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The Crown of the San Gabriel Valley - It’s Pasadena
Los Angeles County’s second-oldest city and lying just ten miles from downtown LA, Pasadena is widely regarded as the county’s cultural hub or, more specifically, as The Crown of the Valley. Visitors make the trek to this California city for its stunning architecture and vibrant arts scene, not to mention its landmark Rose Bowl Stadium. Should you wish to join them, you’ll find that accommodation options in the city include budget-friendly motels, B&Bs housed in historic homes, and plush contemporary hotels.
Annual Celebrations and Events
Pasadena is known as the home of the Tournament of Roses, an annual event that comprises the Rose Parade, a colourful procession of floral floats and marching bands, followed by a collegiate classic football game at the Rose Bowl Stadium, both of which are watched by a global audience. This city certainly knows how to throw a party but annual celebrations don’t end here. Pasadena also hosts the annual Doo Dah Parade, a comical alternative to the more formal Rose Parade, and on Father’s Day weekend, the city attracts more than 600 street artists to its annual Chalk Festival. All this is in addition to events such as the Pasadena International Film Festival and the Pasadena Half Marathon and 5K, not to mention the one-off specials when big stars come to play at the stadium.
Arts and Culture
With a reputation for being the county’s cultural hub, it isn’t too surprising that Pasadena has an exceptional choice of attractions in this vein. The Norton Simon Museum is renowned around the world for its masterpieces from the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso. The Pasadena Museum of California Arts has more of a local flavour but is a must-visit nonetheless. If you prefer to get your cultural fix from the performing arts, you needn’t miss out. The Pasadena Playhouse, California’s only State Theatre, is well known for its performances of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning shows. A creative enclave known as the Playhouse District surrounds the theatre. Here you will find an arthouse movie theatre, a bookstore that dates to 1894, and a boutique hotel built in 1912.
If you have an interest in architecture, a trip to Pasadena is a must for your travel bucket list. The city’s 16 historical districts feature a wealth of fascinating architecture, with examples of everything from Northern Chinese Imperialist to Beaux Arts on offer. Guided tours are available of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), built in 1891, of Gamble House, an American Arts & Crafts Movement home and a National Historic Landmark, and Old Pasadena, an entry on the National Register of Historic Places. Discover more by picking up an architectural tour brochure from the Pasadena Visitors Centre on East Green Street. This brochure features ten self-guided tours detailing numerous sites of interest, including the Royal Laundry Building (1927) and the Former Santa Fe Railway Station (1935).
Shopping and Dining
The retail scene in Pasadena is thriving, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble picking up a souvenir. You can find many stores on or near Colorado Boulevard. Large shopping centres, including Paseo Colorado and the open-air Hastings Village, are perfectly complemented by an abundance of speciality independent stores, many of which are found in and around Old Town. The city also hosts several farmer’s markets, notably on Thursdays on Meridian Avenue and each Sunday on East Holly Street, as well as the monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market. When it’s time to grab lunch, you’ll find restaurants clustered along Historic Route 66 and, perhaps unsurprisingly, in Old Town, where the 100-plus dining options include everything from pavement cafes to award-winning fine dining spots.
Pasadena’s position in the San Gabriel Valley offers a great base from which to explore the wider surroundings. The Gold Line metro service allows you to reach downtown LA in under 20 minutes and attractions such as Universal Studios Hollywood, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Griffith Observatory, and Knott’s Berry Farm are all within easy reach with the help of a hire car. You could, of course, escape the hustle and bustle entirely and explore green spaces such as the Angeles National Forest, La Tuna Canyon Park, and the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area instead. And if you just want to cool down, you can spend the day at Raging Waters or relax on the beach at Santa Monica, both within a 30-minute drive of downtown Pasadena.