If you are spending some time in the Los Angeles area, and you’ve already visited the beach areas like Santa Monica and Venice Beach, consider exploring the north eastern area of Los Angeles which includes Pasadena and San Marino. Below, we outline a number of the best things to do in Pasadena and San Marino.
Let’s start with Pasadena. The city is set at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and is best known as the home of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl Game. Located some 10 miles north of downtown L.A., Pasadena features world-class museums, great shopping, architectural gems and fantastic restaurants.
If you are a sports fan you can visit the Rose Bowl stadium. Held the last Friday of every month at 10:30am and 12:30pm*, public tours are the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Southern California. From visiting the original 1922 Locker Room, to getting an up-close look at the iconic field, guests will delight in this once in a lifetime opportunity to walk through this National Historic Landmark.
If you love art, make sure to visit the galleries of the Norton Simon Museum to see works by Degas, as well as paintings by Van Gogh and Renoir. There’s also a great collection of South and Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years.
Located north and south of Colorado Blvd near Highway 710, Old Pasadena, a historic district that spans 22 blocks and more than 300 businesses. Here you can find shopping, world-class dining, and walkable streets and historic alleys that are perfect for meandering. If you’re hungry, try the intimate Union restaurant, generally acknowledged as the best restaurant in town, which features northern Italian dishes, or sample rustic Basque cuisine at Ración.
Because it is positioned at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena can also offer great outdoor activities. Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve situated at the base of the mountains. Visitors can enjoy its hiking trails, equestrian trails, picnic areas, seasonal stream, rocks and minerals, as well as various natural habitats, plants, and wildlife. The area is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The Eaton Canyon 4.4-mile trail takes hikers through the picturesque canyon, featuring a variety of flora and fauna, and culminates in a stunning 40-foot waterfall. To access the trail, park near the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, hike to the north end of the parking lot and join the wide dirt road heading north. The trail is well-maintained and marked, with plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation along the way. Hikers can enjoy a peaceful escape from the city, and take in the breathtaking scenery.
Take a stroll along Colorado Boulevard Pasadena’s main thoroughfare. Colorado Boulevard, is a lively and charming street that offers a mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The street is particularly lively during the annual Rose Parade, which takes place on New Year’s Day and draws millions of visitors from around the world. Paseo Colorado is a shopping and entertainment complex located in this area. The complex features a mix of high-end stores, restaurants, and a movie theater, as well as outdoor plazas and fountains that make it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike.
If you are vacationing with kids, they’ll love the Kidspace Children’s Museum, across from the Rose Bowl. The museum is mainly outdoors featuring more than 40 hands-on exhibits, programs, and monthly events. The exhibits feature plenty of arts and crafts supplies and other techniques to help kids learn.
Finish your visit in Pasadena with afternoon tea—served on signature Wedgwood tea sets—at one of California’s grand-dame hotels, The Langham Huntington Hotel.
We continue our Best Things to do in Pasadena and San Marino in the community adjacent to Pasadena, San Marino, which also has a number of popular attractions. In San Marino you will find the impressive collections at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The Huntington is a research and cultural center surrounded by 120 acres of breathtaking gardens. Huntington’s art collections feature European and American art spanning more than 500 years. In the collection you will find extraordinary examples of paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings that are displayed in the Huntington Art Gallery and in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The extensive grounds feature diverse botanical collections in twelve specialized gardens. These include the Australian Garden, California Garden, Camellia Garden, Children’s Garden, Conservatory, Desert Garden, Herb Garden, Japanese Garden, Jungle Garden, Lily Ponds, Palm Garden, Rach Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden, and the Subtropical Garden.
While you are in the area, check out our One Week Exploring the Hidden Gems of Los Angeles guide.