Orange County Register - Day Tripping: Pasadena is a Cultural, Historical and Culinary Playground

July 03, 2019 | Posted in Media

By Jennifer Tanaka | Orange County Register | Published: July 2, 2019

My first visit to the Rose Bowl has become a family legend. When I was 4 months old, my parents took me to a UCLA football game. My dad and uncle are Bruin alums so the Saturday tailgate had become a ritual. That is until my beloved (read: quirky) uncle carried me away from the tame alumni section like a foot-long sandwich to join his friends in the spirited student section. As the game kicked off, my uncle handed me to his friend, who gave me to his girlfriend, who passed me to her sister and so on. My mom watched in horror as her little baby was tossed about like a football. Everyone had a grand time. Mom never attended another game.

Flash-forward three decades: I am back at the Rose Bowl. This time, I’m perched above the stands in a spacious box suite with my husband and a group of journalists. We gathered in Pasadena for a must-see musical event: Jay Z and Beyoncé’s On the Run II tour. The concert brought out Hollywood glitterati, athletes and influencers, not to mention the Kardashians. It was a pop culture spectacle and a concert to remember. Over the years, the Rose Bowl has transformed into a world-class venue with events ranging from championship football games to Taylor Swift concerts.

On July 5-29, the Rose Bowl will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon with an immersive Apollo 11 adventure show. Take your older kids to see another out-of-this-world summer experience: The Rolling Stones on Aug. 22. Get some satisfaction as you watch Mick Jagger dance at the Rose Bowl with the stars twinkling above. Wild horses couldn’t stop us.


The Gamble House is an architectural landmark preserved by USC and the city. (photography by Sarah Reingewirtz)

Turn your kid into an architecture aficionado – Pasadena’s neighborhoods offer a plethora of building styles. The Gamble House, constructed in 1908, remains a monumental example of American craftsmanship. Though tucked away on an unassuming street, the home, which was first commissioned by the Gamble family and built by brothers Greene and Greene, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Today it is beautifully preserved and maintained thanks to a partnership with the site’s owner, the City of Pasadena, and the University of Southern California.

One hot summer afternoon, we signed up for a private docent-led tour of the house. Upon entering we inhaled its sumptuous wooden essence that permeated the house in the best way. Our guide pointed out examples of craftsman-style architecture. Small touches throughout the house celebrated nature and living outdoors. The knobs and nuances of each tree remained in the wooden planks and beams. The staircase leading to the second floor was an engineering marvel. Each thick plank weighed hundreds of pounds and was cut to exact precision. Every piece fit perfectly into its mate. The mesmerizing staircase required no nails or bolts. The pieces interlocked, symbolizing that we are all connected.


The tempting layer cakes at Lincoln in Pasadena do not disappoint. (photography by Visit Pasadena)

A Pasadena local recommended that we check out Lincoln Cafe. As the sister restaurant to the popular confectionery Little Flower, Lincoln is known for its inviting atmosphere and well-executed comfort food. It’s also great for lunch – but be warned, it’s always packed. We ogled the towering cakes with gooey chocolate dripping with caramel or layered with crushed berries. I wasn’t planning to order dessert, but when we made it to the front of the line, we ordered two slices.

The rest of the menu is rustic. Made-from-scratch sandwiches, Buddha bowls with kale, sprouts and marinated tofu, and robust salads with grilled hanger steak.

The turmeric ginger lemonade and a soothing honey cardamom latte sealed the deal for us. The next morning we were back for breakfast – and more cake!


Kidspace Children’s Museum: Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the museum boasts an infant/toddler space for young visitors to explore.

Norton Simon Museum: The sculpture garden alone is worth visiting with young children. They will enjoy exploring the outdoor space, as Mom and Dad view some world class art by Degas, Picasso and Rembrandt.

Vroman’s Bookstore: This long-standing independent bookstore is a must stop for young readers.

This story originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of COAST magazine.