Pasadena: Historical Sites, Museums & Cultural Venues

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Pasadena captures the essence of beauty and style with its historic architecture, world-class art museums, acres of botanical gardens, landmark theaters and three distinct districts offering an eclectic collection of dining, shopping and entertainment.
Pasadena’s three districts offer unique environments that encourage exploration and celebration.

Old Pasadena is nationally recognized for its vibrant main street revitalization. Spanning 22 blocks of historic streets and alleyways, Old Pasadena reflects the traditions of early California blending more than 200 retail stores, art galleries, trendy boutiques, vintage clothing stores, theaters and restaurants.
European ambiance is most evident along the 10, tree-lined blocks of South Lake Avenue, which is home to upscale boutiques, designer stores and eateries. This active business community and bustling retail center features Macy’s, Anthropology and Orvis alongside diverse eateries such as Smitty’s and Pie & Burger, a Pasadena institution since 1963.
The Pasadena Playhouse District is an eclectic mix of art, theatre and literature, all enhanced with 1920s architecture.  At its center is the Pasadena Playhouse, the official State Theatre of California and a national historic landmark. Built in 1917, the Spanish-style building is known for its cutting-edge productions. Visit Vroman’s Bookstore, the oldest independent bookstore in Southern California or stop in and smell the roses at Jacob Maarse, one of the area’s premier florists.  Witness a creatively daring presentation of drama and music in one of the intimate, state-of-the-art settings at Boston Court Theatre, known for its special emphasis on nurturing new talent.
Pasadena boasts an impressive list of 1,000 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.  In fact, nowhere in American is there such a large concentration of Craftsman-style homes, and the Gamble House, built for David and Mary Gamble of Procter & Gamble in 1908, is recognized as a masterpiece of the American Arts & Crafts Movement.
Tournament of Roses House and Wrigley Gardens is the beautiful white Italian Renaissance home of William Wrigley, Jr. of Wrigley Chewing Gum fame. The house is located on Orange Grove Boulevard, once known as “Millionaires’ Row,” and the grand mansion now serves as headquarters for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.
Pasadena’s City Hall is an exquisite 1927 landmark that exhibits Italian Renaissance and Spanish influences with its red tile roof, ornate fountain and lush garden courtyard.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is housed in the original Vista del Arroyo Hotel. Built in 1903, the hotel was used as a military hospital during World War II. The federal government restored and reopened the building for the court in 1985.
The Fenyes Mansion is a 1906 Beaux-Arts structure, once owned by the Finish Consul.  This house offers a rare glimpse into the extravagant lifestyle that existed on Pasadena’s “Millionaires’ Row” in the early 1900s.
The California Institute of Technology is known worldwide for rocket and space research, and it is also the home of earthquake science. Caltech’s research facilities attract renowned scientists from all over the world, and its faculty and alumni have garnered an astounding 32 Nobel Prizes.
The Colorado Street Bridge is a historical landmark constructed in 1913. The bridge has graceful concert arches that span the Arroyo Seco.
When it comes to art collections, Pasadena’s museums are among the country’s most distinguished. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is regarded as one of the world’s foremost cultural centers, located on a 207-acre estate of the late railroad baron Henry Huntington and his wife, Arabella.
The treasures of the institution include a Gutenberg Bible, Chaucer’s manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, Benjamin Franklin’s handwritten autobiography and Birds of America, the double-elephant folio edition by Audubon, and its newest addition The Garden of Flowing Fragrance or Liu Fang Yuan, an authentic Chinese garden that reflects traditional Suzhou-style scholar gardens.
The $20 million refurbished Huntington Art Gallery houses the famous Gainsborough painting of “Blue Boy” and Lawrence’s “Pinkie” as well as other 17th and 18th Century masterpieces. In addition to an updated infrastructure, the gallery includes 5,300 additional square feet of public space and new gallery presentations of approximately 1,200 objects of European art. The Erburu Gallery showcases the institution’s growing collection of American Art.  The Virginia Steele Scott Gallery specializes in American paintings from the 1730s to the 1930s, and Renaissance paintings of 18th Century French artists are featured in the Arabella Huntington Collection. The Boone Gallery is dedicated to changing exhibitions.
The Norton Simon Museum of Art houses art from the Renaissance to Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt.  It also showcases the masterpieces of such artists as Raphael, Botticelli, Rubens and Goya, and most particularly the impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings of Renoir, Monet and Degas.  An extensive collection of South Asian sculpture and the works of Rodin are also on display.
Located in the Grace Nicholson mansion, the Pacific Asia Museum is dedicated to the preservation of art and culture of the Pacific and Asia. With a contemporary Asian arts gallery this museum also has one of only two authentic Chinese gardens in the United States.
The Pasadena Historical Museum is housed in the Fenyes Mansion and also offers a Finish Folk Art Museum, Research Library and History Center Galleries.
The Pasadena Museum of California Art is the only museum in Southern California devoted to California’s art, architecture and design from mid-19th century to the present. Founders Bob and Arlene Oltman built a residence and rooftop terrace on the third floor of the museum.

The Kidspace Children’s Museum features 20 interactive exhibits and two acres of gardens, waterways and outdoor learning environments. Kids can create an earthquake in the Shake Zone, uncover plant and animal fossils in The Dig or visit the Kidspace Nature Exchange to trade natural objects of rocks, plant life and soil.
The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is a beloved Pasadena landmark, located in the Pasadena Civic Center District.  Opened in 1932, the auditorium hosts popular music, television specials, and a distinguished speaker series.
The Pasadena Playhouse boasts year-round productions, many of them cutting-edge performances. Some have been so successful, they moved on to Broadway. The Spanish-style building, designated as California’s official State Theatre, continues as a training ground for actors. Among the most notable are Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman, who both got their start at the playhouse.
Beckman & Ramo Auditoriums are on the campus of Caltech, offering lectures, storytelling, films and musical concerts.
Boston Court Performing Arts Center, features two state-of-the-art theaters – an intimate 99-seat theatre and 60-seat performance space, which has events ranging from jazz concerts to classic Shakespearean plays.
The Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts located in Memorial Park offers free family-oriented concerts at the park’s restored 1930s band shell.
The Southwest Chamber Music presents concert series at cultural institutions including the Armory Center for the Arts and a celebrated summer festival at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
The Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau is a non-profit marketing organization dedicated to promoting Pasadena as a desirable meeting, convention and leisure travel destination.  For more information and assistance in planning meetings and special events in Pasadena, contact the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 307-7977 or log on to