pasadena city hall

Each New Year’s Day, crowds from all over the world come to Pasadena for the annual Tournament of Roses Rose Parade, as well as to attend the Rose Bowl college football game. However, there are lots of other attractions Pasadena has to offer, including the world-renowned Norton Simon Museum, as well as the Gamble House and Pasadena Playhouse. Pasadena’s main business and entertainment district, Old Pasadena, is one of L.A.’s hot spots for fine dining, relaxing at cafés, shopping at boutique stores, and other entertainment. Here are some places to see, when you visit UCLA Luskin Conference Center, and want to take a drive to Pasadena. Pasadena is less than 20 miles from UCLA.

Norton Simon Museum collection, Photo courtesy of Thad Zajdowicz, Flickr

Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum houses an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture and woodwork gathered during a 30-year period by industrialist Norton Simon. Art from the 14th through 19th century Europe, including the famous “Self Portrait” by Rembrandt, call this museum home. It also includes works by other famous painters including Watteau, Boucher, and Fragonard as well as sculptures by Degas. The museum also has an extensive collection of South and Southeast Asian art and sculptures, both indoors and as part of its popular sculpture garden. The museum is highly-regarded internationally, and you may have even seen it along the parade route of the annual Tournament of Roses Rose Parade held every New Year’s DayVisit the Norton Simon website for information and directions.

Gamble House, Photo courtesy of Laura, Flickr

Gamble House

Among the beautiful Arts and Crafts homes in Pasadena, one stands out  Gamble House. It was built in 1909 for David B. Gamble of the Procter & Gamble company, and has become famous over the years in Los Angeles and the world architectural community as a fine example of American Arts and Crafts architecture of the period. The size of the house, the use of several natural materials including maple, oak, and teak, as well as its attention to detail and overall aesthetics, have also cemented its place as one of the most popular homes to visit in Southern California. Gamble House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and you may have even noticed its cameo appearance in the movie Back to the Future  — as the home of Dr. Emmett BrownVisit the Gamble House website for more information and directions.

Old Pasadena, Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Old Pasadena

Old Pasadena, or “Old Town Pasadena,” is Pasadena’s main commercial, shopping and entertainment district, with several boutique and name-brand shops, cafés, restaurants, pubs, and outlets for nightlife. Old Pasadena is centered around Fair Oaks Avenue, with businesses lining Colorado Boulevard,  the main street in the city. The Paseo Colorado outdoor shopping mall is a popular draw in the area, as well as the One Colorado Marketplace, offering fine dining, movies, and even comedy clubs. You can even visit Old Pasadena via the Metro rail, as the Gold Line has a stop thereVisit the Old Pasadena website for more information and directions.

The Huntington, Photo courtesy of Mark Weston, Flickr

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

“The Huntington” is the former residence of railroad tycoon Henry E. Huntington, turned into a sprawling art museum, as well as 120 acres of “theme” botanical gardens. It is one of the most popular cultural institutions in the U.S. Over 600,000 people visit The Huntington each year to see 18th and 19th century European art, including the famous “The Blue Boy” painting by Thomas Gainsborough and “Pinkie” by Thomas Lawrence, as well as to view 17th to 20th century American art, which includes over 20,000 prints, drawings, photographs and paintings. The Japanese Garden and the Chinese Garden are just one of a dozen themed botanical gardens at the The Huntington, the latter being the largest Chinese garden outside China. You can find relaxation ponds, pavilions and replica tea houses in these gardens, as well as an extensive collection of plants native to China and JapanVisit The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens website for more information and directions.

Pasadena Playhouse, Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Pasadena Playhouse

Since 1925, the Pasadena Playhouse has been one of the most famous “little theaters” in America. Born out of the “Little Theatre Movement” of acting troupes entertaining local crowds in smaller, community theaters, the Pasadena Playhouse expanded its national prestige over the course of the century, and even boasted a school of theatre arts. Even having battled bankruptcy, the Pasadena Playhouse still survives, and is a great place to watch talented players, some of which have included notable actors Gene Hackman and Charles BronsonVisit the Pasadena Playhouse website for more information and directions.

MAIN Photo: Pasadena City Hall, Photo courtesy of Frederick Dennstedt, Flickr

WRITTEN BY: Oshin Aivazian, UCLA