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    Pasadena in California: the little pearl of Greater Los Angeles

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    Joel Fulleda

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    The places to visit in Los Angeles county seem to never end and so we try to make the most of our stay. After a few last stages of the sea today the landscape has changed; in the distance we see the San Rafael Hills and also the San Gabriel Mountains, 3.000 meters high, from which granite rocks stand out.

    At the foot of this scenario lies Pasadena, the ninth largest city in the county with about 143.000 inhabitants, whose name in the local Indian language means "valley". The iconic Route 66, the mother road from Chicago to Santa Monica, also passes through here. A curiosity about the city: in 1980 an asteroid passed through these skies and was then baptized Pasadena.


    • Pasadena attractions map
    • Two steps along the Old Town
    • Pasadena's museums
    • The villas and neighborhoods of Pasadena
    • La Gamble House
    • The churches of Pasadena
    • Rose Bowl Stadium
    • Natural attractions of Pasadena
    • Activities and events
    • Where to eat
    • Where to sleep in Pasadena
    • How to get to Pasadena
    • Excursions from Pasadena

    Pasadena attractions map

    Two steps along the Old Town

    We start our tour from Old Town (the old city, the "heart", also known as Old Pasadena) crossed by the long Colorado Boulevard which highlights historic buildings in neo-classical, art deco or simply brick style. The recent restoration has accentuated the atmosphere of this avenue which, like the whole district, is a succession of shops, restaurants, pubs, luxury cafes, nightclubs, hotels, beauty salons, art galleries, museums, amusement arcades and cinema. The Old Town is the hub of a thousand activities and entertainment in Pasadena.

    Being here on Sundays from 9am to 14pm also means popping into the Farmer's Market (E. Holly St.) where farmers sell the products of their fields. We taste everything we can and have some nice chat with the producers who are intrigued by our presence on the market. This visit, which didn't steal a lot of time, allowed us to get to know a “slice” of local life.

    Then it is a short step from countryside goods to pomp and we are already at Castle Green (99 S. Raymond Ave.), a beautiful villa, also in this neighborhood, with halls decorated in Moorish, Turkish and Victorian styles, of great effect. Inside there are also a library and a dance hall where only the music to dance is missing. The exterior of the building is in Mediterranean style with palm trees, beautiful gardens, verandas and arched walkways, all embellished with a lake with lilies; just a beautiful location where events take place, film shoots and photo shoots are made.

    This residence, originally a hotel, has over the years been the home of artists, designers, musicians and collectors. The property is open to the public twice a year in summer and also in December when the Holiday Tour takes place: the 2017 one is scheduled for Sunday 3 December, from 13pm to 17pm, and can be done independently by purchasing a ticket at the cost of $ 35. Food tastings are offered on the ground floor during the tour. The openings of the villa are highlighted on the official website.

    The Renaissance-style town hall building, the great City Hall at 100 N. Garfield Avenue, we particularly liked it for its Spanish influences, but beyond personal considerations it is certainly a structure that attracts attention and whose lines do not go unnoticed. The complex has a rectangular shape, four towers on the sides, a dome above the west entrance and a large interior courtyard in the Spanish colonial style. At the entrance there are side arches and a coffered ceiling. It was great to visit and the architecture reminded us of San Diego's Balboa Park.

    In Pasadena the "mecca" of Shopping is in the Old Town along the colorado walk (300 E. Colorado Blvd.), a vibrant two-story open-air mall.

    We report three 90 free parking spaces minutes to visit the Old Town:

    • 45 S. De Lacey Ave.
    • 230 S. Raymond Ave
    • 33 E. Green St.

    Pasadena's museums

    When you visit Pasadena you are confronted with its profound artistic soul which has origins in the distant past. When the Santa Fe railroad was completed in 1887, many wealthy people moved from the cold Atlantic coasts to the mild climate of Pasadena with a bevy of artists in tow (as was the custom in those years). Over time that mix of talent and financial availability has remained unchanged and the city continues to have a prosperous artistic tradition.

    In this regard, among the museums of the city we point out the Norton Simon Museum (411 W. Colorado Blvd.), the most famous, which displays one of the finest private collections in the United States with works by European Impressionists and Asian artists. Inside, a space has also been created for exhibitions that alternate, usually at the rhythm of two at a time, while outside you can stroll among the sculptures of the Sculpture Garden. The Norton Museum, complete with shop and café, is closed on Tuesdays, during the New Year's Rose Day Parade, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The entrance ticket costs $ 12 for adults and $ 9 for seniors.

    To learn about the cultural dynamics and artistic development of this state which benefits from an ethnic mix and an incredible variety in the morphology of the territory, Pasadena Museum of California Art (490 E. Union St.) with its unique contemporary art and design exhibitions. For those who love the "classics" perhaps it is not the best but it is still worth taking a look maybe when, periodically, the exterior of the building is left in the hands of some artists who express their extravagant creativity on the facades, always in different way. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 12 to 17 and on the third Thursday of the month the opening is extended until 20. Admission is subject to a fee: $ 7 for adults, $ 5 for seniors and free under 12. years. UPDATE: Unfortunately the museum in question is permanently closed. Thanks to Roberta for the tip.

    Al Pacific Asia Museum-PAM (46 N. Los Robles Ave.) you can fully experience the art and culture of Asia and the Pacific islands. Inside we found a great variety of exhibits: jade collections, ceramics, paintings, drawings and objects related to religious rituals. Dance shows are also organized here. The creation of his courtyard was inspired by a Chinese garden: depictions of dragons, stone lions, a bridge, lotus plants and a bamboo pond with carp are proof of this. The building is easily recognized by the oriental style facade.

    The villas and neighborhoods of Pasadena

    Here in Pasadena there is an exclusive long residential district Orange Grove Boulevard nicknamed Millionaire's Row (literally: the row of millionaires). One of the villas that we point out is the Wrigley Mansion (391 S. Orange Grove Blvd.), once the home of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. It is now home to the Tournament of the Roses Association, a non-profit organization that organizes two significant events: the New Year's Day Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game (a famous football game). Note that the rose has been the city's official flower since 22 September 1961.

    The residential area of Bungalow Heaven (bounded by E. Washington Blvd., N. Hill Ave., Orange Grove Blvd., N. Lake Ave.) adjoins a portion of long Millionaire's Row. The houses are smaller but very nice and are built mainly in the craftsman style, particularly used from 1900 to 1930, a technique that combines decorative arts, unique details and local materials. It is truly a pleasant corner to stroll with tree-lined streets and gardens. The Bungalow Heaven Home Tour allows you to visit the houses once a year and the date set for 2018 is Sunday 18 April.

    La Gamble House

    Another great example of a craftsman style home is the Gamble House (4 Westmoreland Plaza). We really like wooden structures but this building, complete with terraces, conquers everyone's attention, with an interest that grows as we enter the interiors made with the same material. The wood has an incredible brightness and the very particular furnishings create a great harmony (the staff who accompany us on the tour like to define the whole as “superb” and indeed it is). The stained glass windows in the dining room and the front door are beautifully decorated. The mansion dates back to 1908 when it was the summer residence of the Gamble family of Ohio while it now belongs to the city of Pasadena and is managed by the University of South California.

    Tours last approximately 1 hour and run every day except Mondays and Wednesdays. The cost of the ticket is $ 15 for adults, $ 12.50 for over 65s and students up to 12 years of age. We can guarantee that it is money well spent. The grounds of the property can be visited on a self-guided tour.

    Here you make the Brown Bag. We asked ourselves: what is it? It is a nice initiative. Every Tuesday from 11.30 to 13.30 at a cost of $ 8 you can have lunch on the lawn or on the terrace, bringing your own food. The cost includes a twenty-minute tour of the house to be carried out between 12.15 and 12.45. The Gamble House exteriors were used as home of Dr. Emmett Brown (Doc) in the film Back to the Future.

    The churches of Pasadena

    For those who like religious architecture or in any case love to discover all the best of a place, we recommend two churches. The best known in the city, as well as the oldest Catholic parish in Pasadena, is the Saint Andrew Church (311 N. Raymond Ave.). Someone may notice that its interior is a replica of the basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome. Do not miss the murals, the decorations and the altar with the canopy in white Carrara marble. Its bell tower can be seen clearly in the distance for many kilometers.

    Also the First Congregational Church of Pasadena (466 E. Walnut St.), worth a stop. It is a Gothic style church with beautiful ceilings, wooden beams and decorated windows.

    Rose Bowl Stadium

    If you follow football you will surely remember the World Cup USA '94. Well, if you go to visit Rose Bowl Stadium you will be able to see for yourself that famous curve where Roberto Baggio fired high the penalty spot in the final against Brazil. Tours of the facility are possible, for all information you can take a look at the official website.

    In the area around the stadium, every second Sunday of the month, one of the largest and most well-known is held Flea Market of the United States where you can really find everything.

    Natural attractions of Pasadena

    Do you love green spaces? And then insert the Sorrier-Stearns Japanese Garden (270 Arlington Dr.) on your list. In this area you can feel the atmosphere and the feeling of peace that Japanese gardens know how to instill: waterfalls, ponds and tea house within a natural environment that is a real oasis of tranquility open on Thursdays from 10 to 16 and every last Sunday of the month.

    A few steps from the Japanese garden, Arlington Garden (275 Arlington Dr.) is a free public green area open from sunrise to sunset that is home to native California plants: poppies, sunflowers, cacti, orange and olive groves but also fauna: butterflies and birds. A path outlined by stones that form seven circles allows you to take a short and relaxing walk of a few minutes. The particular work called “Wish Trees for Pasadena” is made up of a series of trees on which people are invited to leave a note with a wish.

    A few kilometers east of the Old Town, the villa San Marino is the home of the Huntingdon Library, Art Collections and Botanic Gardens (1151 Oxford Rd.) With valuable French and English collections from the XNUMXth century. It is not every day that you come close to a Gutenberg Bible, Benjamin Franklin's autobiography and a Chauser manuscript, to name a few priceless pieces.

    Activities and events

    The concomitance of Events citizens makes visiting Pasadena even more interesting. The most famous event in the city is the Tournament of the Roses Parade (January XNUMXst or January XNUMXnd if New Year's Day is Sunday). During the parade that starts from Orange Grove Boulevard and continues along E. Colorado Boulevard, large allegorical floats parade, bands and equestrian units perform. The event is also broadcast on television.

    But it doesn't stop there. The Rose Bowl Game an awaited football game at the Rose Bowl stadium (1001 Rose Bowl Dr.), home of the UCLA Bruins team. On the last Saturday and Sunday of June at Brookside Park (360 N. Arroyo Blvd.), near the Rose Bowl, you shouldn't miss the event Arroyo Seco Week-End when the spotlights are turned on on three stages hosting great musical moments and also on famous restaurants and chefs in the Los Angeles area and southern California, all with a side dish of beer, good wine and cocktails. Admission is subject to a fee, with various types of passes that can also be purchased online.

    The arrival of autumn is celebrated at the end of October with the Fall Festival (Victory Park - 257 S. Paloma St.) with games, live entertainment, face painting, pony rides and train rides. There is no shortage of good food and stalls offering art and crafts. Admission is free, although some attractions require a fee. It is an event for families to which we suggest to participate, to dedicate some time, to grasp the dimension of the local reality. In the Mexican wake of the “Dia de los muertos”, at the end of October in the Old Town is celebrated Day of the Dead where beautiful altars are created within dozens of businesses. And since "business is business" here, the opportunity is good to attract customers with attractive promotions and initiatives.

    For a pleasant "holiday" activity we recommend a nice ice skating at Pasadena Ice Skating Center (300 E. Geen St.) following the timetables dedicated to the public always updated on the official website. Admission costs $ 11 and skate rental $ 4. In Pasadena, golf is played atAnnandale Golf Course (One N. San Rafael Ave.) where non-members are allowed access to the 18-hole green. It is also possible to play tennis in this complex with a good restaurant.

    Where to eat

    The world of Catering offers many possibilities and the beauty is that you can indulge in the choice depending on whether you want to try a lively, refined or different from the classic schemes. We liked the festive, friendly and convivial atmosphere of the Kings Row Gastropub (20 E. Colorado Blvd.), a casual place in an early 20th century historic building. The menu offers appetizers, salads and sandwiches but being also a pub there is no shortage of beers, wines and cocktails. The restaurant is divided into a patio bar, dining room and beer garden and there is live music on weekends. We also point out the dishes of the Mediterranean cuisine of Cafes Santorini (64 W. Union St.) where on Sunday you can have brunch, "that something" that is no longer a breakfast but is not yet a lunch.

    A fine European-style restaurant with oriental touches is the Madeline Garden Bistro & Venue (1030 E. Green St.). Here each room has its own furniture; you can have dinner, brunch and tea at the outdoor tables. This place is also perfect for vegetarians. From The Raymond Restaurant (1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave.), in a casual-chic atmosphere, you can enjoy delicacies that the chef prepares according to an imaginative menu, of global and even American inspiration. The characteristic of this place, to try, is the association of culinary techniques from various parts of the world; the dishes combine the familiar with the exotic and the traditional with the innovative.

    THEStream Chop Home (536 S. Arroyo Pkwy.) Is a medium to high cost restaurant that has been awarded the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) quality certificate for its meat; it is the best place in town to enjoy it but the fish is also excellent. It is pleasant to be entertained by piano music while at the table.

    Where to sleep in Pasadena

    The Langham Huntington

    We have already covered the topic of where to sleep in Pasadena in our article dedicated to the best solutions to stay in the greater Los Angeles area. However, if you want a greater choice of accommodations in this area, you can take a look at the following selection of hotels.

    We point out some hotels in which stay overnight a Pasadena. GreenTree Pasadena (400 South Arroyo Parkway) is a great central option. The reception is welcoming, the rooms are spacious with cable TV and equipped with all comforts. There is also an outdoor pool and restaurant offering morning coffee with baked goods, parking, and free wi-fi. To those who may please, it is located less than 5 kilometers from the famous Rose Bowl Stadium. Al numero 201 di Orange Grove Boulevard, The Bissel House is a beautiful Victorian B&B dating back to 1887 where the tastefully furnished rooms immediately convey a sense of pleasantness. Shops and restaurants are within a 15-minute walk.

    A refined and luxurious hotel in the city it certainly is The Langham Huntington (1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.) within walking distance of downtown. The rooms, suites and cottages are decorated and furnished in a classic style. The hotel has all the comforts to have fun and relax: spa, swimming pool, fitness center, tennis court and even restaurants. In South Pasadena we point out theArroyo Vista Inn (335 Monterey Rd.) A historic B&B built in 1910 with nine rooms, each with a different decor.

    How to get to Pasadena

    To reach Pasadena you can refer to theairport international All Angeles (1 World Way) about 20 minutes or, if you are already in the States, al Bob Hope airport (2627 N. Hollywood Way) of Burbank about 15 minutes. If you decide not to rent a car, there are cars in the urban area bus area of Pasadena Transit that stop in various locations in the city, for example in the Old Town and at the City Hall.

    The station of the train citizen operated by L.A. Metro Gold Line Light Rail ha sei fermate (367 Maple Way, 125 E. Holly St., 202 S. Raymond Ave, 750 S. Raymond Ave,  395 N. Allen Ave, 149 N. Halstead St.). L’bus number 549 of the Los Angelse Department of Transportation (LADOT) joins the city of Pasadena to the San Fernando Valley, Burbank and Glendale.

    Excursions from Pasadena

    From Pasadena you can do several excursions in Los Angeles county, for example, to the seaside resorts of Santa Monica, Malibu and Long Beach in about 30-50 minutes or to the equally famous Hollywood, Bel Air and Beverly Hills in 20-35 minutes. But if you love nature and want to experience it to the full not far from the cities, about 15 minutes north-east from Pasadena we point out the Angeles National Forest (701 N. Santa Anita Ave - Arcadia) in the San Gabriel Mountains. It is the first "urban forest" in the state; here pines, firs, oaks and other shrubs grow. It is crossed by rivers but also by the Pacific Crest Trail, a long road that crosses California, Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia in Canada. Along this path you can take beautiful walks and horseback riding. In the park you can meet pumas, bears, rodents and rattlesnakes (mainly in summer).

    Los Angeles county has all it takes to get attention. From beaches to mountains, from mega-villas to historic districts, from museums to the world of cinema, from green spaces to shopping areas. Here you never get bored, the rhythms are frenetic but there is also space for moments of relaxation. The mild climate, palm trees and sunshine are an added bonus. We also spent some time in Pasadena and we did well; is a city with a vibrant soul with a heart in its Old Town. Pasadena has everything we are looking for: it is a quiet oasis that nevertheless knows how to keep up with the times, which loves art so much but also knows how to have fun and practice outdoor activities just a stone's throw from a large "green lung". All you need is the sea, but what's the problem? Santa Monica can be reached in half an hour.

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