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There’s an old joke that often rings true: no one’s really from LA and if they are, they’re from Pasadena. In a county that’s always getting a facelift, Pasadena manages to feel historically preserved yet flush with modern amenities. Beyond its trademark opulent real estate are opportunities for tea parties, quirky gifts and even ice skating.
The Pasadena Playhouse played a major part in the budding careers of many actors and entertainers, from Dustin Hoffman to Ariana Grande. Starting in 1917, the playhouse hosted classes and performances for several decades, growing an illustrious alumni list in the process. Though it brought the esteem of the stage to LA, away from the still revered West End in London or New York’s Broadway, the theater closed from 1969-85. Since its revival, the playhouse hasn’t skipped a beat, putting on ambitious productions and recently hosting a raucous 100th anniversary block party. Even if you don’t have time for a show, you can easily schedule a specialized tour of California’s official state theater.
Never leave the house without your fascinator? Grab a cuppa and some finger sandwiches at Tea Rose Garden. This shop in Old Town creates a garden atmosphere indoors and encourages patrons to dress up. With more than 50 tea varieties and a lengthy menu full of savory and sweet treats, their tea room is difficult to leave. Luckily, you can take some of the magic home by purchasing one of their signature teas on the way out.
The Last Bookstore gets most of the indie bookstore glory in Los Angeles, but Vroman’s is the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California. A prominent stop on Route 66, the bookstore continues to thrive even with the threat of Amazon and e-books. They support writers, especially local scribes, and regularly offer workshops for emerging talents. Stop by for a Barnes & Noble size with a hole-in-the wall vibe. Oh, and books. Buy some books.
There’s a literal fork in the road where South Pasadena Avenue splits off into S St John Avenue. The guerrilla art piece was installed in 2008 by locals Bob Stane and Ken Marshall. The city temporarily removed the gigantic fork after only six months, but it was re-installed in 2011 after getting proper approvals and insurance. The 18-foot wooden fork really sticks out on its triangular island (which has plenty of room for photo ops).