33 Things to Do in Pasadena, California

Last Updated on January 13, 2023 by admin

Pasadena is located just 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles, and it’s one of my favorite cities in southern California. With the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop, Pasadena is filled with museums, trendy restaurants, and a historic Old Pasadena that gives the city a small-town vibe. Pasadena is famous all over the country for the Tournament of the Roses parade and the Rose Bowl football game, but the city has so much more to offer than just roses! I’ve been to Pasadena at least half a dozen times, and I’m excited to share my list of the top 33 things to do in Pasadena.

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About Pasadena

The name Pasadena means valley in the Ojibwa native language. The city of Pasadena is located in Los Angeles County in Southern California. The city has over 135,000 residents. 

Old Town Pasadena

The climate in Pasadena is typically warm and sunny. The average daytime temperature is 76 degrees F. Overall, the climate is very comfortable and most days have warm temperatures. I’ve personally seen the temperature as hot as 104 degrees and as cold as 42 degrees during my visits, so be sure to check the forecast and pack accordingly!

Green Street in Pasadena
Green Street is a popular street in Pasadena

 

Also, if you’re visiting Los Angeles, check out the Go City pass. You’ll able to save money by bundling multiple attractions!

 

Fun Facts About Pasadena

  • There are tons of parrots that live in Pasadena. The legend is that tons of parrots were released after a fire in the late 1950s at a bird farm.
  • The official flower is, of course, the rose!
  • The city of Pasadena was established, in part, to ban the sale of alcohol in the late 1800s. 
  • The name Pasadena has been bestowed upon an asteroid, a submarine, and even another city in Texas. 
  • A typical float in the Tournament of Roses parade has over 100,000 roses!
  • Pasadena has been home to numerous celebrities, including Albert Einstein and Julia Child. 
  • Locals sometimes refer to Pasadena as just ‘dena

Things to Do in Pasadena (Colorado Boulevard)

 

 


How to Get to Pasadena

 

Pasadena is located in the southern portion of California. It’s about 10 miles away from Los Angeles, 40 miles away from Disneyland, and 135 miles away from San Diego. 

Pasadena sculpture by City Hall
Sculptures outside of City Hall

 

Airports Close to Pasadena:

  • Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR): about 15 miles away from Pasadena
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): about 28 miles away from Pasadena
  • Long Beach Airport (LGB): about 29 miles away from Pasadena
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT): about 36 miles away from Pasadena

Tip: I recommend checking the SkyScanner website to see which airports have the best prices for your dates of travel!

 

 


Things to Do in Pasadena

1. Old Pasadena

Old Pasadena (Things to Do in Pasadena)

One of my favorite things to do is to walk around Old Pasadena (also known as Old Pas). Pasadena’s first buildings were created in the 1880s. Pasadena quickly grew to become a resort town for wealthy tourists to spend their winters. Today, Old Pasadena has 22 blocks and is recognized as a National Register Historic District. To see Old Pasadena, just walk up and down Colorado Boulevard. You’ll find plenty of historic buildings, restaurants, and open-air shopping centers. 

2. Pasadena Playhouse Village

Pasadena Playhouse District

In addition to Old Pasadena, another district you need to visit while in Pasadena is the Playhouse Village. The Playhouse Village is home to the performing arts, museums, and lots of galleries. Of course, be sure to check out the Pasadena Playhouse!

3. Pasadena City Hall

100 Garfield Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Pasadena City Hall

An impressive building that you cannot miss while in Pasadena is the city hall. The building was constructed in 1927 during the City Beautiful movement. The building has architectural influence from the Italian Renaissance and Spanish design. This beautiful building has been featured in dozens of films! It’s really easy to reach Pasadena City Hall while you’re out exploring Old Pasadena. I took a quick 2-minute detour from Colorado Boulevard, and I was able to see this beautiful building in person.

4. Pasadena Civic Auditorium 

300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

Pasadena Civic Auditorium

The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is another beautiful building located in downtown Pasadena. If you are a fan of the show America’s Got Talent, this is one of the venues used for the show. This is also the venue for the Daytime Emmy Awards. The building first opened in 1932 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pasadena Civic Auditorium ceiling

The first time I visited the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, I saw that they were filming for America’s Got Talent. I wasn’t able to peek inside during that visit, but I absolutely loved the exterior of the building. During my last visit to Pasadena, I did get to walk inside the building, and I thought that the painted ceiling was fabulous. 

5. Colorado Street Bridge

504 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105

The Colorado Street Bridge was constructed in 1912 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Colorado Street Bridge bridge is known for its arches and classic light fixtures. The bridge makes for a beautiful backdrop for photos.

6. Jet Propulsion Laboratory

4800 Oak Grove Dr, Pasadena, CA 91109

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory offers free public tours on a limited basis. You’ll need to make a reservation through their website. If you’re a smaller group, you’ll need to visit on one of their designated Visitor Day Tours. The property contains a number of places to visit, including the Space Flight Operations Facility, the von Karman Visitor Center, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.

7. The Gamble House

4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena, CA 91103

The Gamble House is a historic home that is known for its architectural influence. The home was constructed by architects Charles and Henry Greene. You can visit the house for a tour on select days of the week. There are a variety of tours to choose from, which cover topics such as the craftsmanship, gardens, and more.

8. USC Pacific Asia Museum

46 N Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

The USC Pacific Asia Museum focuses on the art and culture of Pacific Asia. The museum has been operating in Pasadena for over 50 years. At the time of this writing, a general admission ticket for an adult was $10. If you happen to be in town on the second Sunday of the month, admission is free. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday (closed on Monday and Tuesday). 

9. Norton Simon Museum

411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105

The Norton Simon Museum consists of multiple galleries and a sculpture garden. Norton Simon was an art collector with an impressive collection. Currently at the museum, there are over 12,000 objects. Some of the most exceptional pieces of art include paintings by Raphael, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh. At the time of this writing, an adult admission ticket costs $15. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

10. Rose Bowl Stadium

1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103

If you want to check out the Rose Bowl Stadium, you don’t have to wait for a football game. The stadium offers public tours. Tours offered the last Friday of every month. You’ll be able to check out a locker room as well as look at the field. The Rose Bowl Stadium was built in 1922 and is now a National Historic Landmark. The Rose Bowl typically takes place on January 1st of each year. If you happen to be in Pasadena during the Rose Bowl, you’ll see the town flooded with football fans from across the country.

11. Pasadena Museum of History

470 W Walnut St, Pasadena, CA 91103

The Pasadena Museum of History is dedicated to preserving Pasadena’s artistic and cultural history. If you want to learn more about Pasadena and the local area, this is the museum you should visit. The museum is located on the beautiful Fenyes Estate, which is a mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion was built in 1907 and still contains much of its original furniture. You can also visit the Finnish Folk Art Museum while on property. The property is also surrounded by well-maintained gardens that are worth a visit. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

12. Wrigley Mansion and Gardens

391 S Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91184

The Wrigley Mansion was built in 1906. It was gifted to the city of Pasadena in the 1950s for the purpose of serving as the Tournament House for the Tournament of Roses annual parade. At the time of this writing, free tours are offered to the public on Thursdays from February until August (2pm and 3pm). You’ll definitely want to visit the Wrigley Gardens, which contain more than 1,500 types of flowers. (Many of which are roses!) The Tournament or Roses parade has been operating since 1890.

13. The Church of Saint Andrew

311 N Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

The Church of Saint Andrew, Pasadena

As you explore Pasadena, you can’t help but see the tall bell tower attached to the Church of Saint Andrew. The Romanesque Revival Campanile is one of Pasadena’s landmarks. The church was built in 1927. I think it looks particularly beautiful when it’s lit up at night.

14. Castle Green

99 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

Castle Green in Pasadena

Castle Green is a beautiful building and a Nationally Registered Historic Monument. Castle Green was built in 1898 originally as part of a hotel. It has architectural elements from Moorish and Spanish-style buildings. It now serves as a private residence and event venue. 

I remember walking by Castle Green thinking it was a really pretty building. I didn’t go inside or take any photos, but it’s certainly worth a stop as part of a walking tour of Pasadena. 

15. Central Park

275 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

Pasadena Central Park Rose Garden

Located right next to Castle Green is Pasadena’s Central Park. This 9-acre park contains a rose garden, playground, and plenty of benches and green space. When I visited, I thought it was a nice place to relax or read a book. The playground equipment looked new and well-maintained. 

16. Historic Route 66

Pasadena is actually located along Historic Route 66. If you’re planning a road trip along Route 66, definitely add Pasadena to your itinerary! The Saga Motor Hotel Pasadena is a historic motel that is located along this route. The hotel is known for its iconic neon-sign that has been shining since the 1950s. 

17. IPIC Pasadena

42 Miller Alley, Pasadena CA 91103

Watch a movie in comfort at the IPIC movie theater in Pasadena. With comfortable seating and a delicious menu, IPIC is the perfect place to go for a date night!

Although I haven’t been to the IPIC theater in Pasadena, I have been to other IPIC theaters and they are THE BEST. 

18. Pasadena Antique Mall

309 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101

Pasadena Antique Mall (Things to do in Pasadena)

The Pasadena Antique Mall contains thousands of vintage items. Going antiquing can be a fun way to spend an afternoon and get to know the city.

19. Vroman’s Bookstore

695 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91101

Vroman’s Bookstore is southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore. The bookstore has been operating since 1894. 

20. The Pasadena Symphony & POPS

While you’re in Pasadena, check out a live concert and listen to some classical music. 

21. California Institute of Technology 

Caltech is located in Pasadena, and the university has an impressive campus. The university hosts a monthly architectural tour of its campus. (Information linked here.)

22. Arlington Garden

275 Arlington Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

The Arlington Garden is Pasadena’s only free public garden. The botanical garden contains a citrus grove, an oak grove, a desert, and a mediterranean garden. 

23. Neon Retro Arcade

28 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

Neon Retro Arcade (things to do in Pasadena)

Fan of classic video games? The Neon Retro Arcade contains over 40 classic games. You pay an admission price to enter, and then all games are set to “free play.” We paid $15 per adult for an hour. We had so much fun playing all the old games! Our daughter also enjoyed it. They even provided us a stool, that way she could stand up and see all the screens.

The arcade included racing games, shooting games, video games, and pinball games. Some of the classic games that we played included Donkey Kong, Tetris, Burger Time, Off Road, The Simpsons, Ms. PacMan, Street Fighter, and Dragon’s Lair.

24. Kidspace Children’s Museum

480 N Arroyo Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103

Kidspace Museum in Pasadena (Things to do in Pasadena)

If you’re looking for a fun activity for kids, check out the Kidspace Children’s Museum. The museum features a variety of exhibits, including a splash space, a rope bridge, and trike tracks. The museum is closed on Mondays. We recently visited the Kidspace Children’s Museum with our daughter, and we were surprised that we spent over 5 hours there! There are some indoor exhibits, but most of the experiences are outdoors. We especially enjoyed the sound garden, the campsite space, and the fishing boat area. The museum has a cafe on-site, with lots of kid-friendly menu options. We ordered a grilled cheese sandwich that was in the shape of a goofy monster, complete with cucumbers and olives for eyes!

25. Fork in the Road

S St John Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

If you’re looking for a silly piece of public art, check out the Fork in the Road sculpture. This 18-foot-tall fork is sure to amuse you. 

26. Eaton Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center

1750 N Altadena Dr, Pasadena, CA 91107

The Eaton Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center is open seasonally. The park has a variety of trails through Eaton Canyon. It’s closed on Mondays. 

27. Annandale Golf Club

1 N San Rafael Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

If you like to golf, Annandale Golf Club has a nice course in Pasadena. The golf club has been operating since 1906.

28. Rose Bowl Flea Market

1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103

The Rose Bowl Flea Market takes place on the second Sunday of every month. The flea market has over 2,500 vendors and thousands of items to explore. There is an admission fee to enter. 

29. Pasadena Farmers Market

Enjoy fresh produce and food from vendors at the Pasadena Farmers Market. The market is open at Victory Park on Saturdays and at Villa Park Center on Tuesdays.

30. Memorial Park

85 E Holly St #3907, Pasadena, CA 91103

Pasadena’s Memorial Park has a bandstand, playground, and picnic area. There’s plenty of grass to run around and play.

31. Brookside Park

360 N Arroyo Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103

Brookside Park, Things to do in Pasadena

Brookside Park is located adjacent to the Kidspace Museum and near the Rose Bowl. At over 60 acres, it’s the largest maintained park in Pasadena. There’s even a pirate-themed playground that kids are sure to love.

32. Arroyo Seco Trails

Arroyo Seco Trails in Pasadena

If you’re looking to get out in nature, there are numerous trails and loops in Arroyo Seco. You’re sure to find a trail that’s the perfect length and difficulty level.

33. Southern California Children’s Museum

459 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101

Southern California Children's Museum in Pasadena

The Southern California Children’s Museum is an indoor play space that has tons of interactive exhibits for imaginative play. Our daughter had the best time here!

 


Pasadena Restaurants

Looking for a place to eat in Pasadena? Here’s some places I recommend!

Tacos at Anaya's in Pasadena
Tacos at Anaya’s
  • Union: This wine bar/Italian restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants ever. The menu is filled with Northern Italian dishes with a California focus. Their homemade pasta is to die for, and I think this is the perfect place for a date night. 
  • Mi Piace: Another excellent Italian restaurant is Mi Piace. I haven’t had the chance to visit Mi Piace yet, but several different people have recommended it to me, so it’s high on my list!
  • True Food Kitchen: This restaurant focuses on healthy meals. When I visited, I had a bowl of butternut squash soup and a plate of brussels sprout. The brussels sprout were some of my favorite ever! True Food Kitchen also had a courtyard with heaters, so it was a beautiful spot to dine for either indoor or outdoor seating.
  • Anaya’s Restaurant: This Mexican restaurant served up an amazing taco platter. I especially liked the shrimp tacos. Their bar also had an extensive tequila list.
  • Crave Cafe: This cafe has a special creperie with both savory and sweet options. The last time I visited, I ordered a chorizo breakfast burrito that was so satisfying. 
  • Yard House: Whether or not you’re a fan of craft beers, you’re sure to enjoy their food menu! 
Crave Cafe Pasadena
Burrito I ordered from Crave Cafe

 

Yard House (places to eat in Pasadena)
The Firecracker Shrimp from Yard House

 


Nearby Activities

Huntington Library

Located in nearby San Marino, the Huntington Library is a great place to visit. In addition to the library, there’s also an art museum and botanical gardens. (My aunt highly recommended visiting just to see the gardens!) The library itself contains over 11 million items. During the weekend, reservations are required.

Mount Wilson Observatory

The Mount Wilson Observatory, located on the summit of Mount Willson, has a visitor’s gallery and tours.  

Disneyland

One of our favorite places to visit in California is Disneyland! Disneyland is located about 42 miles from Pasadena. We have driven from Pasadena to Disneyland, and the travel time can vary tremendously depending on traffic. One time it took us 50 minutes to drive to Disneyland, and another time it took us 1 hour and 50 minutes! (We recommend avoiding rush hour if possible!) If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland, we recommend staying at the Disneyland Hotel. You’ll be right next to the park!

Los Angeles

Because Pasadena is so close to Los Angeles, it’s easy to spend a day in the city. You might be especially interested in seeing the Griffith Observatory, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and The Grove.

Fly High Adventure Park Altadena

Located just a few miles from Pasadena, you can easily reach Fly High Adventure Park in Altadena. This trampoline park has lots of kid-approved spaces for jumping and bouncing. 


Where to Stay in Pasadena

Booking.com  

There are a lot of great lodging options in Pasadena. I’ll share my personal review of two hotels I’ve stayed at, as well as some further ideas!

Hyatt Place Pasadena
Hyatt Place Pasadena
  • Hyatt Place Pasadena: My favorite hotel in Pasadena (that I’ve stayed at so far) is the Hyatt Place Pasadena. The Hyatt is conveniently located near Colorado Boulevard, so everything is walkable. The rooms are spacious, the complimentary breakfast was delicious, and there’s an outdoor pool. This hotel has everything that I could possibly want for a trip to Pasadena. 
  • Hilton Pasadena: I have also stayed at the Hilton Pasadena and would also recommend this hotel. This hotel is also located not too far away from Colorado Boulevard. The Hilton also has an outdoor pool. 
  • Saga Motor Hotel Pasadena: This classic hotel on Route 66 is timeless. 
  • The Langham, Huntington, Pasadena: This 5-star hotel in Pasadena is absolutely luxurious. With large rooms, a spa, and a wellness, you will be well-rested at the Langham. It has been awarded as one of the top 10 best hotels in southern California. 
Hilton Pasadena
Hilton Pasadena

 

Tip: Use the search engine below to find the best hotel in Pasadena for you!

 


What to Pack with You on a Trip to Pasadena

If you’re planning a trip to Pasadena, here’s a few things you’ll want to be sure to pack:

  • Portable Power Bank: You’ll be relying on your phone for navigation and for photography. Make sure you don’t run out of battery while you’re out exploring the city! You can charge this power bank and then easily carry it with you. When you’re low on battery, just plug your phone in. 
  • Water Bottle: Stay hydrated as you explore the city. We have an Iron Flask water bottle, and it’s worked great so far!
  • Sunglasses: When you’re visiting California, you’ll definitely need sunglasses. Ray Bans are some of the best sunglasses out there. (And aviators are perfect for a trip to California!)
  • Comfortable walking shoes: I’ve been wearing the Brooks brand for years, and I love their shoes. If you’re looking for sandals, I’ve found Tevas to be the most comfortable for walking. 

 

(Click on any of the above images for current pricing and shipping information.)

Pasadena


Summary

Pasadena is one of my favorite cities in California. It’s close to Los Angeles, it has the beautiful San Gabriel mountains as a backdrop, and there’s tons to see in this small city. The weather is almost always perfect, and the restaurants are so good. I’ll definitely be going back to Pasadena, and I hope this article helps you plan your own trip!

Pasadena
Pretty church in Pasadena

 

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