Located 10 minutes outside of Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena feels a world away from the excitement of the urban jungle. History, art, architecture, and education all have their place in the City of Roses, making it the perfect getaway. Old Town is a prime spot for socializing, and nature lovers can relax on a hike or in a secluded courtyard. There is no shortage of delicious restaurants from which to choose, and in the evening, you can stop in at a bar or two worth visiting. As a melting pot of culture and entertainment, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Pasadena.
Upon seeing Pasadena's gorgeous city hall building, you may experience a little bit of deja vu. The early Renaissance-style structure, completed in 1927, is featured in several films and television shows over the years. The structure was a villa in Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film, The Great Dictator, and served as Pawnee City Hall in the television show Parks and Recreation. Be sure to spend enough time here to explore the building inside and out, and to appreciate the classic architecture. The inner courtyard is surprisingly serene, with a fountain and beautifully landscaped garden ideal for an impromptu photo session.
The Norton Simon Museum is on the busy end of town, but its secluded location provides one of the most peaceful settings in all of Pasadena. The museum itself is beautifully designed, with subtle features and one of the most incredible private art collections ever amassed. European art from the Renaissance era to the 20th century, including works by Rembrandt, Goya, Degas, and Picasso, joins early Asian sculptures and carvings. There's also an enchanting sculpture garden where you can relax with a cup of coffee to contemplate your favorite pieces. Students get in for free, and general admission is complimentary the first Friday of the month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Old Pasadena is the historic business district of the city, with over 150 years of culture to its name. After a period of neglect, the old town was revived in the 90s to provide locals and visitors alike a safe and fun hub for socializing, shopping and enjoying the arts. Make Colorado Boulevard a mandatory stop and enjoy the scenery. You'll easily spend hours window shopping and people watching, after which you can relax in a trendy café or gourmet eatery. Take a detour down One Colorado, a picturesque alley that's perfect for photoshoots.
Driving down the tree-lined residential streets in Pasadena, you'll marvel at the array of charming, Craftsman-style homes. The city boasts some notable architecture, and one of their most treasured gems is worth a visit if you have the time. The Gamble House is a 20th-century masterpiece built for Mr. and Mrs. Gamble of the Procter & Gamble fortune. Today, it is primarily a residence for USC architecture students, but public tours are available for a fee. Film fans will instantly recognize Gamble House as Doc Brown's house the 1985 classic film Back To The Future.
Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is yet another facet of the city's diverse culture. The JPL is a federally funded research and development center for NASA and managed locally by the California Institute of Technology. Something exciting is always happening here, whether its the launch of a new satellite, communications with interplanetary spacecraft or JPL's annual open house. This free event is a fun way to learn about the history of the space program and its developing technology. The facility also gives free tours during the week, rain or shine. Be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance and check the website for more details.
One of the most well-known places to discover a beautiful view of Pasadena is the Colorado Street Bridge. The architectural gem was completed in 1913 and has since become an icon of the city's landscape. Fans of the Oscar-winning film La La Land may recognize the pedestrian walkway from one of the movie's most romantic moments. Feel free to recreate the magical scene on your camera roll, and don't forget to appreciate the view from underneath the bridge as well.
Pasadena is a bustling city with a vibrant and unique culture. Consider taking a day off from the city to surround yourself with greenery at the Eaton Canyon Nature Preserve. This 190-acre park is not only great for hiking and relaxation but also for learning. Regularly scheduled tours teach about local flora and fauna, as well as geological formations and the history of the surrounding community. An hour or two is all you'll need for a picnic and hike, or you can devote an entire day to exploring the Eaton Canyon Waterfall and hiking to Mount Wilson.
The Rose Bowl Stadium is synonymous with the Tournament of Roses Parade and subsequent Rose Bowl college football game on New Year's Day. If you're in town to catch this wintertime tradition, you won't be disappointed, but this iconic structure hosts inspiring events throughout the year. The UCLA Bruins play home games at the bowl and are sure to excite visiting football fans. If you fancy a day of shopping, make sure you arrive early on the second Sunday of the month. The Rose Bowl Flea Market is one of the largest in the country. With hundreds of vendors and food stalls open for business, you'll need a comfortable pair of shoes and a few hours to explore.
The Historic Pasadena Playhouse has almost met its demise several times, but the community always works hard to prevent this cultural gem from disappearing. Constructed in 1925, the playhouse's Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture continues to impress visitors with its beauty. Pick up some tickets to a show and enjoy a glass of wine on the patio before the performance begins. You'll also want some time to admire the building's interior design and architecture. After the performance, walk down the block for a drink or bite to eat at one of several restaurants.
Architecture enthusiasts are in for a treat when visiting Pasadena. From The Langham Hotel to the Norton Simon Museum, there are plenty of notable structures to please the eye and camera lens. Design lovers should also know that there are a surprising number of beautiful buildings off the beaten path to admire and inspire. The Explore Pasadena Architecture brochure is a curated list of 10 walking tours. Available online through the city's tourism website, this free brochure provides itineraries for routes all over Pasadena. With few exceptions, full or partial sunshine is guaranteed year-round, so pack your most comfortable walking shoes and explore the City of Roses on foot.