It’s full-on festive mode for the winter holiday season here in Pasadena, and we are ready to welcome you with heaps of tinsel, mistletoe and holly jolly spirits. Experience dazzling holiday cheer while shopping our picturesque paseos, plazas and Old Pasadena streets. After dark, tour local neighborhoods to see charming Craftsman homes, ranches and stately mansions ablaze in twinkling lights. Take in a seasonal play, ballet or concert. Ring in the New Year by securing a reservation at one of the hottest tables in town. Last but definitely not least, join in our epic nationally televised New Year’s Day tradition—the Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game. Here’s a sampling of ways to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit in these final weeks of 2018.
All About Ambiance
Enjoy beautifully decorated holiday trees calling for photo ops at The Paseo, Pasadena City Hall and The Langham Huntington, Pasadena. The Langham also offers a holiday-inspired Teddy Bear Tea in the lobby on Christmas Eve, featuring photo ops with Santa Claus, a puppet show, storytelling and sweet and savory treats.
Every weekend in December, Old Pasadena celebrates the season with surprise pop-up activities—perfect for holiday shoppers. Santa Photos and Santa’s Mailbox can be found at One Colorado through Christmas Eve. Stop by the See’s Candies holiday pop-up at 370 South Lake Avenue to buy the crowd-pleasing confections of this made-in-Pasadena original. And The Playhouse District presents free holiday concerts every Friday night.
The Kidspace Children’s Museum hosts Snow Days (December 26-30) so kids can experience a winter wonderland. In addition to making snowmen, families can enjoy live music and cookie decorating. You can also bundle up and channel cold weather winter vibes at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center where your entire family can enjoy skating to festive holiday music.
Light Up the Night
Drive through Pasadena’s picturesque neighborhoods at night to see spectacular residential light displays. Known as Christmas Tree Lane, Santa Rosa Avenue in Altadena (between Woodbury Drive and Altadena Drive) is a must-see residential street lined by cedar trees strung with lights. While in the neighborhood of Christmas Tree Lane, check out Balian House (1960 Mendocino Lane, Altadena), a mansion on a four-acre property known for its extravagant display of lights and holiday decor.
Upper Hastings Ranch (North of Sierra Madre Boulevard and east of Michillinda Avenue) is a community in northeast Pasadena where residents go all out for the annual Holiday Light Up extravaganza and elaborately decorate their homes. Each block has a designated theme and the festive spirit gets amplified with carolers, bands and Santa Claus on the weekend before Christmas. Saint Albans Road in San Marino (at Huntington Avenue) is the perfect location for a stroll through an elegant residential neighborhood where the architectural gems and towering pine trees are bedecked in lights.
Keeping with the night lights theme, walk through the Enchanted Forest of Light at the Descanso Gardens. The botanical garden’s nighttime exhibit features 10 hands-on art installations and colorfully illuminated trees along a one-mile trail, complete with ample dinner, dessert and drink options—including a hot drink bar featuring whiskey cocktails, hot cocoa and cider. (Advance ticket purchase is required; prices range from $23 to $30. 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada; 5:30-10:00 p.m. through January 6, 2019.)
Visit the Moonlight Garden to see the Magical Lantern Art Festival at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. The seasonal installation features more than 60 whimsical lanterns depicting animals, flowers, dragons and other creatures. Entertainment adding to the magical ambiance includes acrobats and dancers. (Advance ticket purchase is required; prices range from $20 to $28; 301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia; Wednesday through Sunday 5:30, 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. entry times through January 6, 2019.)
Several performing arts companies present heart-warming, family-friendly seasonal productions. See Bob Baker’s Nutcracker at the Pasadena Playhouse (December 7-30)—this is the very first time Bob Baker’s Marionette Theater has brought their puppet show to an outside venue, and it promises to delight with more than 100 puppets bringing the classic Nutcracker ballet to life.
The Pasadena Civic Auditorium and The Lythgoe Family present The Wonderful Winter of Oz (December 15-30), a panto style music rendition that reinterprets the Wizard of Oz fairytale with a holiday twist. The casts includes singer, actress and dancer Mackenzie Ziegler (Dancing with the Stars: Juniors, Dance Moms) as Dorothy, Tony Award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur (Celebrity Big Brother Winner and Broadway’s Hairspray) as Glinda, and features Kermit The Frog® as the Wizard of Oz. Juan Pablo di Pace (Fuller House, Dancing with the Stars) as the Cowardly Lion, Jared Gertner (Broadway’s The Book of Mormon) as The Scarecrow, Phil LaMarr (“Mad TV” and “Pulp Fiction”) as The Tin Man, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer (Nickelodeon’s The Fresh Beat Band, “Cha Cha” on FOX’s Grease: Live!, National Tour of In the Heights) as The Wicked Witch of the West, Hailee Payne and Valerie Rockey of So You Think You Can Dance, and Rescue Dog Pickle C. Irwin as Toto.
A Noise Within presents Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (December 1-23), which the Los Angeles Times named a critics’ pick. The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg stars in the Pasadena Playhouse production of It’s A Wonderful Life (December 12-23) as a 1940’s radio play.
The Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday Candlelight Concert (4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., December 15) at All Saints Church features popular holiday melodies and is so beloved, tickets typically sell out. David Lockington will be conducting performances by the orchestra and guest artists including Valarie Pettiford and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus.
Ring In 2019
The countdown to 2019 is best started with a delicious multi-course feast. Restaurants typically get booked up for New Year’s Eve dinners so advanced reservations are highly recommended. Local favorites like Union, Mercado, The Arbour, Fleming’s, Alexander’s Steakhouse and Alta Eats still have availability on OpenTable. The Langham Huntington, Pasadena covers all of the bases for a New Year’s Eve to remember—The Terrace and The Royce Wood Fired Steakhouse restaurants each offer multi-course prix fixe dinner menus. The Tap Room ($50 cover charge) will have live music from 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., and the Lobby Lounge will have a DJ countdown to the New Year from 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Local nightclubs, bars, lounges and speakeasies also get extra festive for the countdown to midnight. Club54 will host their 25th annual NYE Party starting at 8:30 p.m. complete with a balloon drop at midnight. The Rose features dinner and a show starring Brenton Woods Sweet Ole School Review. The Noor event space has an 80’s music themed NYE dance party featuring DJ Richard Blade.
Coming Up Roses
Leading up the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game on January 1st, the City of Pasadena will host a free three-day family event at the Pasadena Convention Center, Live on the Green (December 29-31). Enjoy live entertainment, musical performances and celebrity chef demonstrations. For an up close look at how the world-famous parade comes to life, you can purchase tickets to watch the floats being built at Rosemont Pavilion (December 28-31). Sip & Savor Pasadena (December 28-30) is a culinary extension of the Tournament of Roses ramp up, bringing out the top chefs and restaurants from Pasadena and Greater Los Angeles. Food tastings are complemented by wine and craft beer pairings for the 21+ crowd.
Come January 1, the 130th annual Rose Parade will wow audiences on the ground and watching on television at home. Tickets are still available for “America’s New Year Celebration.” The two-hour parade covers five-and-a-half miles starting at the corner of Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard. The route goes down Orange Grove before turning east on Colorado Boulevard, the main viewing area. Towards the end, the marching bands, floats and equestrians turn on Sierra Madre Boulevard and end on Villa Street. The floats remain on display on Sierra Madre and Washington Boulevards throughout January 1 and 2 (purchase tickets here).
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