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Best Family-Friendly Activities to Spark Your Child’s Imagination in Pasadena

July 8, 2019

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Traveling with children can be stressful and trying to satisfy every family members’ interest when on vacation is a juggling act. But with this kid-focused guide, finding family-friendly activities for your little ones has never been easier. Here are ten kid-favorite and mom-approved activities that will enrich your trip to Pasadena so it stays memorable, stress-free, and fun for the whole family.

Kidspace Children’s Museum 

The Kidspace Children’s Museum, located just yards from the Rose Bowl Stadium, is dedicated to childhood discovery, motor skill development, education, and hands-on enrichment activities. Over 40 exhibits – mainly outdoors – allow children to learn and grow without confining them to a traditional classroom or indoor setting. The museum is recommended for children as young as one up to the age of 10. Learn and play while exploring natural environments and investigate subjects like art, insects, weather, physics, and more in the bright and lively museum that is a joy for the entire family.

The Huntington Children’s Garden

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is 120 acres consisting of 12 breathtaking gardens – one of which is specialized around childhood enrichment. The Children’s Garden introduces children to nature through splashing water fountains, topiary animals, magnetic sand and musical pebbles, and a rainbow prism tunnel. The garden encourages your child to step through the “fairy doors” and escape to a place where their imagination can run wild as they explore the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. 

Arlington Gardens 

The Arlington Gardens are a quaint, three-acre community garden that is a perfect way to get out and unleash your imagination. Because the garden is non-profit and publicly managed, parents can create their own hands-on learning curriculum to teach their children about plant life, insects, and gardening practices all for free. All plants are labeled and no area of the garden is off limits. Whether you opt for the geometric rock garden or prefer to learn about the birds, bees, and butterflies that frequent the garden, the possibilities are endless.

Southern California Children’s Museum

The Southern California Children’s Museum is a 501c3 non-profit museum that is dedicated to play-based activities designed to foster excitement and spark a real sense of wonder in your child and your inner child. The “museum without walls” has a variety of exhibits that incorporate learning time into fun time. Some activities encourage children to explore their creative side through hands-on art projects and sensory exhibits, engage in underwater worlds, or ride along on planes, trains, and automobiles through games and collaborative exercises. Then unwind and conclude your day with bilingual story time.

Marston’s

Marston’s is located in a craftsman style home near Old Pasadena, and is a popular breakfast and lunch spot known for its classic American food and cozy ambiance. The French toast covered with corn flakes and topped with fresh fruit is a must try for kids and adults. Dine indoors or alfresco. Tip: stop by during the week when the wait time is short or expect to wait up to an hour during the weekend.

Russell’s

Russell’s has been a staple in Old Pasadena for over 20 years. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; breakfast is served all day. This is a great family diner to come to if you are jet lagged. Serving American, Italian and French influences, Russell’s offers an array of bistro classics, pasta, rice, famous burgers, and sandwiches. Special low carb platters are also a great option.

La Grande Orange Cafe

La Grande Orange Café is a local favorite serving Southwestern American cuisine with menu favorites like the chilaquiles, short rib tacos, and green chili burger. The menu is created daily with fresh, organic and seasonal ingredients. Don’t forget to grab a cookie on your way out. Tip: take your family on a train ride directly to the restaurant. It is located at the Del Mar Station; in fact it’s housed in the former Santa Fe Railway depot.

Neon Retro Arcade 

Photo courtesy of David Lopez.

The Neon Retro Arcade is perfect for developing fine motor skills while also allowing parents to get a little taste of their own childhood. This throwback arcade celebrates the history of video games and features 40+ classic arcade games and pinball machines, including original games like Pacman, Frogger, and Donkey Kong. Transport back in time and share the tradition of coin-operated entertainment with a new generation without having to lug your quarters. The arcade charges a flat-rate per-hour to play as much as you want.

Eaton Canyon Waterfall

The Eaton Canyon hiking trail is ideal for families. Not too strenuous, the whole loop is only 3 miles and surrounded by unique terrain. Since the canyon is at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, it’s still not too steep for little legs to make the trek. The first mile is mostly flat, and the elevation change is only 375 feet. It’s the perfect way to get some fresh air and burn off energy. Not to mention, the 44-foot waterfall is the perfect pit stop for skipping stones and splashing in puddles. 

Federico’s Italian Bakery 

Just walking into Federico’s Italian Bakery‘s is a sight to see and smell. The colorful and traditional Italian sweets are baked daily and can also be purchased in bulk to take home and enjoy. The bakery uses Old World recipes with natural ingredients and no preservatives to create irresistible cakes, cookies, pastries, and breads. Little hands with big sweet tooths will definitely be grateful for a quick stop here. 

PoshParis Indoor Playground 

PoshParis is a uniquely themed indoor playground that allows children to experience cultural immersion without the hassle of an international flight. Take your child for a day of open play at an affordable flat rate of $12. In addition to its full-sized playhouse and ball pit, PoshParis includes a play structure themed after the Arc de Triomphe, a replica Eiffel Tower surrounded by bistro tables and chairs to mimic the Parisian cafe experience, a “market and bakery,” as well as a lounge area featuring French-style furniture. For older children, a separate video game room is also available. 

Pasadena Ice Skating Center

The Pasadena Ice Skating Center is located right next to the official visitors center. The rink’s iconic white tent-like structure makes it hard to miss – just like a public skating session. 

Lythgoe Family Panto

The Lythgoe Family Panto is a season spectacular that blends music, dance, theater, and comedy into an interactive experience for children and adults. Unlike a normal musical or theater setting, squirmy and chatty children are welcome. In fact, yelling or screaming during the performance is encouraged. The tradition of Panto breaks the third wall, allowing the audience to interact and feel as though they are a real part of the story. 

Ice Cream at Fair Oaks Pharmacy 

Another opportunity to get a throwback in and satisfy some cravings, Fair Oaks Pharmacy is a historic old-fashioned pharmacy originating in 1915. In addition to the pharmacy, the establishment includes a soda fountain, ice cream, and old town shop with vintage candies, sweets, and toys. Cool off after a long day and treat yourself to a taste of childhood delight. (For other ice cream options, check out our full ice cream guide.)

Local Parks with Playgrounds 

And of course, it’s hard to beat the classics. Pasadena has many outdoor parks with playgrounds including Brookside Park near the Rose Bowl Stadium and Kidspace Children’s Museum, Central Park located in the heart of downtown near the metro station, and Singer Park. 

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