Pasadena is one of Southern California’s most overlooked day trip cities. Home to the Rose Bowl Stadium as well as the annual Tournament of Roses Parade that stretches up Colorado Boulevard every January 1st, this town is known for its opulence and displays of prosperity, which has granted it the fitting nickname of the ‘Crown City.’
For fans of giant buildings and timeless architecture, the Pasadena City Hall is a must. Setting the tone for the rest of the town with its grand size, beauty, and overwhelming cleanliness, the City Hall building welcomes visitors to Pasadena with its massive arches, master stonework, and majestic domes. Look familiar, but can’t quite put your finger on where you have seen it before? This is the location that doubled for Pawnee’s own City Hall in the NBC television show Parks and Recreation.
Almost straight out of an Instagram post, the Braise & Crumble Café is a hidden gem that is well worth the trip. Menu items like short rib tacos, fried mac ‘n’ cheese cubes, and Gorgonzola potato salad make this place a favorite of even the most sophisticated palates. This café boasts a hip ambiance with a flair for Asian and Southern fusion.
Keeping up with architectural beauties, California Institute of Technology is a must see, especially for those still trying to decide which college to attend in the fall. A place where rocket science is actually taught, the layout of the campus is lined with architectural influences ranging all the way from Spanish tiles to Renaissance columns and cornices. The campus is within walking distance of Old Town Pasadena and other points of interest. A fun fact for fans of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory: this university employs the four fictional protagonists of the show.
If you’re driving into the city, take the time to take the scenic route. The beautiful Colorado Street Bridge is enjoyable even if you miss your exit to drive on it and stay on the freeway that runs adjacent to it. First opened to public crossing back in 1913, this gloriously lit bridge is a highlight for strolling travelers and lovers alike. Watch for oncoming cars though, as this is not a pedestrian only bridge.
With enough points of interest to take up more than half of your day, Old Pasadena stretches down Colorado Boulevard and seeps into the streets that run adjacent. Well known restaurants, Pasadena exclusives, and tons of high end shopping outlets make this stretch of outdoor entertainment a great area to start your day of exploration in Pasadena. The downtown area, affectionately dubbed Old Town, has a bar and pub corridor for Pasadena’s 21+ audiences.
Pasadena is an art lover’s city, and one of the hubs that serves as a muse to local artists is the Norton Simon Museum. Previously called the Pasadena Art Institute, this establishment opened its doors as a viewable collection of art back in ’69 and houses works by Manet, Rembrandt, Goya, and Degas. This venue does, however, close on the early side of the day, so be sure to move this stop toward the beginning of your Pasadena day trip.
Keeping with the theme of artsy locals, the Huntington Library is an great stop for art and history lovers in the Pasadena area. Doubling as an institute for artistic studying and preservation, this particular study center hosts over six million texts and artifacts dating as far back as the 1400s. The Huntington also boasts one of the most scenic botanical gardens in the Los Angeles area, which makes it an ideal wedding proposal spot, so keep an eye out for folks on bended knee and try not to get caught in the photography crossfire.
For those traveling with kids, or those who consider themselves kids at heart, the Kidspace Children’s Museum offers educational and hands-on entertainment about the natural world that surrounds them every day. A museum built around the concept of discovery, the Kidspace Children’s Museum offers a wide range of activities, including live shows, interactive science experiments, and even science-themed obstacle courses.
The Pasadena Playhouse is always in session with its beautiful architecture and historical significance to thespians and play-watchers alike. Built in 1924, these stages have given fame and stage education to notables such as Gene Hackman, Raymond Burr, Dustin Hoffman, and countless other stars. With 686 seats in its main theater, each with a perfect view, the Pasadena Playhouse is a great place to soak in a show and cap off the day in scenic Pasadena.
If museums aren’t for you, then try heading outdoors to the hiking trails that branch off of Eaton Canyon. With break offs that can take you up to the Eaton Canyon Water Falls (or water trickles, depending on when in the year you visit), the view at the top of the trail head lets you see the sprawling layout of Pasadena. Like most of the city, the trails are doggy accessible, so feel free to bring the four-legged family members along for the trip.