Things to do
8 Fun Things to Do in Pasadena's Playhouse Village
Playhouse Village, a quaint neighborhood in Pasadena, is brimming with public art, entertainment, beautiful architecture, trendy eateries and charming cafes that are as jaw-dropping as the local performance art scene.
Located within Pasadena's walkable downtown areas, the Playhouse Village is something of a secret hideaway for enjoying small-town intimacy with world-class entertainment. Here are some fun things to do in the Playhouse Village.
1. Catch an enchanting show or enjoy a house full of laughter
With its heritage dating back to 1917, the Pasadena Playhouse was once called the “star factory,” producing some of the most celebrated stars in Hollywood today: William Holden, Gene Hackman, and Dustin Hoffman are just a few. The Official State Theater of California recently earned the 2023 Regional Theater Tony Award, highlighting its phenomenal work in the arts. It’s charming Spanish Colonial Revival architecture creates the perfect setting for world-class productions that draws theater enthusiasts and culture seekers.
Nestled in the heart of Pasadena’s entertainment scene, the Ice House Comedy Club is a legendary destination that has been making people laugh for over 6 decades. Known as the oldest comedy club in the nation, the Ice House has hosted some of the biggest names in comedy and helped launch incredible careers. Recently renovated under new ownership by Johnny Buss, an evening at the Ice House is an elevated experience filled with laughter and good vibes. Maybe you’ll catch one of Arsenio Hall’s shows, or perhaps a surprise celebrity guest. Don’t forget to arrive early for happy hour.
2. Dine at Playhouse Village restaurants
The diverse culinary scene in the Playhouse Village offers authentic expressions of flavors from every corner of the world. At Tarantino’s you’ll find classic Italian cuisine in a charming outdoor patio. From enchiladas to mole and aguas frescas, experience the culinary delights at El Portal or Anaya's for a welcoming Mexican meal from beloved family-owned establishments.
For those looking for a piece of history and community, family-owned Green Street Café has been serving the community since 1979, as a place where Pasadenans go to meet old friends. For an dazzling experience with an impressive cocktail bar and wine list, head to Bar Chelou for gastronomic flavors that might be weird, but is delicious. For those looking for an understated Japanese Izakaya spot, step into Takuya in the evenings for small plates and authentic cocktails. Chim! brings the street food of Thailand to Pasadena with a highly raved about menu of curries, soups, and delicious wok noodles.
3. Treat yourself to pastries and go café hopping
Cafés serve a special purpose in the Playhouse Village, surrounded by well-preserved architectural embellishments throughout the district. It’s a space for mixing and mingling, one of Pasadena’s favorite hobbies. Get your vegan or keto donuts at Hello, You're Welcome. Enjoy the Mexican heritage coffees from Tepito Coffee, where the café is a celebration of culture and community. At CAR Artisan Chocolate, the chocolate croissants have a tough time staying in their display shelves. That is because their croissants are the perfect flakey-ness made with meticulously sourced cocoa. Nearby, a third-generation French baker opened Oh La La and uses a 50-year-old yeast and old-world techniques to create breads that emulate those from the South of France.
4. Tour the public art
The Playhouse Village neighborhood is a beacon of arts and culture, with murals, crosswalk art, sculptures, and utility box art spread throughout the area. You can find all the cool art spots on the Playhouse Village Association's public art page.
5. Visit the museums
Pasadena is a cultural hub, a lush urban landscape that is home to world-renowned museums and institutions. In the Playhouse Village, visitors can enjoy the ornate USC Pacific Asia Museum and it's beautiful garden. For those who have little tykes in tow, the Southern California Children's Museum is a great way to have educational fun.
6. Shop specialty books, music, and retail
Forget the big box stores here in the quaint neighborhood of the Playhouse Village. Here, you'll find a treasure trove of independently-owned shops that are meticulously curated with products from a diverse range of eras and locales, often crafted with purpose. For bookworms, Vroman's Bookstore is a must-visit with an awesome history and a not-so-secret wine bar.
Music lovers will want to visit the oldest record shop in Los Angeles at Canterbury Records or step into Garage Land for a very alt experience. There's candles and aromatic goods at Banter & Bliss, which also offers fun craft workshops. The Pasadena Hat Shop is a gem of a place, offering hats of all shapes, sizes, and occasions. Check out My Zero Waste Store to see what its like to live sustainably in Pasadena.
7. Relax and pamper at spas and wellness centers
Looking for a rejuvenating experience in the Playhouse Village beyond the leisurely strolls in this quaint neighborhood? Enjoy pampering yourself at the various salons, spas, and wellness centers in the area. Enjoy a full spa day at A Beautiful Day Spa, a family-owned spot with some amazing acupuncture and massage services. Visit Space B.A.R. Wellness for innovative healing treatments, such as float therapy, fire and ice, infrared sauna, and more. There are also plenty of places to refresh your hairstyle or get your lashes done before you head to a charming evening event.
8. Picnic at the Playhouse Village Park
Pasadena picnics are the stuff of legends, dating back to the early years when they were done in black tie. The Playhouse Village Park opened in September 2022 offering concerts, outdoor movies, games, and dog-themed events year-round. There's a lovely outdoor stage dedicated to Van Halen and plenty of grass to enjoy. Grab a picnic from the nearby eateries before plopping down to enjoy.