Pasadena shows up on every Angeleno’s radar during January when the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl take to the national stage. But, before or after January 1st this neighborhood does not get enough credit. With a charming old town, vibrant theater district, and an abundance of museums, Pasadena is definitely next on our list of places to spend a day with your kids.
For some early morning fuel, Euro Pane Bakery is one of the best bakeries in LA, let alone Pasadena. Their egg salad sandwich (think open-faced, breakfasty and yolky) was featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Sandwich Edition”, and the communal wooden table is a great social place to start your morning. Pick up a cinnamon bun or a macaron to snack on in the afternoon!
If you’re going to Pasadena on a weekend, get an early start and see some fantastic nature on one of Eaton Canyon’s nature walks. These walks, led by tourguides, can be strenuous hikes or light jaunts through nature – you get to pick the trail. If you’d rather explore without guidance and without a specific time frame, a detailed map of Eaton Canyon’s trails will help you plan your journey. Oh, and don’t worry: Euro Pane is open at 7 AM, so you can get your fill even if you arrive in Pasadena at an ungodly hour.
Pasadena really does not want for natural beauty, with the Wrigley Tournament of Roses Garden boasting over 2,000 types of roses. Volunteers prune and care for the flowers in preparation for the Rose Parade, and the garden is open for any and all visitors free of charge! The Huntington Gardens are perfect for families, with over 14,000 species of plants and twelve different types of gardens. These gardens range from Chinese to Australian, desert to Jungle – there really is no limit to the types of environments you can explore in Pasadena.
Or maybe architecture is more your style – if so, check out the The Gamble House. A fantastic example of arts and crafts style architecture, the house was built in 1908. You can see it, learn its history, and walk the grounds – all before lunch!
Right around the corner is the most elegant of LA’s art institutions, the Norton Simon Museum, where van Gogh’s formidable “Self-Portrait” is on display through March 4, 2013. With lovely Degas dancers, wonderful great Asian Art, a beautiful garden, you’ll find peace and inspiration for everyone in the family.
For a historic lunch, visit the La Grande Orange Cafe in the old Del Mar train station. The place has old Hollywood style decor, with a menu that is fresh and exciting. Or, if you are raising some amateur food critics and gastronomers, hop on The Melting Pot Walking Tour of Old Pasadena. The tour takes you around the whole neighborhood, introducing you to the rich history of the area. Along the way you’ll sample 9 different restaurants, each of a different ethnicity and significance to Pasadena. We like neighborhood culture and we love good food, so we’re glad Pasadena put the two together.
If you are raising a scientist, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a perfect place to go. The lab is the center for robotic space exploration (think the Mars Rover), and it is also the home of many Caltech professors and students doing research. You’ll need to plan ahead of time as the tour requires a reservation three weeks in advance. But it’s more than worth it. See their Spacecraft Assembly Facility, the Space Flight Operations Facility, and learn a bit about the history and accomplishments of the lab. Oh, and did we mention the tour is free?
Wanna get more hands on? Try an afternoon art class at the Armory Center for the Arts. The classes are affordable and offered for a variety of age ranges. With the pretty architecture and rich history of old town Pasadena, you and your kids might be inspired to make something great.
In the evening why not catch a show at the Pasadena Playhouse? This famous theater has been around since 1924, back when it was the most technologically advanced Playhouse west of the Mississippi. Since then it has grown quite a following and garnered longstanding respect for the quality of its performances and the names it attracts to star in them. The Playhouse has programming for kids and adults, so check out their website before you head over to Pasadena!
For dinner and homemade dessert, check out the very savvy Little Flower Candy Co. Our friend Christine Moore’s fabulous neighborhood cafe boasts scrumptious caramels and a wonderful new cookbook. Experience some great music, art, and culture in the cozy and friendly cafe. If you happen to buy some caramels for your drive home, we won’t judge you.
All of these activities are great any time of year, but December is an especially good month to visit Pasadena. With the Rose Parade coming up you can see the floats before the festivities begin! See volunteers decorate floats, and get an up close and personal taste of the parade. These behind the scenes visits are happening only on December 28th and 29th, so save the date and plan your Pasadena visit around this exciting annual tradition!