Pasadena may be considered part of LA, but it is, in fact, distinctly apart. As the city’s first suburb, it attracted a large share of the rich, who saw to it that a European flair enhanced the town. Fine mansions, such as the Craftsman-era Gamble House, occupy grounds on leafy streets. Old Town Pasadena, the historic core, is now home to a vibrant street of restaurants and shops. Pasadena is in the limelight every year on January 1 with its Tournament of Roses, a parade, and football game. The area’s other treasures include the Rose Bowl and the fabled Huntington Gardens.
1001 Rose Bowl Dr • 626-577-3101 • www.rosebowlstadium.com
Pasadena’s most famous landmark, the Rose Bowl, draws worldwide attention every New Year’s Day when two top-ranking college football teams battle it out for the Rose Bowl Game Trophy. College football first became part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902 when Michigan beat Stanford 49-0. The original horseshoe-shaped structure was enlarged to its current capacity of 90,000.
411 W Colorado Blvd • 626-449-6840 • Open 11am–8pm Fri & Sat, noon–5pm Sun, Mon, Wed & Thu • Adm (free for under 19s and students with ID, also on 1st Fri of month) • www.nortonsimon.org
This must-see for art lovers owes its existence to Norton Simon, a hugely successful entrepreneur, who collected hundreds of masterpieces (see Artworks at the Norton Simon Museum) from the Renaissance to the 20th century, and sculptures from India and Southeast Asia. Old Masters, such as Rembrandt and Goya, and the Impressionists, especially Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, and Monet, are well represented. Frank Gehry’s remodel improved the lighting of the exhibit space. Sculptures, including Rodin’s The Thinker, dot the gardens, inspired by Monet’s at Giverny in France.
46 N Los Robles Ave • 626-449-2742 • Open 11am–5pm Wed–Sun (until 8pm Thu) • Adm (for free entry, check website) • www.pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu
Grace Nicholson, infatuated with all things Asian, had her home designed to look like a Chinese imperial palace. It now makes a fitting setting for this museum’s 14,000 artifacts from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Exhibits include masks from New Guinea, paintings by Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige, and woven costumes from Pakistan.
This treasure trove of culture (see The Huntington) is the legacy of railroad tycoon Henry E. Huntington. He made his fortune in real estate and owned LA’s first mass transit system.
391 S Orange Grove Blvd • 602-955-4079 • Tours: 10am, noon, 2pm & 4pm Tue–Sat, 2pm Sun ($15 per person) • www.wrigleymansionclub.com
William Wrigley Jr., of Wrigley’s chewing gum, certainly knew how to live. His residence in Pasadena is an 18,500-sq-ft (1,720-sq-m) Renaissance-style mansion. It houses the Tournament of Roses Association, which organizes the annual Rose Bowl Game. Memorabilia includes Rose Queen crowns, trophies, and photographs.
City Hall: 100 N Garfield Ave, 626-744-4000 • Civic Auditorium: 300 E Green St, 626-449-7360 • Library: 285 E Walnut St, 626-744-4052
This grand complex was inspired by the early 20th-century City Beautiful movement. It consists of three European-style Beaux-Arts structures – the Main Library, the Civic Auditorium, and the City Hall. Architect Myron Hunt designed the public library.
1200 E California Blvd • 626-395-6811 • Campus open anytime • Free guided tours: 10am Mon–Fri (no tours during the winter break & on rainy days) • www.caltech.edu
One of the world’s leading scientific research centers and a pioneer in molecular biology, CalTech counts 29 Nobel Prize winners among its alumni and faculty, including biologist and current president, David Baltimore. The institute evolved from an arts and crafts school founded in 1891 by the eminent Amos G. Throop, changing its focus to science after astronomer George E. Hale became a board member in 1907.
Along Colorado Blvd between Marengo Ave & Pasadena Ave • Castle Green, 50 E Green St
Pasadena’s historic business district, once a decaying part of town, has now been beautifully restored. Today, its handsome brick buildings are packed with boutiques, restaurants, and bookstores. A short detour will take you to the imposing 1898 Castle Green, once Old Pasadena’s most luxurious resort hotel.
Court • 125 S Grand Ave
The arches of this restored 1913 bridge straddle the Arroyo Seco (Spanish for “dry brook”), a ravine that starts in the San Gabriel Mountains. The 1903 Vista del Arroyo Hotel overlooking the bridge is home to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The local historic group throws a block party on the bridge each July.
39 S El Molino Ave • 626-356-7529 • Box office: noon–6pm Tue–Sat (until 4pm Sun) • www.pasadenaplayhouse.org
Known as the official state theater of California, it was founded in 1917 and opened in its historic building in 1925. The theater in the round technique was first used here and it has been a center of innovation and a training ground for various artists since. Today it is the center of the Playhouse District of entertainment and shopping.
This over-the-top celebration of wackiness, held every June, began in 1978 as an irreverent spoof of the wholesome Rose Parade. Entrants vary each year, but groups such as the Synchronized Precision Briefcase Drill Team and the West Hollywood Transvestite Cheerleaders always generate cheers from the 40,000-strong crowd on Colorado Boulevard.
A classic way to start the day in Pasadena is with an energizing breakfast at Marston’s. After your fill of pancakes, stroll east a couple of blocks on Walnut Street and have a look at the beautiful Beaux-Arts Main Library and the majestic City Hall a little to the south. Continue walking farther south to Colorado Boulevard, then head west to Old Town Pasadena, the city’s original Downtown, a popular shopping and dining district. Check out the well-restored historic facades while browsing the stores, then pause briefly for a snack at Café Santorini.
In the afternoon, either drive or walk west along Colorado Boulevard, then turn right on Orange Grove Boulevard to catch the 1pm or 2pm tour of the Gamble House, the Craftsman-era magnum opus by Charles and Henry Greene. Fans of this architectural style could check out several more residences designed by the brothers along nearby Arroyo Terrace and Grand Avenue. Alternatively, make your way back to Colorado Boulevard for a visit to the first-rate Norton Simon Museum. The gorgeous gardens are a nice place for some respite and refreshments. A perfect finale to your day is to treat yourself to a grand dinner at The Raymond, one of the city’s oldest and most popular restaurants.
Renowned renaissance artist Raphael (1483–1520) was only 19 years old when he painted this work. It perfectly exemplifies his geometrically balanced compositions and his ability to imbue his figures with spirituality and great tenderness.
No artist has left behind such a thorough record of his own likeness as Rembrandt (1606–69). The elegant garb, dapper beret, and gold chain in this portrait emphasize his social status as a sought-after artist.
In this still life, Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) applies the bright colors and minute detail usually reserved for his depictions of saints and clergy.
Rococo master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770) is known for his exuberant ceiling frescoes. This canvas shows off his bold compositions and use of color.
Claude Monet (1840–1926) looked out from his house on the Seine at the sunny, flower-filled garden of this painting.
Edgar Degas (1834–1917) was fascinated with dancers, and this exquisite sculpture is one of his finest. The figure is partly painted, dressed in a tulle skirt, and has been given real hair.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853–90) painted Patience Escalier, a gardener and shepherd, against a night-blue background to create “a mysterious effect, like a star in the depths of an azure sky.”
Henri Rousseau (1844–1910) is renowned for his poetic Naïve paintings that depict lushly landscaped dream worlds. He created this work shortly before his death.
A highlight of the museum’s extensive Picasso (1881–1973) holdings, this graceful painting shows the artist’s mistress, Marie-Therèse Walter, in an introspective mood that contrasts sharply with the melodramatic colors.
This pair of 13th-century Indian bronze sculpture casts depict the Hindu god Shiva, part of the holy Trinity of gods, accompanied by his wife Parvati.
400 Arroyo Terrace
Hemmed in by an unusual wall made of warped clinker bricks, this pretty house has a stained-glass front door.
2 Westmoreland Place
This large home, owned by a church, marks the first time the Greenes added a porte-cochère (a porch-like roof) above the driveway.
440 Arroyo Terrace
Mary Ranney was a draftsperson at the brothers’ firm and contributed many of the design ideas for this shingled corner mansion.
408 Arroyo Terrace
This home is distinguished by a very wide covered porch, which keeps out both heat and light, giving the house a rather sombre appearance.
4 Westmoreland Place • 626-793-3334 • Tours noon–3pm Thu–Sun • Adm (free for under 12s) • www.gamblehouse.org
This handcrafted masterpiece (see The Gamble House) boasts rich wood, leaded glass windows, and a stained-glass door.
370 Arroyo Terrace
This house has lost much of its Craftsman look due to the replacement of the shingle exterior with painted stucco.
368 Arroyo Terrace
Charles experimented with many Craftsman ideas while building his own home. The front room, buttressed by boulders and bricks, was a later addition.
240 N Grand Ave
This large, beautiful home, originally a single-story bungalow, pays homage to Japanese design with its slightly upturned roofs.
235 N Grand Ave
The stained-glass entrance door, the clinker brick wall, and the pergola are the only original elements of this extensively remodeled home.
90 N Grand Ave
Originally one of the brothers’ smallest designs, this bungalow sports a deep overhang of eaves sheltering the main entrance.
161 W Colorado Blvd • 626-744-9987
Cooking aficionados love browsing through this vast assortment of quality kitchenware, from pots and pans to hard-to-find utensils.
20 S Raymond Ave • 626-449-3220
A friendly spot packed with travel books and accessories. There is also a travel agency for tickets and tours.
127 W Colorado Blvd • 626-795-7234
This retro emporium specializes in classic furniture and period hardware, but also has a fun selection of trendy home accessories.
17 E Colorado Blvd • 626-396-9636
This “modern apothecary” uses only natural ingredients for its skincare products and has an assortment of olive oil soap sold by weight.
695 E Colorado Blvd • 626-449-5320
Vroman’s has been going strong since 1894, with knowledgeable and helpful staff, author signings, book readings, and an in-house café.
139 W Colorado Blvd • 626-449-1818
Hip, urban clothing, vintage outfits, well-known brands, shoes, gifts, and housewares all under one roof.
3 W Colorado Blvd • 626-568-2739
The retail store of this famous catalog line has the same stylish clothing and accessories for men and women at reasonable prices.
2 E Holly St • 626-440-7244
From jewelry to small art pieces, cards, unusual gifts and home decor, this shop features local artisans and has rave-worthy gift wrapping paper.
54 W Colorado Blvd • 626-577-2685
Everything a Mac enthusiast could want and more. This one-stop shop stocks the latest in Apple technology and has knowledgeable staff.
22 E Union St • 626-744-9963
This unusual boutique stocks a huge assortment of organic jewelry, artworks, home-decor pieces, and nature-based oddities.
383 S Fair Oaks Ave • 626-793-5200 • $$
Complex flavors and a lovely Post-Modern patio make this trendy Thai eatery a Pasadena favorite.
37 E Union St • 626-795-5841 • $$
Northern Italy meets California at this intimate neighborhood restaurant. The small plates – designed for sharing – are made from locally sourced ingredients.
151 E Walnut St • 626-796-2459 • Closed Mon • $
Start the day with blueberry pancakes, golden French toast, or other breakfast favorites at this popular cottage hangout.
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave at Columbia St • 626-441-3136 • Closed Mon • $$$
This Craftsman-style cottage has a menu of American classics, but with limited options for vegetarians.
510 S Arroyo Parkway • 626-795-1001 • $$$
Only the freshest organic ingredients are used to perfect Parkway Grill’s inspired Californian cuisine.
260 S Raymond Ave • 626-356-4444 • $$
Housed in the restored Del Mar train station (the Gold Line stops right outside), this family-friendly restaurant offers a well-prepared, standard American and Californian-Mexican menu with an upscale twist. The charming outdoor patio seating area is the perfect spot for brunch.
45 S Mentor Ave • 626-795-2478 • Closed Mon • $$$
This classy place in an Art Deco building turns out excellent French fare paired with one of the best wine lists in town. The menu has limited options for vegetarians.
64 W Union St • 626-564-4200 • $$
The tables on the terrace are the most coveted on balmy summer evenings. The Greek and Italian menu has lots of fun appetizers.
33 Miller Alley • 626-683-3000 • $$$
Classic sushi and creative new takes on Asian food keep this attractively designed place busy.
1296 E Colorado Blvd • 626-405-1502 • $
Armenian eatery specializing in tarna (chicken with hummus, salad, and garlic sauce), and shawarma kebabs.