Tips for the Rose Parade & More Things to do in Pasadena
Pasadena has a special place in my heart. I grew up in the area. Back then, though, the air quality was so bad it resembled Beijing. Not kidding. You could not see the San Gabriel Mountains less than five miles away on smog alert days.
Today, Los Angeles has cleaned up its act and the city of Pasadena has updated its Old Town as well. Once a rundown area in Pasadena, the city has revitalized a one-mile stretch on Colorado Blvd between S. Pasadena Ave and El Molina. It’s one of the hot spots of Los Angeles on weekends and certainly on January 1st when the annual Rose Parade takes place. Floats and marching bands usher in the New Year in the morning and festivities culminate later with the Rose Bowl football game between the champions of the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences.
Each holiday season we make a trip to the area to see family and friends. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Pasadena if your travels take you there for the Rose Parade or other times during the year.
The Rose Parade
For those who want to attend the Rose Parade, there are a few options. You can camp out overnight and party like it’s 1999 — fun if you are still youthful at heart and willing to brave the usual cool weather that time of year. A better option is to purchase grandstand seats set up along Colorado Ave. Official sales go through Sharp Ticketing Company.
Tip: The floats can be seen at their final destination on Sierra Madre and Washington Blvd. Official Post Parade tickets can be purchased in advance as well as onsite to see the floats up close. Consider taking public transportation (Metro) and save yourself the time trying to find parking.
The Gamble House
I highly recommend touring The Gamble House, which is about a five-minute drive from Old Town. If you are a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy, you will recognize it as the home of the eccentric scientist Doc Brown. Built at the turn of the 20th century, It is an example of an Arts and Crafts masterpiece. Purchase your ticket online for a great one-hour tour. Children 12 and under are free with paying adults. Afterwards, drive around this interesting neighborhood to see the outside of other Greene and Greene designed homes.
Kidspace Children’s Museum
Just a two-minute drive from The Gamble House is the Kidspace Children’s Museum. Younger kids will love this great indoor-outdoor kids museum and interactive place. Recommended ages vary so take a look at the pictures online to judge for yourself. I recommend it for kids up to age eight.
Eaton Canyon Falls
One of my favorite things to do in the Pasadena area is visit Eaton Canyon Falls. This was my childhood playground, and I still love it. It’s a great time of year to go because Pasadena is relatively warm in December and January. Average temperature on January 1st is 67°F. This is a moderately difficult hike due to crossing streams along the way but very doable for children ages five and older. Plan to spend a leisurely two hours if you want to get to the falls.
Tip: For those who plan to do this hike, park further up the trail near Henninger Flats Museum.
Favorite Pasadena Restaurants
Old Town is hopping around the New Year with people coming into town for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. Here is a short list of my recent favorites to sample the diversity of restaurants in Pasadena.
For breakfast or lunch, try Euro Pane Bakery. I love the Eggs Benedict. Others swear the Macarons are the best in L.A.
For lunch, try El Taquito Mexicano Truck. You’ll have a hard time going back to Chipotle after a visit here. In the afternoon, swing over to Amara Chocolate & Coffee for some churros dipped in chocolate sauce which bring back memories of eating in Spain!
For dinner, I highly recommend a world-renowned Taiwanese restaurant called Din Tai Fung. It’s a 15-minute drive east of Pasadena in Arcadia. I like most things on their menu, but you must order the soup dumplings (xiao long bao). They are the best! In case you go, call me up, and I will meet you there. For those who prefer some kid-friendly American fare, Slater’s 50/50 and Dog Haus are sure to please. Enjoy!
Where to Stay in Pasadena
While in Pasadena, we stay with family. But for Hilton hotel options, Hilton Pasadena has a great location within walking distance of Colorado Blvd in Old Town. It’s also convenient to the freeways and to visit other places in Los Angeles.
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- Read all of our articles on things to do in Los Angeles
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Eugene lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife have taken their two children to about 15 countries for work and vacation. Eugene is…