5 Fun Activities in Pasadena

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Pasadena is a city located just to the northeast of Downtown Los Angeles, and its proximity to both Los Angeles and the San Gabriel valley make it a cultural center of the region. The town initially began as a home for early Mexican Rancheros before the properties were sold after the Mexican American war. Later it became a common end point for travelers on historic Route 66, one of the great US road trips.

Pasadena currently is a hub for science and technology as it houses both world renowned Caltech – the whole reason I moved to Los Angeles – and is close to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The town also serves as the major hub for the San Gabriel Valley and has an array of interesting attractions to check out on a day trip from downtown Los Angeles or if staying for a visit to the iconic Rose Bowl (find out where to stay near the Rose Bowl).

I hope you are able to find a great activity in Pasadena from this guide! If you are looking for a great place to stay for your visit, check out my guide here.

You can also use this handy map to find the best place to stay in Pasadena based on geography:

Best things to do in Pasadena

Visit the Rose Bowl

One of the most iconic venues in sports history, a visit to the Rose Bowl is a can’t miss activity for any visitor to Pasadena. Even if you are not visiting for a UCLA football game or the Rose Bowl game itself, I would encourage visitors to drive by and see this engineering marvel. Constructed in 1922 it can seat up to 92,542 and has been recognized as a national historic monument. The Rose Bowl game has been played here since 1923 and the venue has also hosted 5 Superbowls in addition to serving as the home of the UCLA Bruins for the last 40 years. If there is not a football game going on the property also has Kidspace, a fantastic children’s museum, and on the second Sunday of every month they host a massive flea market.

Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon museum is one of the best museums in Los Angeles and a great way to spend part of your day in Pasadena. The museum has an interesting history, initially named the Pasadena Art Museum it served as a modern art museum until it fell onto financial hardship in the 1970’s and was saved by Norton Simon. Currently the museum holds the Norton Simon collection which has a world renowned collection of sculptures and paintings from South and Southeast Asia and a very strong collection of European art from the 14th to 19th century. The museum also holds the previous Pasadena Art Museums contemporary collection which is very good as well. This museum is one of the best in Los Angeles and well worth a visit if in Pasadena. Purchase tickets here.

Catch a Show at the Pasadena Playhouse

The Pasadena Playhouse is an amazing historical theatre that was constructed in 1924 in a beautiful Spanish colonial revival style and has been putting on a variety of cultural and artistic events since. The theatre is absolutely beautiful and has an incredible list of alumni who have performed there. It currently serves as the official state theatre of California which is a testament to its history and beauty. The playhouse is a great spot for a night out due to the uniqueness of the venue and proximity to nearby Old Town Pasadena. Check out their schedule and book tickets here!

Check out Old Town Pasadena

Old Town Pasadena is the cities commercial district and the central area for restaurants and shopping. The area is the center of life in the town and has tons of gorgeous historic buildings to see. If visiting make sure to check out the courthouse and city hall before going about your shopping or eating! The iconic Rose Bowl parade rolls right through Old Town every January first and if you find yourself in town for the parade, I would suggest joining the other 1.5 million people who spectate the parade every year! The area is also very well connected to Downtown Los Angeles public transportation which makes it easily accessible. Definitely make sure to visit this area if you are spending any time in Pasadena.

Tour the Huntington Museum, Library, and Gardens

One major gem of Pasadena is the beautiful Huntington Museum, Library, and Gardens. The museum was founded by Edward Huntington who played a major role in the growth of Southern California in the late 1800’s and accumulated an incredible collection of European art in the aftermath of World War 1. The Huntington has a very solid collection of European and American art with a particular emphasis on British portraiture. The library is also very impressive as it is housed in the former home of the Huntington family, a massive Mediterranean Revival building. A personal favorite of mine is the gardens as they occupy 120 acres and include a desert garden, Chinese garden, and Mediterranean garden. If you are looking for a great outdoor activity with kids, walking the gardens is very beautiful and one of the best activities in Pasadena. Purchase tickets here.

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