Pasadena may not be as hectic as Hollywood or as cosmopolitan as the Eastside, but that’s exactly what makes this small town in the San Gabriel Valley so charming. Pasadena packs in enough things to do without feeling either chaotic or snoozy. When you hear Pasadena, you probably instantly think “Rose Parade,” but the City of Roses has way more to offer than just that! Here are our top picks of places to visit in Pasadena:
During the early 20th century, the small Mission Revival style Del Mar railroad station in Pasadena was a treasured secret for Hollywood’s biggest stars. From there, they could catch the “Super Chief” to Chicago without getting hounded by fans and photographers.
Now, after a long period of dormancy, Del Mar Train Station is experiencing a revival: When L.A.’s metro line was extended from Union Station to Pasadena in the 2000’s, a stop was placed behind the old depot, and a popular Italian restaurant called the Luggage Room opened in the renovated historic structure. The Luggage Room offers boutique pizzas, gelato, and killer cocktails in a charming, unique atmosphere. Pro Tip: On Mondays and Tuesdays, they have “neighborhood nights” where entree prices are reduced and cocktails are just $6!
The Gamble House is a National Historic Landmark and a must-see for architecture nerds. Built in 1908 as a winter residence for the family of David Gamble of the Greene and Greene architectural firm, the three-story Gamble House is recognized as America’s finest Arts and Crafts home and is definitely one of our top picks of places to visit in Pasadena. Its style is influenced by traditional Japanese aesthetics but infused with a Californian spaciousness. Cinephiles may recognize the house from the Back to the Future films, where it was portrayed as the home of Dr. Emmett Brown. The house was included in a list of all-time top 10 houses in Los Angeles in a 2008 LA Times survey. It also has a yearly rotating occupancy of architecture students from USC. Docent-led tours of the interior, rear lawn and terrace are available Thursday through Sunday. Visit gamblehouse.org to reserve your spot!
Are you an outdoorsy type? If so, you should check out Eaton Canyon, nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains! Take a hike up the canyon trails and you’ll find a 50-foot waterfall that’s actually quite impressive by SoCal standards. Depending on the time of year you hear over, you may also see gorgeous wildflowers in bloom along the trailhead. This hike is easy enough for the whole family to participate, but varied enough to keep more advanced hikers interested. On your way back down, stop by the Nature Center to see an impressive display of local flora and fauna and a lovely native plant garden. Forget Runyan, this isn’t just one of the best places to visit in Pasadena, it’s also one of the best places to hike in LA!
Completed in 1927, Pasadena City Hall is a significant architectural example of the City Beautiful movement of the 1920s. The building has elements of both Mediterranean Revival Style and Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture, and boasts a 206-foot-tall dome that’s visible from all over town. Walk through the rose-filled courtyard to admire the Renaissance-inspired details– just be careful not to accidentally photobomb a wedding photo shoot. The City Hall has long been a favorite shooting location for filmmakers. Its courtyard was used in the 1995 movie A Walk in the Clouds to portray a Napa Valley town square, and it has also been used as an embassy in the Mission: Impossible television series and a villa in Charlie Chaplin‘s The Great Dictator. And, oh yeah, Parks and Recreation fans will recognize this building as Pawnee City Hall!
With this guide in hand, you’re ready to embark on a memorable day trip to Pasadena! And with Pavemint, you can focus on adventuring without stressing over finding parking. Bon voyage, explorers!
(Featured image by Downtowngal.)