Pasadena’s pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and strong connectivity on the Los Angeles Metro network make it easy—and fun—to explore the city car-free. Whether you’re a local looking for day trip ideas or a visitor arriving by Amtrak or air, the benefits of leaving your car behind extend well beyond simply reducing your carbon footprint. You’ll get plenty of steps in as you experience the city like a local. You’ll observe more of the city’s magnificent architectural details and public art. And you can use your commuting time to read up on all the latest openings and hot spots to hit once you arrive in Pasadena.
Pasadena is nearly equidistant to both Glendale Station and Union Station downtown, where Amtrak’s Pacific Coast Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains make regular stops. From Union Station, you can hop on the Gold Line and be in Pasadena in under 30 minutes. If you’re flying into LAX, catch the FlyAway Bus to Union station to transfer onto the Gold Line—or grab an Uber or Lyft for a direct drop-off. The Hollywood Burbank Airport is even closer to Pasadena, which makes it a shorter commute via ride share service or the Metro 501 NoHo to Pasadena express bus.
If you do plan to drive into town, once you arrive, you can easily go car-free and leave your car parked at your hotel. Need an electric vehicle charging station? Pasadena’s EV charging network currently includes more than 900 level 2 charging stations and 68 fast charging stations, all located within a 10-mile radius.
Pick a couple of neighborhoods to focus on exploring each day. The Metro is a convenient option for neighborhood hopping along the Gold Line, with its seven stops from South Pasadena Station to Sierra Madre Villa. Ride share services are also quick and plentiful in the region. Cycling outfitters like Pasadena Cyclery and VELO Pasadena offer affordable bike rentals—taking the scenic spin around the 3.3-mile Arroyo Seco Rose Bowl Loop is an awesome addition to any itinerary.
Four major pedestrian friendly neighborhoods serve as the community’s key hubs for retail, culinary and cultural adventures. And they are all adjacent to each other and easy to navigate.
With 22 blocks designated a National Register Historic District, Old Pasadena (Gold Line Stop: Del Mar Station) abounds with impeccably restored late 19th and early 20th century architecture. “Old Pas,” as locals fondly call it, offers open air shopping plazas, hidden laneways and a bustling strip of retailers and restaurants along Colorado Boulevard. Must-do’s include browsing and shopping your way through One Colorado, taking photographs of the historic 1898 Castle Green and strolling through the 9.2-acre Central Park.
Between Old Pas and the Playhouse District sits the Civic Center District (Gold Line Stop: Memorial Park Station). You’ll know you’re on the right track if you feel like you’re on a movie set—the beautiful Beaux-Arts and Mediterranean Revival landmark buildings have set the stage for many a film and television show. Check out City Hall and the Robinson Memorial. See what’s on at the Civic Auditorium and hit the ice at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center. Browse the shops at The Paseo, a contemporary retail center anchored by an ArcLight movie theatre—LA’s elevated cinema experience, which is an absolutely must-do for true cinefiles.
The artsy Playhouse District (Gold Line Stop: Lake Station) is home to the renowned Pasadena Playhouse. The official State Theatre of California, it’s highly respected for a long legacy of showcasing the highest caliber of theatrical talents. The Playhouse District also serves as a canvas for an eclectic and robust public art collection. The impressive USC Pacific Asia Museum is well worth a visit, as is the Ice House Comedy Club—if you’re lucky enough to score tickets.
South Lake (Gold Line Stop: Lake Station) is a 12-block stretch of boutiques, restaurants and purveyors of beauty, health and wellness. Major national chain stores like Macy’s and Williams-Sonoma neighbor mom-and-pop shops. Nail salons, barbershops, fitness studios and massage boutiques can meet all of your self-care needs. Here, you’ll also find standout restaurants like Mercado, Magnolia House and The Arbour. The newly renovated rooftop pool deck at the Hotel Constance is the perfect spot for a sunset cocktail or nightcap.
Go Off the Beaten Path
Beyond those four core districts, many local gems can be discovered in some of the less-trafficked pocket neighborhoods. A stretch of South Fair Oaks Avenue (from Bellevue Drive to East California Boulevard) is known as the “Antique District” thanks to its concentration of well-curated antique stores. The selections at these shops are so good that top Hollywood set designers and globally recognized interior designers are among the loyal clientele.
If you’re a fan of design, architecture and history, head to “Millionaire’s Row” on Orange Grove Boulevard to see the wonderfully preserved Craftsman masterpiece that is The Gamble House. Its historic landmark neighbor, the Beaux-Arts style Fenyes Mansion, is part of the Pasadena Museum of History. Both homes are open to the public via guided tours offered at fixed times—advance bookings are recommended to ensure you get a spot.
Raymond Avenue (Gold Line Stop: Fillmore Station) is home to the ArtCenter College of Design’s South Campus and an outpost of the local favorite coffee brand, Jones Coffee Roasters. On the opposite side of town, East Washington (Gold Line Stop: Allen Station) is home to artisanal coffee houses, ice cream shops and hole-in-the-wall eateries beloved by locals.
Take a Tour
Put yourself in the hands of a local expert with guided tours that take you to architecturally significant neighborhoods and movie locations. Pasadena Heritage offers informative docent led tours that uncover the city’s fascinating history and architectural highlights. Pasadena Tour Company offers a range of guided architecture, design and film tours. My Valley Pass curates dynamite Pasadena Film Tours filled with fabulous pop culture trivia—both private and public tour options are available. And Melting Pot Food Tours share the unique flavors of Old Pasadena on their 8-stop walking tour featuring bites at ethnic eateries, olive oil tasting and lots of sweet treats.
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