A perfect Pasadena day can take many shapes and forms—it’s really all about what you’re in the mood for and who you’re sharing the adventure with. Pasadena offers a wide variety of experiences in a relatively compact area, so you can see and do a lot without ever feeling hurried. And if you’re particularly ambitious, with a little bit of advanced planning, you can easily check all of the lifestyle to-do boxes from fitness, beauty and retail therapy to cultural, culinary and cocktail discoveries. Here are a few suggestions on how you can enjoy a wonderful day in Pasadena.
Set an uplifting tone for your day with an early morning spin class at SoulCycle Pasadena in the Commons on South Lake. If you’ve never tried SoulCycle, this studio is one of the friendliest and most welcoming, so they’ll make you feel a part of the community from the moment you walk in the door. After your sweat session, you can use their shower facilities—complete with heavenly scented Le Labo products—to freshen up for the day.
Then pop into SunLife Organics to order a delicious, superfood smoothie to bring to your mani-pedi appointment next door at Olive & June. We recommend booking appointments in advance given it’s a popular spot—the adorable, Instagram-ready Pasadena location is one of only three in the mini chain’s growing LA empire.
With your body worked out and hands and feet done, head over to Vroman’s Bookstore on Colorado Boulevard for a leisurely browse through the shop’s vast selection of titles. This Pasadena institution, founded in the late 1800s, is Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookseller, which makes it a rare gem for people who love good “old-fashioned” tangible books.
Next on your agenda is a refined dose of arts and culture at the lovely and impressive Norton Simon Museum, where you can enjoy lunch alfresco at their café overlooking the sculpture garden. Created by industrialist Norton Simon, the museum holds some of the world’s finest private art collections, which includes many of the biggest names like Picasso, Rembrandt and Degas. The museum’s intimate size makes it an absolute delight to peruse the permanent and temporary exhibitions.
You’ve already accomplished a lot at this point in your day, so it’s time to treat yourself to some retail therapy. The main shopping district in Old Pasadena is very pedestrian friendly, so you can wander up and down Colorado Boulevard going into shops that catch your eye. There’s everything from global retailers like Lululemon, Nike and Sephora to independent, locally owned boutiques like Mohawk Pasadena and Gold Bug. If you need a caffeine pick-me-up, coffee shops like Intelligentsia and Copa Vida are also plentiful.
You’ll want to stay local in “Old Pas” for an early dinner. Make a reservation in advance to score a table at Union, one of Pasadena’s premier culinary destinations, from Chef Bruce Kalman (“Top Chef” Season 15). The cozy Italian-inflected restaurant sources ingredients from local farms and the seasonally changing menu always features a selection of to-die-for pastas in addition to savory starters, vibrant salads and hearty mains.
After dinner it’s show time. Purchase tickets to an evening theatre performance at the Pasadena Playhouse, the official State Theatre of California. The prestigious Pasadena Playhouse has a pioneering, century-long legacy in the performing arts, be it commissioning and staging new works that have gone onto Broadway acclaim or providing training ground for the stage’s biggest stars. This is an incredible venue to see familiar faces from film and television acting in compelling dramas and quirky comedies.
If theatre isn’t your cup of tea, catch a show at the equally legendary Ice House Comedy Club where the world’s best comedians have performed since 1960. You can often find today’s top comedic talents working on new material here, so be sure to check out their calendar online to see who’s on when you’re in town.
Whichever form of entertainment you opt for, you’ll have one last must-stop to make before calling it a day—Bar 1886 at The Raymond, where the skilled mixologists craft decadent, dreamy cocktails. Fair warning: the drinks are so divine, your night cap could easily turn into two!
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