and Mozart Symphony No 40, along with concert series. Some of the series that are on the schedule for this year include the Moonlight Sonata Gala, the Singpoli Symphony Classics series, and the Sierra Auto POPS Summer Series, which features the music of Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra.
2 North Lake Ave. Suite 1080, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-793-7172
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17.Amara Chocolate and Coffee
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Amara Chocolate and Coffee is a cozy, spacious Venezuelan café in Pasadena. It is a great place to discover Venezuelan specialties, such as arepas – grilled corn flatbread stuffed with all sorts of delicious ingredients – or cachapas – grilled crepes made with yellow corn. However, the cachapas and arepas are not the main reason people are flocking to Amara from all over Los Angeles. It is their drinkable chocolate, with or without coffee, and melted chocolate served with typical South American churros – long fried pastries perfect for dipping. The Venezuelan sipping chocolates are wonderful, made with 63% cocoa, dark and slightly bitter, perfect for mixing with coffee, milk, and all sorts of other things. Try the Raymond – sipping chocolate with salted caramel marshmallows – or the Americano – coffee with Venezuelan dark chocolate without milk. It is easy to get addicted to these exquisite beverages, and the menu is full of interesting mixes.
55 South Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105, 626-744-1765
18. Pasadena Museum of History
© Pasadena Museum of History
The Pasadena Museum of History has existed in various forms since the early 20th century. The History Center, which began in the early 90’s, includes a research library featuring climate controlled archives, galleries, a conference room, and a museum store. The museum regularly hosts different types of exhibitions and tours of historic buildings in the Pasadena area.
It also has an extensive collection of historical documents relating to the area on display, as well as paintings, clothes, and other historical relics. The museum is supported by the generosity of members of the local community.
470 W. Walnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91103, 626-577-1660
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19.Playhouse District, Pasadena, CA
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The Pasadena Playhouse district is the cultural center of Pasadena featuring art galleries, fine dining, and theatres. You will also find the Pasadena Museum of California and Art and the USC Pacific Asia Museum. Vroman’s is the largest independent bookstore in the area and has been in business since 1894.
Some of the theatres in the district include the Boston Court Performing Arts Complex, the Furious Theatre, and the Pasadena Playhouse, which is one of the premiere theatres of Southern California. Many of the district’s attractions also serve as venues, making the area a popular destination for weddings and conferences.
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20.The Pie Hole Pasadena
© The Pie Hole Pasadena
The Pie Hole is a chain of pie shops offering delicious from-scratch sweet and savory pies and organic coffees that you can find all over California – and in Tokyo. Their Pasadena shop is a bright little charmer with brick walls and a wonderful range of pies that keeps on growing. How about some Earl Grey tea pie? Or Australian savory pie? They also have other fresh baked goods and organic coffee that is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. They have a few tables perfect for a quick meeting with a friend over a slice of pie and a cup of Java on a sunny morning.
59 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105, Phone: 626-765-6315
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21.Celestino Ristorante and Bar
© Celestino Ristorante and Bar
Celestino Ristorante and Bar has been noted on Pasadena Magazine's Best Of list as one of the region's top eateries, acclaimed in international publications like Food and Wine and Zagat for its high-end seasonal Italian fare. The restaurant is helmed by renowned restaurateur Calogero Drago, known for his work at some of Los Angeles' top Italian dining destinations. Diners can enjoy an extensive menu of high-quality pasta selections, including black and white tagliolini with clams, cow cheese and saffron spaghetti in black pepper sauce, duck and mushroom ravioli in porcini blueberry sauce, and pumpkin-stuffed tortelloni with butter sage sauce. Land and sea options include roasted rack of veal in mushroom sauce, rosemary pork tenderloins, and traditional veal scaloppine.
141 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101, Phone: 626-795-4006
22.Carmela Ice Cream, Pasadena, CA
© Carmela Ice Cream
After years of selling their artisan ice cream at farmers markets, owners Zachary Cox and Jessica Mortariotti finally opened a brick and mortar location in 2011. As you enter the small Pasadena creamery, you are greeted with a beautiful trio of crystal chandeliers, and a simple decor. Flavors of the day are handwritten on a blackboard, and can be served in a cup, a cone or as an ice cream sandwich.
The most popular flavor by far is salted caramel, but other delicious and inventive flavors include lavender honey, strawberry buttermilk, and cucumber sorbet. Their ice cream is made with organic dairy, and seasonal farmers market produce as well as spices, herbs, nuts and flowers.
2495 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena, California 91104, Phone: 626-797-1405
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© Carnegie Observatories
The Carnegie Observatories is an international research program focusing on astronomy. Pasadena is the headquarters of the group, which also has an observatory in Chile. In addition to focusing on their research, they also have outreach programs designed to engage the general public in the topics that are most important to them.
Every spring at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, the Carnegie Observatories host free lectures to the public about the latest happenings in the world of astronomy. They also have an annual Open House when the public is free to tour their facilities.
813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-577-1122
24.Armory Center for the Arts
© Armory Center for the Arts
The Armory Center for the Arts is a leader in art education in Southern California. They regularly exceed 100,000 visitors on an annual basis. The Armory offers both guided tours and field trips. Field trips are a more immersive experience for younger guests while the tours are more free-ranging and go through the galleries.
They also have classes in a wide range of subjects including drawing, painting, photography, and letterpress. The Armory has programs for children and interested adults, as well as teachers and developing professionals. The center also doubles as a venue for weddings, parties, or meetings.
145 North Raymond Avenue Pasadena, CA 91103, 626-792-5101
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25.Pasadena Ice Skating Center
© Pasadena Ice Skating Center
Visitors looking to cool off on a hot summer day need look no further than the Pasadena Ice Skating Center, which has been providing over 35 years of family fun entertainment to residents and visitors of Pasadena. Open to the public, the ice rink provides tons of fun for people of all ages and skill levels.
The ice rink offers beginner classes and sports programs, as well as classes in advanced figure skating and ice hockey. There are also many in-house hockey leagues and figure skating clubs for adults and kids to participate in, and the ice rink schedules various games and events throughout the year.
300 E. Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-578-0800
25 Best Things to Do in Pasadena, California
- Norton Simon Museum, Photo: Norton Simon Museum
- Huntington Library and Gardens, Photo: Courtesy of wolterke - Fotolia.com
- The Gamble House, Photo: The Gamble House
- Old Pasadena, Photo: Courtesy of angeldibilio - Fotolia.com
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Photo: Courtesy of atgc_01 - Fotolia.com
- City Hall, Photo: Courtesy of Kit Leong - Fotolia.com
- Eaton Canyon Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of Kit Leong - Fotolia.com
- Kidspace Children's Museum, Photo: Kidspace Children's Museum
- Amazebowls, Photo: Amazebowls
- The Caltech Science Museum's Beckman Room, Photo: The Caltech Science Museum's Beckman Room
- USC Pacific Asia Museum, Photo: USC Pacific Asia Museum
- Rose Bowl Stadium, Photo: Rose Bowl Stadium
- Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens, Photo: Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens
- Pasadena Museum of California Art, Photo: Pasadena Museum of California Art
- The Raymond 1886, Photo: The Raymond 1886
- Pasadena Symphony and POPS, Photo: Pasadena Symphony and POPS
- Amara Chocolate and Coffee, Photo: Courtesy of fortyforks - Fotolia.com
- Pasadena Museum of History, Photo: Pasadena Museum of History
- Playhouse District, Pasadena, CA, Photo: Courtesy of Earl Robbins - Fotolia.com
- The Pie Hole Pasadena, Photo: The Pie Hole Pasadena
- Celestino Ristorante and Bar, Photo: Celestino Ristorante and Bar
- Carmela Ice Cream, Pasadena, CA, Photo: Carmela Ice Cream
- Carnegie Observatories, Photo: Carnegie Observatories
- Armory Center for the Arts, Photo: Armory Center for the Arts
- Pasadena Ice Skating Center, Photo: Pasadena Ice Skating Center
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Kit Leong - Fotolia.com
Pasadena’s only dedicated public garden, Arlington Garden is an open urban space that invites visitors to unwind and explore the three-acre garden. They can spend a day with family and friends exploring the cactus gardens and Italian-style olive allées down winding paths, and students, artists, and photographers are also invited to find inspiration in the breathtaking garden.
The garden is home to a variety of rare and endangered California-native plant species, some of which include the San Diego ambrosia, rainbow manzanita, and the bush anemone. Visitors can bring a picnic to share on the picnic tables hidden in alcoves or a book to read under the shade in the orange grove.
275 Arlington Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105, 626-441-4478
Pasadena City College Flea Market
Usually, on the first Sunday of the month from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, Pasadena City College hosts one of the largest flea markets in the Southland area. Admission is free, and you can always find food on site. There are over 500 exhibitors offering items for sale like tools, books, clothes, toys, and antiques. Founded in 1977, the market annually sponsors $30,000 in scholarships. It supports the college in other ways by providing jobs for students and financial support for other programs.
1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91106, 626-585-7906
Southern California Children’s Museum
The Southern California Children’s Museum is an up-and-coming museum in Pasadena that seeks to provide an extracurricular opportunity for children to learn. Their goals include educating children on the performing and visual arts, science, and sustainable food.
Among their planned exhibits are a Griffith Park Observatory exhibit and a Santa Monica Pier exhibit. group of seven volunteers committed to enriching the lives of children in the community are managing the process. The facility is estimated to be completed and ready for visitors in March of 2016.
459 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101, 626-657-0357
Colorado Street Bridge
The Colorado Street Bridge holds a lot of Pasadena history; here, visitors will be admiring what was once the highest concrete bridge in the world (1913). The Arroyo Seco flowing below proved to be rather difficult to travel for people going between Pasadena and Los Angeles, and building a stable bridge on it proved even more difficult due to the wet arroyo bed.
Engineer extraordinaire John Drake Mercereau conceived a brilliant plan, and soon the bridge, with its ornate arches and railings, was up and running. Since then the bridge has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, closed as a precautionary measure, and renovated and reopened (1993).
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Food Field Trips
The motto of Foody Field Trips is “Eat. Drink. Discover.”, which is the basis for their business. They offer private or group guided tours around the Pasadena area that will introduce you to the local flavor. Private tours are popular for events like bridal showers, birthday parties, and corporate events.
A group tour through Pasadena will include more than 20 tastings at six different locations in the San Gabriel valley. It is a three and a half hour walking tour beginning at 9:45am. Also included in the package is a reusable Foody Field Trips tote bag.