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50 Fun Things to do in Pasadena, California

What to Do in Pasadena: A Guide to Exploring this Vibrant City

Pasadena, California, located just outside of Los Angeles, is a city known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and vibrant arts scene. Whether you’re a local looking for new things to do or a traveler stopping by Pasadena on your California adventure, this guide will give you some great ideas on how to make the most of your time in this charming city. From exploring fascinating museums to enjoying nature’s beauty in picturesque parks, here are some top recommendations for things to do in Pasadena.

1. Explore the Pasadena Museum of California Art

The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is a must-visit for art enthusiasts and history lovers alike. The museum’s diverse collection focuses on artwork created by California artists, showcasing the rich cultural heritage and artistic contributions of the state. With rotating exhibitions and educational programs, PMCA is a great place to immerse yourself in the world of California art.

2. Stroll Through the Historic Old Pasadena

Step back in time and take a leisurely stroll through the historic Old Pasadena district. This charming area is filled with beautifully preserved buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You’ll find an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes, offering everything from unique boutiques to gourmet cuisine. Don’t forget to snap a photo of the vibrant alleyways adorned with stunning street art.

3. Visit Descanso Gardens

Nature lovers will find solace at Descanso Gardens, a stunning botanical garden spanning over 150 acres. Take a peaceful walk through the various themed gardens, including the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and California Natives Garden. Stop by the Boddy House to learn about the history of the gardens and enjoy a picnic under the shade of towering trees. Descanso Gardens also hosts seasonal events and exhibitions, making each visit a unique experience.

4. Enjoy a Performance at the Pasadena Playhouse

For a dose of culture and theatrical entertainment, head to the Pasadena Playhouse, known as the State Theater of California. This historic theater has been showcasing exceptional performances since 1917 and has welcomed renowned actors and playwrights throughout the years. Catch a play or musical, and immerse yourself in the magic of live theater in an elegant setting.

5. Wander the Gamble House

Architecture enthusiasts won’t want to miss a visit to the Gamble House, a National Historic Landmark designed by the renowned architects Charles and Henry Greene. This Craftsman-style masterpiece showcases impeccable craftsmanship and an exquisite attention to detail. Take a guided tour to learn about the fascinating history and architectural elements of this iconic Pasadena landmark.

6. Explore the Norton Simon Museum

Art aficionados will delight in a visit to the Norton Simon Museum, home to an impressive collection of European and Asian art spanning over 2,000 years. From Renaissance masterpieces to contemporary works, the museum has something to captivate every art lover’s interest. Take your time to admire the diverse array of artwork, and don’t forget to explore the breathtaking sculpture garden.


Q: How do I get to Pasadena?

A: Pasadena is conveniently located in Southern California and is accessible by various transportation options. If you’re flying in, the nearest airports are Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR). From there, you can rent a car, take a shuttle, or use ride-sharing services to reach Pasadena.

Q: Are there any annual events or festivals in Pasadena?

A: Absolutely! Pasadena is famous for hosting the annual Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day, followed by the Rose Bowl Game. The city also holds the Pasadena Chalk Festival, ArtNight Pasadena, and many more cultural and artistic events throughout the year. Be sure to check the event calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.

Q: Where can I find good places to eat in Pasadena?

A: Pasadena is a food lover’s paradise, offering a diverse culinary scene. Restaurants like Union, The Raymond, and Maestro showcase the city’s vibrant dining culture. For casual eats and international flavors, explore Old Pasadena or head to South Lake Avenue. Don’t forget to try local favorites like the famous pie at The Pie Hole or grab a burger at the iconic In-N-Out Burger.

Q: Are there any outdoor activities or parks in Pasadena?

A: Absolutely! Aside from Descanso Gardens, Pasadena is home to many beautiful parks and outdoor spaces. Head to the iconic Colorado Street Bridge, also known as the Suicide Bridge, for breathtaking views of the Arroyo Seco below. Hike the trails in the nearby Eaton Canyon Natural Area for a rewarding outdoor adventure, or enjoy a picnic at Brookside Park overlooking the picturesque Rose Bowl Stadium.

Q: Can I take a day trip from Pasadena?

A: Yes, Pasadena serves as a perfect base for day trips to nearby attractions. You can take a short drive to explore the vibrant city of Los Angeles, visit the stunning Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, or head to the nearby mountains for outdoor activities like hiking or skiing. The possibilities for day trips from Pasadena are endless.

Q: Are there any family-friendly activities in Pasadena?

A: Absolutely! Families will find plenty of fun and educational activities in Pasadena. The Kidspace Children’s Museum offers interactive exhibits and outdoor play areas, while the Pasadena Ice Skating Center provides a cool spot for family fun. Don’t forget to visit the Pasadena Central Library, which offers a kids’ section with reading programs and events for children of all ages.

With its blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, Pasadena offers a plethora of exciting things to see and do. Whether you’re an art lover, architecture enthusiast, nature lover, or foodie, this vibrant city has something to offer everyone. So choose your favorites from our list and embark on an unforgettable journey of exploration in Pasadena.