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A Los Angeles day trip: Visiting Pasadena

Pasadena, once a resort town for holidaying East Coasters, is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. The city, just a short drive from Los Angeles, has always exuded small town charm, but now it’s infused with artistic Silverlake cred. Hip tastemaker shops like Mohawk General Store and coffee outfit Intelligentsia have opened up, making the new and improved Pasadena a destination for Los Angeles locals in need of a break from the daily grind. If you’re looking to add a day trip to your LA vacation, here’s your guide to visiting Pasadena. 

Nestled below the idyllic San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena may be a bit of a drive from the Los Angeles International Airport, but it provides a scenic tour through the area’s greatest attractions. Hop in your newly rented convertible, set your navigation app to your hotel address, and soak up the sun as you head down the Route 134 Ventura Freeway. Not sure where to call home? Not to worry, Pasadena offers a wide variety of accommodation options, from luxurious and historic to budget friendly and cosy. First opened in 1907, The Langham Hotel provides one of the finest hotel experiences in the city. Situated on 23 acres with picturesque views of the mountains, the hotel offers stately rooms, suits, and cottages. Don’t forget to pamper yourself after a long day of adventuring with a massage at the hotel’s Chuan Spa.

If you’re looking for a slice of home, the Arroyo Vista Inn, located in South Pasadena, offers a bed and breakfast experience with tasteful modern design. The home, a fine example of classic Craftsman architecture, opened as a bed and breakfast in 2007 and offers nine individually decorated rooms. The inn is also one of the most eco-friendly in the area, featuring locally sourced bath products, low water flow fixtures, and a solar panel that helps with energy demands. Likewise, there are more centrally located hotels such as the boutique hotel Le Reve Pasadena.

Once you’ve settled in, it’s time to explore! Pasadena is home to one of the best museums in Southern California, the Norton Simon. This local landmark offers more than 12,000 artworks ranging from Monet to Kandinsky, all from the private collection of industrialist Norton Simon. Roam the sculpture garden outside and find yourself surrounded by hedges of fragrant Lavender and lemon-scented Eucalyptus, as well as 180 different species of vegetation. Are you a fan of theatre? The word renowned Pasadena Playhouse hosts first run productions of Broadway hopefuls over five independent stages. The theatre, founded in 1917, has an intriguing history, having debuted plays by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill.

Want to know more about American football? Feed your curiosity by taking in a game of college football at The Rose Bowl Stadium. This historic landmark is home to the legendary showdowns between Southern California colleges USC and UCLA. If you’re not a fan of American sports, the Rose Bowl also hosts a great flea market that covers the entire perimeter of the stadium, frequented by everyone from Diane Keaton to Gwen Stefani.

You’re bound to work up an appetite with all this exploring, so head down to the Old Town and grab a bite to eat. What once was Pasadena’s original commercial centre, Old Town now is a vibrant hub for the best restaurants and shopping Pasadena has to offer – all housed in beautifully maintained Victorian, Mission Revival, and Art Deco buildings. Union, a new farm-to-table restaurant, offers rustic Italian cuisine (think Porchetta and Olive Oil cake) with a California twist. Coffee emporium Intelligentsia chose Pasadena for the location of its third shop in Los Angeles, where the menu also features wine and beer.

Just next door, you’ll find an artisan food court of sorts with Pie Hole, Pressed Juicery, and food truck Coolhaus all occupying the same space. Stop by the ever-popular Umami Burger and try their exclusive Le Cordon Bleu Burger.

No trip to Old Town would be complete without a little shopping. Colorado Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of Old Town, is home to international high street brands, but venture just a block away and you’ll discover idiosyncratic shops like Mohawk General Store. Opened first in Silverlake, Mohawk is a destination for the fashionable creative looking to stock up on local brands like Objects Without Meaning and Jesse Kamm. Looking for an alternative souvenir? Stop by Gold Bug, named after the Edgar Allan Poe short story, which is filled with gothic treasures.

Pasadena allows its visitors a retreat from city life, while offering all the bells and whistles of one. It’s truly the best of both worlds.


Written by Lauren Garroni

Image credits: 

Pasadena city hall © iStock

Langham Pasadena © Langham Pasadena

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