10 Things to Do in Pasadena

The Los Angeles suburb feels worlds away from uppity Hollywood and features great hikes, gorgeous gardens and a yummy brunch scene.

Photo By: Kit_Leong

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Rachael Jones

Photo By: Deanne Revel

Photo By: Visit Pasadena

Photo By: Thomas Faull

Photo By: Visit Pasadena

Photo By: Visit Pasadena

Photo By: JPL

Photo By: Visit Pasadena

Take a Film Tour

Yes, there are a lot of roses here, but Pasadena is so much more than that parade. I was recently invited by Visit Pasadena to check out all the amazing attractions and eats, and I was pleasantly surprised with how un-LA this LA county town feels. Of course, it's still close enough for Hollywood to scout. Pasadena is teeming with TV and film locations, and the best way to see the highlights are on the Pasadena Film and TV Driving Tour. The three-hour tour features spots from Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Mad Men and so much more.

Brunch at Sage Vegan Bistro

Even if you're not vegan, you'll love the menu at Sage Vegan Bistro. And don't think vegan means skimpy. The portions are huge! Blueberry pancakes are a solid choice, and if you love avocado toast, you'll always choose sourdough after you've tried it here.

Hike Eaton Canyon

You might not associate LA County with hiking, but Pasadena has some great urban trails. Eaton Canyon features several gorgeous hikes and horse trails. If you're new to hiking, you can book a private, guided trek with Bikes and Hikes LA. The 3.4-mile hike features the famous 40-foot Eaton Canyon Falls.

Wander Through The Huntington Library

Part library. Part museum. Part botanical gardens. Part tea room. You could easily spend the entire day at The Huntington. But if you only have a couple of hours, highlights include Thomas Gainsborough's "The Blue Boy," a medieval manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," scientific illustrations by John James Audubon and, of course, the gardens. Both the Desert Garden and the Japanese Garden are stunning (and an Instagram playground).

Grab a Coffee at Lincoln Pasadena

If you've got a sweet tooth, head to Lincoln Pasadena for delicious lattes that pair well with the cafe's dozens of freshly-baked pastries and cakes. Don't be surprised if you impulse-buy three bags of homemade candy strategically placed near the cashier. It's worth it.

Peek Inside Castle Green

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this turn-of-the-century gem is the perfect blend of Spanish and Moorish architecture with Victorian glam and charm. The 120-year-old castle is only open to the public twice a year: for Christmas and Mother's Day. Proceeds from the admission fee go to the castle's preservation and restoration.

Instagram Colorado Street Bridge

This historic Beaux Arts bridge was the first curvilinear bridge ever designed. The concrete wonder has been featured in several TV shows, including Full House and The Amazing Race and most recently on the big screen in La La Land.

Shop in Old Town

Stroll down Colorado Boulevard, and explore the 21 blocks of Old Pasadena for designer stores, amazing vintage finds and unique shopping you can't find anywhere else. Pop into Old Focals Vintage Eyewear for some new old frames. The store has the largest collection of vintage frames in the world and also supplies glasses and sunglasses for TV and film.

Tour JPL

It's not the top tourist attraction, but Pasadena boasts something incredibly cool: the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Most notably, JPL has designed and built all the NASA Mars rovers, and any NASA fan should pay homage. Guided tours include the Space Flight Operations Facility, the control center that has monitored all interplanetary and deep space exploration for NASA since 1963. Tours are free but must be reserved at least one month in advance.

Geek Out at The Gamble House

Normally praised for its stunning Craftsman architecture, The Gamble House is also famous with Back to the Future fans, as the house was featured in the film as the home of Doc. Keep an eye on the museum's event page for special themed-events including tours, celebrity meet-and-greets and photos with a real DeLorean.