Simply put, 48 hours in Pasadena isn’t enough. We got a taste of this charming Southern California city and it left us wanting more. Known for hosting the annual Rose Bowl Football Game and the Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena is also home to a number of art museums and public galleries. Old Pasadena features renovated historic architecture with a fabulous collection of retail and restaurants. My little trio packed in as much as we could in our little window of time here. There are beautiful hotels available and you can take your pick between something mainstream or more luxurious.
Norton Simon Museum
We arrived in Pasadena in the early afternoon and headed straight to the Norton Simon Museum. This museum has what is known around the world as one of the most remarkable private art collections. The collections are housed in a stunning California Modern building which was designed by Ladd & Kelsey and later renovated by renowned architect Frank Gehry. With young children in tow, time in a museum is typically limited because of their attention span. We split our visit into 3 parts and had about an hour and half to explore. We began inside by wandering around viewing the masterpieces by Raphael, Rembrant, and Van Gogh. Following that, we retreated outdoors for a “break”. The serene Sculpture Garden and outdoor cafe were the perfect break between viewings. For our final 30 minutes we explored Monet, Cezanne, Degas and Picasso. Admission for adults is $12.00 and kids under 18 are free.
This charming little town was bustling for a Monday.Twenty Two blocks of tree-lined sidewalks and historic architecture was the perfect setting for a late afternoon stroll. Old Pasadena is a premier destination for world-class shopping, dining, arts and entertainment. With an abundance of open air cafes, you can sip a gorgeous glass of California Chardonnay or enjoy a micro brewed beer as you watch the people buzz by before settling in for dinner.
Nestled in Old Town Pasadena in a historic brick building is this beautiful Mediterranean restaurant with a sprawling rooftop terrace. They offer grilled meats, seafood dishes, an array of pastas and family style appetizer platters. I enjoyed their signature Smoked Margarita while we shared the fresh and flavourful Santorini Mezze Platter with stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, tabouleh, cucumbers, pickled turnips, green olives, hummus and pita. Other highlights in our meal were the Lamb Kebobs and the Cioppino (made with shrimp, salmon, calamari, scallops, mussels & clams cooked in a house-made tomato sauce & served with grilled garlic bread). They also have basic pizza on the menu for the less adventurous or the tiny people at the table.
Afters Ice Cream
Stroll over to AFTERS for a cone of handcrafted Ice Cream. We loved the Strawberry Cookie Crunch, Peanut Butter Smore’s and Milk & Cereal. The perfect ending to a day spent in the California sunshine.
We started our day at this trendy and hopping gathering space. Their menu is fresh and delicious and features a variety of selections from healthy to decadent. The $10 Breakfast Bowl was filled with white beans, fennel sausage, onion, fennel, poached egg and greens and I gobbled it up in a blink. It is the perfect setting to sip coffee and read the paper while your kids colour or relax on the patio outside as you plan the day ahead. FYI – their boutique features an array of local treasures and I dare you to try to leave without one!
Kidspace Children’s Museum
Kidspace is a unique Children’s Museum built on 3.5 acres of indoor and outdoor space and is filled with endless fun. This was a Pasadena highlight for us and truly one of the best museums we have ever explored. We learned about Dinosaurs and fossils, played with clay and mud, rode bikes on the outdoor track, climbed up into the hawk’s nest, studied ant holes and played in the stream for hours. Bring water shoes for the kids so they can partake in the water play (they are mandatory). When it’s time to eat, there is a great park at the entrance of the museum which is perfect for a picnic lunch, there is also the courtyard and The Kidspace Café. Admission is $13 for adults and children (Babies 1 and under are free) and there is a private nursing station available, however nursing mothers are welcome to nurse wherever they are comfortable!
The Huntington is known as one of the world’s greatest cultural, research, and educational centres. It was founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, an exceptional business man with a special interest in books, art and gardens. The gardens are truly remarkable and a perfect place to roam with children in tow. The magical dessert garden with its 5000 species of dessert plants and the world’s largest outdoor collection of cacti and succulents left us awestruck. The Children’s Garden allows little ones to interact with light, water, earth and air and begin to understand these building blocks of life. If you can steal a few minutes, it is worth venturing into the library. With 420,000 rare books and 7 million manuscripts, you could get lost inside for hours. In our brief time at The Huntington, we loved learning about the restoration of the ancient works of art and comparing the before and after images.
La Grande Orange Cafe
Housed in Pasadena’s Del Mar train station, this classic American style restaurant serves up a diverse menu of everything from pizza to burgers and beyond. The Brussel Sprout Salad and Famous Short Ribs were highly enjoyed around our table. The kids loved the bustling atmosphere and the service was top notch. We were blown away by the bag of fresh Fresh Housemade English Muffins that they sent us home with. To. Die. For.
This luxurious retreat is located minutes from downtown and is truly classic elegance at its best. With 380 suites reflecting the beauty of Southern California, views of landscape and mountains, spectacular dining options and a top rated spa and fitness area, your stay will be exceptional.
The Courtyard Marriott
Located just blocks from the action of Old Town Pasadena this is a convenient and comfortable option in the city. The pool, hot tub and giant chess board in the back are a perfect retreat for the kids between outings or at the end of a busy day.