Things To Do
15 Best Things to Do in Pasadena, CA
Welcome to Pasadena! We’re Esther and Jacob of LocalAdventurer.com, and this is our guide to the best things to do in Pasadena. Don’t miss our Wes Anderson Trend Reels featuring the most photogenic parts of the city.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington is one of the world's largest and most comprehensive libraries, art museums, and botanical gardens. You can easily spend an entire day here.
Reserve afternoon tea at The Rose Garden Tea Room to make your visit extra memorable. We always love having afternoon tea in our travel itineraries to relax and have a snack break between all the exploring.
The Japanese and Chinese Gardens are stunning and cover just a tiny portion of the 130-acre botanical garden. You can stop by the Art Museum or Library to escape the heat. The Art Museum has over 45,000 objects covering British, European, American, and Asian art. The Library has over 11 million items, including one of 12 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible.
Old Pasadena is a great spot to enjoy the afternoon of shopping, eating, and exploring its cute alleyways. The architecture is beautiful, and 22 blocks were designated as National Register Historic District.
During our visit, we walked the streets to do some window shopping at big box stores, independent retailers, and boutiques. We walked by Castle Green, a popular film location and a Nationally Registered Historic Monument. Plus, we enjoyed a meal at La Grande Orange, a local favorite housed in the historic 1934 Del Mar Train Station.
Langham Huntington Pasadena
When Pasadena invited us to shoot a Wes Anderson Reel, we knew we wanted to feature The Langham Huntington, Pasadena. It is a gorgeous hotel; the highlight is the lawn in the back.
We walked the grounds and had a lovely dinner at The Royce, our local friends’ favorite special occasions restaurant. They also have multiple restaurants, afternoon tea, a spa, and more.
Great Scott! It’s Doc Brown’s house from Back to the Future!
For those of you who aren’t fans of the movie, the Gamble House showcases the beauty of early 20th-century Craftsman architecture. They preserved the interior with its original furnishings, which the architects also designed!
One-hour tours are on Thursdays through Sundays and Tuesdays.
Eaton Canyon Trail
I love relaxing trails with a good payoff at the end. The Eaton Canyon Trail is precisely that. The trail is rated moderate difficulty, but we thought it was easier. There are 12 river crossings where you can hop rocks to get across or bring water shoes like Esther so that you can wade through the stream. Wading through felt refreshing and made crossing so much easier. At the end of the hike, you're rewarded with a view of a beautiful 40 ft waterfall.
Since the hike is so easily accessible, it's always crowded. We started the hike at 7 AM on a weekday to beat the crowds and ran into roughly 80-100 people, mostly towards the end.
PRO TIP - The gates to the parking lot open at 8 AM, and the earlier you go, the quieter it is.
Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum is small but has a fantastic collection. Our artist friend who lives nearby says it’s her favorite art museum in the LA area.
It’s one of the most renowned private art collections and houses over 12,000 objects. At any given time, there are roughly 1,000 pieces on display in the galleries and gardens and two exhibition spaces with rotating installations.
The Descanso Gardens is another local favorite. We visited a few years ago with our friends who frequent the gardens when it's a nice day.
There are nine botanical collections, a mini railroad you can ride, a museum, a modern art gallery, and a cafe where you can pick up food.
Remember to pick up tickets online before you go. They only sell tickets online.
Rose Bowl Stadium
You've probably heard of the Rose Bowl, even if you're not a sports fan. It hosts the Tournament of Roses Football Game, UCLA Bruin Football, plus they have concerts and events here. They also have guided tours if you're interested in seeing the inside of the stadium.
If our timing works out next time, we want to check out the famous Rose Bowl Flea Market, which they have every second Sunday of the month. There are over 2,500 vendors selling art, antiques, clothes, and more. On other days, you can enjoy the Rose Bowl Loop, a 3.3-mile pavement loop encompassing the stadium and Brookside Golf Course.
See a show at Pasadena Playhouse or the Pasadena Civic Auditorium
The Pasadena Playhouse has been around since 1917 and is the official State Theatre of California. They received the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award and recently announced their 23-24 season.
The Pasadena Civic Auditorium is also nearby and has hosted notable awards shows. They’ve also hosted competitions like America’s Got Talent, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance. They’re currently getting ready to host another round of AGT auditions.
Pasadena City Hall
The Pasadena City Hall is another star for our Wes Anderson Trend Reel. The stunning 1927 landmark has so many picturesque spots.
We walked around the grounds checking out the views from the front, then headed under the giant dome to the garden courtyard, where you'll find a beautiful ornate fountain.
Tournament of Roses House
The Wrigley Mansion is the headquarters for the Tournament of Roses and is known as the Tournament House. They offer free tours every Thursday at 2 PM, April through August, but you can still enjoy the exterior grounds and rose garden on other days.
We stopped by to check out the rose garden and took photos of the Italian Renaissance-style mansion. There’s also a cute miniature replica of the house that doubles as a Little Free Library on Arbor St.
Vroman's Bookstore + 1894 Wine Bar
Bookstores are becoming harder to find, so when there’s a beloved independent bookstore in town, we enjoy checking them out. Vroman’s is the oldest bookstore in Southern California, founded in 1894.
There’s also a wine bar inside the bookstore! The 1894 Wine Bar is literary-themed, and they offer small bites too. We enjoyed some cheese and wine to escape the mid-day heat while listening in on a book club meeting.
Colorado Street Bridge
You’ve probably seen the Colorado Street Bridge in TV shows and movies, including LA LA Land (2016). One of the best ways to see the bridge is from the parks underneath.
The Desiderio Neighborhood Park takes you right under the bridge, or you can park at Lower Arroyo Park and hike to a view of the bridge.
Did you know that Pasadena has a Boba Trail? We didn't have time to drink our way through the trail on this trip, but we're glad we got to check out OinkMoo.
Breakfast at Coffee & Plants
Even though we don't drink coffee at home, we always make it a point to stop by cute coffee shops when we travel. Coffee and Plants is a plant-based coffee shop that plants a tree for every 100 cups it sells.
And as their name suggests, there are plenty of plants in the store that you can buy.
Where to Stay: Pasadena Hotel and Pool
We stayed at the cutest hotel during our visit. Pasadena Hotel and Pool was built in 1926 and as soon as we walked into the lobby, we were in love with all the details and decor. In additional to comfortable rooms, they have a spectacular rooftop pool deck. It was the perfect home base for all of our adventures.