15 Best Things to Do In Pasadena (California)

Pasadena is a wonderful city in California, located in the San Gabriel Valley, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. There are lots of things to do in Pasadena. You can go shopping and dining at old Pasadena, visit Simon Museum to see notable European and Asian art, and visit the stunning gardens at Huntington. There are many beautiful places to visit and activities to do in Pasadena, and you have a great time exploring.

To make your trip to Pasadena memorable, here is a list of the 15 most popular things to do, attractions, and places to visit in Pasadena.

PLACES TO VISIT IN PASADENA:

Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Picturesque Botanical Gardens
Image by Smart Destinations / flickr

01. Visit Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Picturesque Botanical Gardens:

Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens encompass over 207 acres featuring a library, art collections, and lovely gardens. The library’s rich collection contains 7 million manuscript items, over 400,000 rare books, and the 3 art galleries featuring 18th century European and American art.

The botanical gardens cover 120 acres and are home to 16 stunning themed gardens featuring popular Japanese, Chinese, and Desert gardens.

It’s a lovely place to spend your time. Either you plan to visit the library and museum or the beautiful gardens, you will love the beauty and uniqueness of this place. You need to reserve your tickets online first.

It would be a good idea to reserve an early entrance, as then you will have enough time to explore all the parks and theme gardens.

Consider bringing a blanket to enjoy a family picnic in the park’s fresh and beautiful environment. If you’re visiting during summer, bring a hat and wear repellent to protect yourself against mosquitos.

Parking is free, and they do not permit pets at The Huntington. Plan your trip before visiting to enjoy fully, and don’t forget to bring drinking water and comfortable closed-toe shoes for walking in garden areas. Visit the official website for more details about the collections and availability.

Overall:

It will be one of the best places to visit in Pasadena. You will have a great time exploring one of the most popular Pasadena attractions with your family and friends.

Address: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108.

Norton Simon Museum, Things to Do In Pasadena
Image by Tony Mariotti / flickr

02. Explore one of the most remarkable private art collections at Norton Simon Museum:

Norton Simon Museum is an art museum located in Pasadena. It has one of the most remarkable private art collections. The museum’s collections were assembled by Norton Simon, who spent 30 years compiling an astonishing collection from all over the world.

The museum includes over 11,000 objects, and these collections are highly regarded internationally.

Major collections of the museum:

The museum has an extensive collection of European paintings and sculptures dated back to the 14th century to the 19th century. The collections include masterworks of the early Renaissance and exquisite works by Paolo Veneziano and Giovanni di Paolo.

You can also see Baroque paintings from Italy and Spain, illustrated by acclaimed artists as Guido Reni, Guercino, and Murillo. The museum also has the 17th-century Dutch genre, portrait, and landscape paintings.

Norton Simon Museum is also home to a world-renowned collection of art from South and Southeast Asia. The collection is rich in art and stone sculpture, including Buddha statues and Chola bronzes from southern India.

The museum features an outdoor garden and a lovely pond where you can enjoy the contemporary sculptures. Also, there is a theater in the museum that shows a short film about Norton Simon’s life and how he collected his private collection.

If you have a love for history and art, then you will love exploring this place. Free parking is available, and students get free access to the museum.

Overall:

Visiting the Norton Simon Museum would be one of the best things to do in Pasadena. You will love to see the history and art in Norton Simon Museum.

Address: 411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105.

03. Visit NASA’s exciting Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory Founded by Caltech faculty in the 1930s in Pasadena. And it is NASA’s leading U.S. center for the robotic exploration of the solar system. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in Pasadena.

JPL offers guided tours, where the visitor gets an amazing opportunity to explore the Laboratory’s activities and accomplishments.

The tours offer by JPL Public Services Office are free for groups and individuals, and need a reservation. They offer tours for Educational Group, and it is designed for schools and educational groups of 20 people or more.

The visitor day tour is for individuals and families of 10 people, which runs once per week. Visit the official website for the latest updates and reservations.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory tour:

Jet Propulsion Laboratory tour includes a multimedia presentation on JPL entitled “Journey to the Planets and Beyond” and a visit to the von Karman Visitor Center, the Space Flight Operations Facility, and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility. The tour lasts between 2.5-3 hours with a walking distance of about 0.8 miles with multiple flights of stairs.

It will be exciting to explore the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, especially if you’re a space enthusiast. It’s a great place to take kids who love space, and they sure will have an excellent experience.

Don’t miss out on visiting their open house program, held once a year, where you can see some really cool exhibits of all the technology they worked on. Consider bringing drinking water and a hat, as it can get hot during the open house program.

Overall:

Jet Propulsion Laboratory would be one of the fun places to go in Pasadena. The kids will love to explore the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Address: 4800 Oak Grove Dr, Pasadena, CA 91109.

Gamble House, things to do in Pasadena
Cullen328, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

04. Explore the lovely American arts and crafts style house, The Gamble House:

The Gamble House is located in Pasadena, California. It was constructed in 1908–09 as a winter residence for David B. Gamble and Mary Gamble. And this iconic American arts and crafts style house and its furnishings were designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene.

The house is a national historic landmark owned by the City of Pasadena. The Gamble House is open for public tours and events.

The major highlights of the Gamble House:

The three-story Gamble House is a masterpiece of American arts and crafts. And the house style also shows influence from traditional Japanese aesthetics as they applied the abstraction of clouds and mist to the house’s doors, windows, screens, pillars, and chairs.

The house has a beautiful natural surrounding and overlooking Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco, a seasonally dry river bed. You will see a lovely portrayal of nature in the house interior as there are pictures of flowers and trees in the wood, metal, art glass, and semi-precious stone.

The house tours are guided and available for limited days and times only. Make your plan in advance if you want to explore the beautiful interior. Also, Back to the Future movie fans will feel connected to the house, as the movie was shoot in the Gamble House.

You will love the guided tour, as it is knowledgeable and detailed. There is also a parking lot, and please check out their official website for more details and availability.

Overall:

The Gamble House is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Pasadena. You will have a great time exploring this historic home.

Address: 4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena, CA 91103.

Pasadena City Hall
Image by Ross Berteig / flickr

05. Visit the stunning historical architecture, Pasadena City Hall:

Pasadena City Hall, completed in 1927, serves as the central location for city government in the City of Pasadena. The City Hall was designed by two renowned architects, John Bakewell and Arthur Brown. And the design was inspired by the Spanish Colonial Revival Style and Italian Renaissance styles.

It has 235 rooms, and the passageways cover 170,000 square feet. The massive circular structure of the city hall is around six stories tall, and on the rooftop, you will see eye-catching red tiles. The City Hall also features a beautiful inner courtyard.

Pasadena City Hall is a popular place for photography, and it’s a lovely place for wedding photos. The architecture and courtyard are gorgeous and worth visiting. And If you can catch the sunset, it will be a magical moment.

The City Hall has been a favorite filming location for Hollywood since Charlie Chaplin used the towering domed of the City Hall for a scene in his 1940 movie, The Great Dictator.

Overall:

Pasadena City Hall would be one of the best places to visit in Pasadena. You will have a great time exploring this historical architecture.

Address: Garfield Ave, Pasadena, CA 9110

Garfield Park
Cbl62, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

06. Enjoy a family picnic at Garfield Park, Pasadena:

Garfield Park is located in South Pasadena. The 7 acres park features picnic areas, 2 tennis courts, a looped path, a playground, and a meditative garden space. The park is less crowded even though it’s a popular family destination.

Garfield Park is a popular place for birthdays celebration and family picnics. Also, community activities like the Summer Concerts and other community gatherings take place in the Park.

Major highlights of Garfield Park:

If you’re visiting the park, enter through the Mission Street side, as then you’ll walk through the lovely rose garden. For kids, the park features beautiful grassy play areas and playgrounds with equipment, including sandboxes for children to play with sands.

The park is clean and well maintained, and you will easily find a good place to sit under the shaded trees. Garfield Park also has a Youth House, drinking fountains, and a small fire ring.

It’s a good place to take your kids and to enjoy a family picnic. You can also take your dog but have to keep your dog on a leash.

Overall:

Visiting Garfield Park would be one of the best free things to do in Pasadena with your family.

Address: 1000 Park Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030.

PASADENA ATTRACTIONS:

Kidspace Children’s Museum, Things to Do In Pasadena
Image by Walt Disney Television / flickr

07. Take your kids to the Kidspace Children’s Museum:

Kidspace Children’s Museum is located in Pasadena, California. It is one of Southern California’s favorite family destinations, serving over 378,000 guests each year. The 3.5 acres Kidspace encourages a child’s growth and development through various indoor and outdoor activities.

Kidspace Children’s Museum features over 40 hands-on exhibits and programs for children ages 1-10, where they can engage in creative and interactive learning.

Popular things to do in Kidspace Children’s Museum:

The museum hosts the popular Arroyo Adventure program, offering children to enjoy a creative and lively experience with nature. And The Trike Tracks program offers children a fun driving experience toward a destination on a round mini-highway.

The Physics Forest program is an interactive science exhibit offering children to explore various concepts, including levers and pulleys, trajectory, and momentum.

The Butterfly Season offers children to enjoy imaginative, colorful, and active adventures, along with butterfly-themed trikes course and water features. Visit the official website for more details of the programs.

Kidspace Children’s Museum also features several climbing gyms, an ant tunnel, a couple of craft and building areas, a reading nook, a dress-up stage, a mud and clay station, and dancing fountains.

There are plenty of benches to sit on and watch children playing. Admission is $14.95 for adults and children (1+). It’s a great place for children, and they will love various indoor and outdoor activities.

Overall:

Visiting the Kidspace Children’s Museum would be one of the fun things to do in Pasadena with family. The kids will have a great time at the Kidspace Children’s Museum.

Address: 480 N Arroyo Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103.

08. Hike to discover the stunning Eaton Canyon Falls:

Eaton Canyon Falls is a forty-foot waterfall located at the top of the Eaton Canyon Trail. The hike to the falls is one of the best waterfall hikes in Los Angeles County. Along the trail, you will see a bountiful bloom of fern leaf phacelia, sunflowers, rare California chia, and other wildflowers.

Enjoy hiking on the Eaton Canyon Trail:

The hike to the falls is 3.5 miles round-trip with 375 feet of elevation change. Hiking on this trail starts with a wide and flat dirt trail, followed by narrow canyons and a rugged mountainous forest. Also, there are few stream crossings and boulder scrambles along the way.

Enjoy a family picnic:

It’s a lovely place to go with your family to enjoy a family picnic. You can take your kids, as the hike is easy, and they will love to explore the falls. It’s a great place to take your dog. Most of the hiking paths are shaded, and it’s pleasant to walk on the trail while enjoying nature.

There is free parking and restrooms available. You need to make a reservation to go there during COVID-19 times. Visit their official website for future updates and further information.

Address: 1750 N Altadena Dr, Altadena, CA 91001.

Japanese Garden, Things to Do In Pasadena
Image by Pamla J. Eisenberg / flickr

09. Picturesque Japanese Garden at the Huntington:

Japanese Garden has been one of the most beloved and iconic landscapes at the Huntington in Pasadena. The garden was first open to the public in 1928, and in 2011 a team of architects and Japanese craftsmen undertook a year-long, large-scale restoration of the garden.

Major highlights of the garden:

The garden features a beautiful moon bridge, lovely ponds filled with Koi fish, and a historic Japanese House, portraying Japan’s unique landscape traditions, craftsmanship, and horticulture.

In the Japanese Garden, you will see a five-room Japanese House. The house structure is considered one of the best examples of early twentieth-century Japanese architecture in the United States.

There is a lovely tea house within a traditionally landscaped illustrating the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The garden also includes a collection of lovely bonsai and zen court.

Don’t miss out on visiting this lovely Japanese Garden, especially if you’re visiting Huntington. Visit their official website if you want to know more detail,

Overall:

The Japanese Garden would be one of the best places to see in Pasadena. You can explore this beautiful place with your family.

Rose Bowl stadium
Spatms, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

10. Enjoy the annual Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl stadium:

The Rose Bowl stadium is located in Pasadena, California, and was built in 1922. This National Historic Landmark is best known as the host of the annual Rose Bowl Game.

It is the 16th largest stadium in the world. And the 11th largest stadium in the United States with over 92 thousand seating capacity.

The stadium hosted various NFL Super Bowl Games, including the 1984 Olympic Soccer Matches, the 1994 Men’s World Cup, and the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

Rose Bowl Stadium offers guided tours, where you will get a lifetime opportunity to walk through this National Historic Landmark, which is home to countless moments in history.

During the Stadium tour, you will have an opportunity to see the classic stadium seating, the original 1922 locker room, the new Terry Donahue Pavilion, the Loge Lounge, and the Working Press Box. You will also get a chance to learn about the iconic history that has taken place at the Rose Bowl Stadium. There is also an educational tour available for students.

It will be a memorable experience for you, especially if you are attending the Rose Bowl Game. Visit the official website for more information about tours and upcoming games.

Address: 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103.

11. Enjoy a delicious meal and explore the incredible architecture at Old Pasadena:

Old Pasadena is the original commercial center of Pasadena. It’s a lively and diverse city located just ten miles from downtown Los Angeles. In the old town area, you will see some incredible architectural styles and historic homes.

Popular things to do in Old Pasadena:

The area features many opportunities for entertainment and activities for all ages, and you can spend time a great time wandering around. Old Pasadena’s entertainment and activities include museums, galleries, music events, shopping, restaurants, and outdoor cafés.

Dining opportunities in Old Pasadena:

Old Pasadena is a pedestrian-friendly area and earned a 98 Walk Score by Walker Paradise. You will find various dining opportunities, including a Mexican restaurant, specializes in traditional Mexican dishes and True Food Kitchen to enjoy the healthy and delicious fare.

You will also find Union Restaurant specializes in Northern Italian cuisine. It is one of Pasadena’s most popular dinner destinations.

In Old Pasadena, you can go shopping, as the Colorado Boulevard and Green Street have a large mix of national chains and independent retailers. You will find brands like Goorin Bros. and Warby Parker. Also, if you’re looking for unique gifts, you will easily find one at Gold Bug, Maude Woods, or Homage.

You can play arcade and video games at The Neon Retro Arcade, where you will find over 50 “vintage” games straight out of the 1980s. And you can also check out the latest exhibits at the Armory Center for the Arts.

There are 90 minutes of free parking at most structures. Overall, you will have a good time exploring Old Pasadena.

Overall:

Exploring Old Pasadena will be one of the top things to do in downtown Pasadena. You can enjoy shopping and dining.

Address: 1 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105.

USC Pacific Asia Museum, things to do in Pasadena
Minnaert, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

12. Explore Asian arts and culture at USC Pacific Asia Museum:

USC Pacific Asia Museum was established in 1971 by the Pacificulture Foundation. It’s a university museum dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum has a collection of over 15,000 items from across Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The museum’s historic building was built in 1926 and designed by the architectural firm of Marston, Van Pelt, and Maybury. The design of the building replicates the style of a Chinese imperial palace. And it features a central courtyard with a garden, a small pond filled with koi fishes, and decorative carvings.

The museum’s permanent collection includes the Harari Collection of Japanese paintings and drawings from the Edo period. And the museum has one of the largest collections of Japanese folk paintings outside Japan.

You will also see an extensive collection of Chinese ceramics and textiles, including Lydman and Snukal ceramics. USC Pacific Asia Museum also held many wonderful exhibits, and you can check out the official website for current and upcoming exhibits.

Overall:

Visiting the USC Pacific Asia Museum would be one of the best things to do in Pasadena. You will love to explore the arts and culture of Asia.

Address: 46 N Los Robles Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101.

Explore Mount Wilson Observatory
Image by chripell / flickr

13. Explore Mount Wilson Observatory:

The Mount Wilson Observatory is located in Pasadena, California. In 1904, George Ellery Hale found the Observatory under the auspices of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Hale first started studies of the Sun in the Observatory. For the first decade, it was called the Mount Wilson Solar Observatory.

Major highlights of the Observatory:

The Mount Wilson observatory contains two historically important telescopes, the 100-inch Hooker telescope over 100 years old. And the 60-inch telescope, which was one of the largest operational telescopes in the world in 1908. There were many outstanding discoveries in this world’s foremost astronomical research facility.

It’s an amazing place, and you will love exploring this incredible observatory along with the stunning views you will get from the observatory. The weather is excellent for stargazing. And if you can attend one of their events, you will get an exceptional opportunity to look through the massive telescope.

The Mount Wilson Observatory features an astronomy museum, an auditorium for lectures, and walking trails. And with free tours, anyone interested in astronomy is bound to have a great time visiting the Observatory.

Choose a clear day for visiting and plan for a few hours to explore fully. Visit their official website for the latest updates and upcoming events.

Overall:

The Mount Wilson Observatory is one of the most popular Pasadena attractions. It will be one of the fun places to visit in Pasadena, especially if you love astronomy.

Pasadena Playhouse
Johnwayne Stroud, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

14. Watch a play at the historic Pasadena Playhouse:

The Pasadena Playhouse is a historic performing arts venue located in Pasadena, California. It has a rich and lively history dating back to 1917, and it is one of the most prolific theaters in American history.

It is a 686-seat theater and produces various cultural events and community programs each year. And the Playhouse focuses on launching new works with a commitment to cultural and theatrical diversity.

The playhouse has a wonderful historic charm, and you will enjoy watching the play with good lighting, sound, and performances. You can also enjoy a delicious dinner next door and then see a superb play on a Summer evening. Visit the official website for the latest updates and running and upcoming plays.

Overall:

Watching live plays would be one of the best things to see in Pasadena.

Address: 39 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101.

Pasadena Ice Skating Center
Image by Mark Mauno / flickr

15. Enjoy Skating at the Pasadena Ice Skating Center:

The Pasadena Ice Skating Center was constructed in 1976. The Ice Skating Center is home to the Pasadena Maple Leafs youth hockey association, Pasadena Figure Skating Club, the Rose City Crystals synchronized skating teams, and the Hollywood Curling Club.

Ice Skating Center facility:

Pasadena Ice Skating Center facility features an NHL regulation-size rink with 4 team rooms, a party room, vending machines, and an administration office. And they offer skating and broomball rentals, private lessons, school field trips, and an opportunity for hockey lessons and practice.

It’s a great place to go with your family and enjoy skating. Admission is $11 and $4 for skate rentals for all ages, and it’s a good place to learn to ice skate. You can take your kids as its kids friendly, and they will enjoy skating on the big skating rink.

Consider taking gloves, a beanie, a scarf, and thick tall socks to avoid blisters. Visit the official website for the latest price and more information.

Overall:

Pasadena Ice Skating Center would be one of the fun places to go in Pasadena with kids.

Address: 300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101.

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