3 Day Itinerary

April 04, 2023 | Posted in Things To Do

Trip ideas and itinerary for spending a long weekend or visiting Pasadena for three days.

Day One

Breakfast: Lavender and Honey

Start your day off at the boutique coffee bar, Lavender and Honey. The quaint spot is the perfect place to start your morning in a delicate, minimalist atmosphere. The bright white walls are decorated with tiny holders sprouting with succulents making for a simple, clean look. Get a taste of some great coffee, fresh-made pastries, and a quaint, genuine Pasadena feel before heading downtown to start exploring.

Activity: Norton Simon Museum

On the west side of Colorado Blvd. sits the Norton Simon Museum, a remarkable art museum with an array of 12,000 objects packed into one location. The collections include European masterpieces from the Renaissance era and South and Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years. If you're lucky, you may also be able to catch one of the museum's many lectures, art classes, film events, and performances.

Activity: Old Pasadena/City Hall

As you make your way east and window shop through Old Pasadena, a gorgeous dome will sprout from the skyline, making way to reveal the gorgeous Pasadena City Hall. Make sure to snap a pic. This architectural feat, influenced by the early Italian Renaissance, is a popular spot for Instagram photos, wedding photos, and has been the backdrop from multiple Hollywood hit movies and television shows like "Parks and Rec" and "A Cinderella Story."

Lunch: Cafe Santorini

In the picturesque alley of One Colorado is the perfect restaurant to take a lunch break – Cafe Santorini. There's an outdoor patio that sits on the second floor overlooking some of Pasadena's local shops and gives you a great view for people-watching while you enjoy some well-seasoned, authentic Mediterranean cuisine, a fresh and crisp salad, and a perfect pairing of wine.

Activity: USC Pacific Asia Museum

Head to the heart of downtown and see the USC Pacific Asia Museum. This uniquely designed museum is hard to miss – inspired by genuine Asian architecture, the museum is the one of the few museums in the US dedicated to the art, culture, and education of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The collection includes 15,000 objects spanning over 4,000 years of history, really immersing visitors in all things Asia.

Activity: Vroman's Bookstore

As you continue east, you will slowly begin to see more and more street art like painted power boxes and colorful street banners. This is the Playhouse District, home to Vroman's Bookstore, Southern California's oldest bookstore. But don't let the "old" fool you. Vroman's is filled with literary classics, up-and-coming authors, limited edition signed novels, and more. Their book clubs and author workshops are some of the locals' favorites.

Dinner: El Portal

Head across the street to the authentic Yucatan restaurant, El Portal for dinner. Most nights, there's even a mariachi band that will serenade you while you dine. Enjoy Mexican and Latin cuisine that will pack a punch on your taste buds with rich spices and flavors. They also have vegetarian-friendly alternatives to many of their signature dishes.

Activity: Pasadena Playhouse

Wrap up the day at the historic Pasadena Playhouse. The Playhouse is considered the Official State Theater of California, with stars passing through from the classic Dustin Hoffman to one of modern-day's pop princesses, Ariana Grande. The venue is always putting on plays and musicals, which are a perfect afternoon matinee activity or an easy way to unwind with some live entertainment in the evening.

Day Two

Breakfast: Millie's Cafe

After a long day, you'll definitely need to recover. Fill up at Millie's for a big breakfast that puts a Pasadena spin on the classic diner experience. Your hearty meal will include fresh ingredients, colorful veggies, and a generous amount of protein to keep you going throughout the day. Tip: Pasadena locals love to flock here in the morning, so arrive early to snag a table or risk waiting 30+ minutes.

Activity: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Stuffed from breakfast? No worries. Spend a few hours strolling through the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. This 120-acre property includes 12 different botanical gardens to explore, each with their own locational theme. A few favorites include the Japanese Garden for its unique architecture and the Desert Garden for its one-of-a-kind, colossal succulents. When you're ready to cool off, you can stop into the library and art collection museums and view original historic prints dating back thousands of years ago and famous paintings from Van Gogh.

Lunch: Little Flower Cafe

By the time you make it through all of the Huntington, you're definitely going to want to eat again. Take a trip toward the western side of Pasadena to Little Flower Cafe for some light, fresh sandwiches, rice bowls, and salads. This charming hidden gem is a local favorite to grab a quick lunch. The ambiance is bright and cheerful with a quaint, dainty feel. They also sell specialty pastries, candies, and teas to take back as a souvenir.

Activity: Wrigley Mansion/Tournament House

Take a quick trip over to the Wrigley Mansion. Yes, you guessed it. The Wrigley Mansion was previously owned by the creators of Wrigley Gum, but was gifted to the City of Pasadena in 1958 and now serves as the official headquarters for the Tournament of Roses, Rose Bowl Game, and Rose Parade. In addition to the mansion, the property is surrounded by a half acre of over 1,5000 varieties of roses, camellias, and annuals making for a true representation of "The City of Roses."

Activity: The Gamble House

If you're a film buff, this next stop will definitely be one to highlight. The Gamble House is one of Pasadena's most iconic architectural feats. The home was featured in the Back to the Future film franchise and made its Hollywood debut as Doc Brown's House. The house is also open for public tours.

Dinner: Magnolia House

Get ready to explore another one of Pasadena's districts at the South Lake Avenue District where you can rest your feet and cool off at the Magnolia House for lunch. The restaurant features a gorgeous patio and perfectly mixed cocktails. The building was created from a redesigned, traditional craftsman home. Many homes and buildings in Pasadena are specialty-crafted like the Magnolia House, but none have been converted into such a picturesque restaurant with its own extensive menu.

Day Three

Activity: Hike at Eaton Canyon

For your last day in Pasadena, switch things up a bit and get out of the city. Start the morning with a brisk hike through the Eaton Canyon trail to work up an appetite for a big brunch. The three-mile round-trip is a great way to fill your lungs with fresh air and forest bath in Pasadena's natural landscape. Oh, did we mention there's also a waterfall?

Brunch: Foothill Restaurant

After coming down the mountain, head south to Foothill Restaurant for unlimited mimosas. Don't drink too much! You'll want to save room for the fluffy pancakes, savory crab cake Benedict, and loaded omelettes, and fried chicken and waffles. But skip the dessert because we have more exciting things coming.

Activity: Afternoon Tea at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena

Pinky up! Make your final day in Pasadena a fancy one. Attend afternoon tea with Wedgwood at the breathtaking Langham Huntington, Pasadena. Enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, fruit tarts, and French pastries before taking a tour of the 4-star historic property.

Activity: Pasadena Museum of History

Conclude your afternoon with a deep-dive into Pasadena's culture. The Pasadena Museum of History is a gorgeous property that is solely dedicated to all-things Pasadena. Learn how it played into historic Route 66, the history of craftsman architecture, the Rowl Bowl Game and Rose Parade tradition, and more.

Dinner: Bone Kettle

Bone Kettle is a unique place if you're into trying new things. Start off with their famous oxtail dumplings and Asian-fusion take on brussel sprouts. Their signature beef broth noodle soup is fantastic and the broth is cooked for 30 hours. For the adventurous, you must try it with the bone marrow. The crispy outside and gooey inside makes for a unique texture and savory flavor that will leave you full and satisfied.

Activity: Rose Bowl Stadium

Of course, no trip to the city of sunshine and roses is complete without stopping by the Rose Bowl Stadium where the college football Rose Bowl Game is hosted every New Year's Day. And, if you're lucky, there will be a concert or game in town which will serve as the perfect way to end the night with an unforgettable experience.