Top 10 Things to Do In the San Gabriel Valley

Photo of Sabina Li
9 February 2017

Though it features on almost every list of top LA Asian restaurants, the San Gabriel Valley is definitely a lesser-known area in the Los Angeles County. The SGV, an acronym locals often use, encompasses 31 diverse and unique cities and has something for everyone. While grabbing a cup of delicious boba and eating an amazing meal is a must, there is plenty of hiking, shopping, and more to experience.

Rose Bowl Flea Market | © Eli Duke/Flickr

Rose Bowl Flea Market

Market, Stadium
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You can find anything at the Rose Bowl Flea Market
You can find anything at the Rose Bowl Flea Market | © Tristan Loper / Flickr
Search for hidden treasure and vintage finds every second Sunday of the month at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. There are over 2,500 vendors and endless bits and bobs for sale at one of America’s best flea markets. You can find everything from old photographs, rustic furniture, collectible comic books, and vintage clothes. Walking through the entire flea market will take you a few hours and a lot of digging, but you’ll walk out with some amazing finds. Bring cash, and remember that bargaining for deals and lower prices is totally acceptable.

The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens

Botanical Garden, Bridge, Library, Museum, Natural Feature
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The Huntington Library in Huntington Library art Collection and Botanical Garden.San Marino,California,USA
The Huntington Library, Los Angeles, showcases books, art and botanical gardens | © Bruce yuanyue Bi / Alamy Stock Photo
Get away from the infamous traffic and concrete jungle of LA and step into the beautiful, nature-filled gardens of the Huntington Library. The gardens, with names ranging from ‘The Desert Garden’ to ‘The Japanese Garden,’ are made up of plants collected from all over the world. If it gets too hot, step inside to tour the various exhibitions that house famous paintings, rare manuscripts, and literature from great creators, such as Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Gainsborough. Both the botanical gardens and the exhibitions are ever-changing, so multiple visits are definitely recommended.

Pacific Theaters Vineland Drive-In

Take a trip back into the 1950s and experience movies under the stars at a drive-in theater. At $9.50 for a double feature, the price can’t be beaten. Unlike many other drive-in theaters, the Pacific Theaters Vineland Drive-In offers up-to-date movies and not just reruns of the same old classics. Arrive early to get a good spot, and bring a portable radio to tune into the correct station in order to get the perfect sound quality. Make yourself comfortable in your own car with pillows, blankets, snacks, and maybe even an order from In-N-Out.

Pacific Theaters Vineland Drive-In, 443 N Vineland Ave, City of Industry, CA, +1 626 961 9262

Hsi Lai Temple

The biggest temple in the United States, the Hsi Lai Temple is a place of peace and serenity. Even if you don’t practice Buddhism, you will appreciate the traditional Chinese Ming Dynasty architecture and the gorgeous gardens filled with statues. Learn more about Buddhism, Chinese culture, and the temple during their free tours throughout the day. There is also a vegetarian buffet and a teahouse that is open to the public. During Chinese New Year, the temple is decked out with festive decorations and packed with people celebrating the holiday.

Hsi Lai Temple, 3456 Glenmark Dr, Hacienda Heights, CA, +1 626 961 9697

Inspiration Point via Castle Canyon

After all the good food, burn some calories by hiking up six miles to Inspiration Point. The SGV has many great hiking trails, but this hike is definitely one of the more unique and rewarding ones. The hike starts off fairly easy but will get steeper as you go and is worth it for the amazing view of LA from the top. If the hike to Inspiration Point is too much, a good place to stop is at the historical hotel ruins about halfway up. Definitely remember to bring enough water, sunscreen, and snacks.

Starting Point: Cobb Estate, Lake Ave & E Loma Alta Dr., Altadena, CA

Night Market

Market, American
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A Peacock at the Arboretum
A Peacock at the Arboretum | © tdlucas5000/Flickr
If you only have one night to get a taste of what the SGV has to offer, the 626-night market brings together all its amazing food in one area. The night market is only held on three weekends during the summer and is modeled after Taiwan’s famous night markets. Interspersed between the food that is cooked right in front of you are stalls full of all different types of merchandise and entertainment, including live music, fashion shows, and more. While the lines might be long, the fresh lamb skewers and stinky tofu are as authentic as it gets.

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Get ready for a photo-op at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The multiple waterfalls, ponds, rose gardens, and trees make it the perfect place for taking beautiful pictures. Peacocks roam freely around the garden and because they are not afraid of visitors, it is very easy to get close to them. There are weekly classes, such as yoga in the garden, and events for people of all ages. During the summer, get tickets to the Pasadena Pops summer concert series, which is held right inside the Arboretum.

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA, +1 626 821 3222

Old Town Pasadena

Channel your inner shopaholic and walk through the various well-known stores and small boutiques on Colorado Blvd. If you aren’t in the mood to shop, Old Town Pasadena is filled with amazing restaurants, bakeries, and dessert places, uncharacteristic of the traditional Asian cuisine of the SGV. A few favorites are Mi Piace, Spinfish Poke, and The Pie Hole. After a filling meal, walk around the historic blocks or tour the Norton Simon Museum and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Make sure to take advantage of the free 90-minute parking in several of the parking structures.

Old Pasadena Historic District, E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA


Near the border of the San Gabriel Valley and the Pomona Valley lies the Fairplex. In the month of September, the Fairplex is home to delicious fried food galore, the enticing smell of funnel cake, nostalgic carnival games, live shows, and family fun during the LA County Fair. For the other 11 months of the year, the Fairplex hosts Food Truck Thursday, music festivals, Oktoberfest, 5k runs, expos of all kinds, and more. Check out the event calendar ahead of time to see upcoming events and to get tickets.

Fairplex, 1101 W McKinley Ave, Pomona, CA, +1 909 623 3111

Vroman’s Bookstore

In the age of ebooks and online shopping, bookstores are becoming a rarity. Vroman’s, the largest and oldest independent bookstore in Southern California, is the place to go to get physical copies of your favorite books. The staff is extremely helpful and friendly, and the books are organized neatly into a large selection of sections. Authors from all over the world often host signings and discussions about their books in the store. Aside from books, Vroman’s also sells travel essentials, jewelry, and stationery, as well as coffee from their café located inside.

Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA, +1 626 449 5320
By Sabina Li

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