Photo: Kit Leong/Shutterstock

Discover the Charm of Pasadena: A Guide to the City's Best Restaurants and Things To Do

Insider Guides
by Megan Varela Jun 14, 2023

Pasadena, California, really does have something for everyone. Food lovers, sports fans, those who travel for live entertainment, and history buffs will all find something to love in this city. Pasadena provides options for both families, couples, and even solo travelers.

Located just 11 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, this vibrant city is easily accessible by the Metro Gold Line light rail and offers an array of activities and attractions to explore. From top museums and art galleries to gorgeous gardens and historic home tours, Pasadena is the perfect destination to add to any Southern California trip.

Things to do in Pasadena

Burlington Arcade

Nestled in the Arts District, the Burlington Arcade shopping mall offers a shopping experience reminiscent of the historic streets of London. The arcade’s charming ambiance, complete with a classic red phone booth, transports visitors to the other side of the world. There is a variety of shops to explore, ranging from a delightful flower shop to coffee and boba spots. Whether you’re in search of a special gift, a quiet place to enjoy a cup of coffee, or simply want to soak in the delightful atmosphere, a visit to the Burlington Arcade is a must for those seeking a taste of London in Pasadena.

Burlington Arcade: 380 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Comedy Show at Ice House

If you’re looking for a night filled with laughter and entertainment, a visit to the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena is an absolute must. As one of the oldest running comedy clubs in America, it has a rich history and a reputation for hosting some of the most well-known comedians. The Ice House provides an intimate atmosphere with two showrooms, allowing you to enjoy the comedic performances up close. Whether you’re a fan of well-known stand-up comedians or eager to discover emerging talent, the Ice House Comedy Club offers a variety of options that cater to all tastes. Tickets typically range from $15 to $30, depending on the performer and seating choice, making it an affordable option for an evening of laughter and fun.

Ice House Comedy Club: 24 N Mentor Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106

Rose Bowl Flea Market

rose bowl flea market

Photo: Visit Pasadena

Discover the treasures of the Rose Bowl Flea Market on the second Sunday of every month. It’s a treasure trove for vintage enthusiasts, collectors, and bargain hunters. With over 2,500 vendors, this iconic flea market offers a vast selection of unique items, from antique furniture and vintage clothing to rare collectibles and handmade goods. In addition to the incredible shopping experience, visitors can also enjoy delicious food trucks and live music. Tickets range from $12 to $20, and admission times begin as early as 5:00 AM. If you’re in the mood to go celebrity sighting, attend the earlier session and you might get lucky.

Rose Bowl Flea Market: 1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103

Huntington Library and Gardens

The world-famous Huntington Library in nearby San Marino promises a delightful and enriching experience for art, history, and nature enthusiasts. The library boasts an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, and artwork, including renowned works like The Canterbury Tales. The sprawling botanical gardens surrounding the library offer a serene escape, featuring diverse plant species, tranquil paths, and stunning landscapes. General admission tickets cost $25 on weekdays and $29 on weekends, with discounts available for seniors and students. Parking is available on-site for a fee of $20 per vehicle. Visitors could easily spend all day here, so make sure to wear good walking shoes.

Huntington Library and Gardens: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108

Where to eat and drink in Pasadena

Pasadena Boba Trail

pasadena boba trail stop oinkmoo

Photo: Visit Pasadena

Embark on a delightful journey along the Pasadena Boba Trail, where you can indulge in a variety of refreshing and flavorful drinks from more than 25 local businesses. Following the entire trail will take you to each unique neighborhood to find even more exciting spots. Exploring the trail allows you to experience the vibrant Asian culture in Pasadena, making it a must-do activity for any boba lover or those wondering what the hype is about.

Pasadena Boba Trail: Locations vary

Monopole by Wine RX

This cozy wine bar in the Theater District is a hotspot for wine-lovers interested in finding a new favorite drink. With plenty of wines from around the world to choose from, you’re sure to find something great in this historic building. On Fridays, you can join in a blind tasting where participants receive a list of wine categories and their flavors to guess which wine is which. If you get it right, your tasting is free.

Monopole by Wine RX: 21 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Marina Restaurant

This restaurant offers a menu blending rustic Italian flavors with a California-inspired approach using seasonal ingredients. With a diverse wine selection, a wood-fire oven, and a cozy ambiance, it’s the ideal spot for both casual dining and special occasions.

Marina Restaurant: 841 Cordova St, Pasadena, CA 91101

CAR Artisan Chocolate

This local bean-to-bar chocolate maker is hailed for having what Eater LA calls “LA’s ultimate chocolate croissant,” and it does not disappoint. Make a quick stop here first thing in the morning to beat the crowds and maybe even bring home some chocolate bars.

CAR Artisan Chocolate: 1009 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

Maestro Restaurant

A gorgeous modern Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown that offers incredible brunch and dinner options within walking distance of the famous City Hall. Try the creative cocktails, churro french toast, and fresh tacos.

Maestro Restaurant: 110 Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103

Where to Stay in Pasadena

pasadena hotel and pool

Photo: Expedia

We hope you love the accommodations we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

Situated on the Tournament of Roses Parade route, Pasadena Hotel & Pool is a pet-friendly historic hotel with newly renovated spaces that evoke the charm of the Roaring Twenties. With a prime location near shopping, dining, and local attractions like the Rose Bowl Stadium and The Huntington Library, the hotel offers 161 rooms, meeting spaces, and a welcoming lobby with complimentary Wi-Fi and a bar serving breakfast, drinks, and dinner.

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How to Get to Pasadena

If you’re coming from another state or country, the most common way to get to Pasadena is to fly into Los Angeles International Airport and then either rent a car or take a shuttle or taxi to Pasadena, which is about a 30-minute drive away. If you’re already in the Southern California area, you can easily reach Pasadena by car or by utilizing public transportation options such as the Amtrak and Metrolink trains.

Once there, Pasadena is known for its pedestrian-friendly streets, making it a highly walkable city for most of your restaurant and entertainment needs. For longer distances or convenience, cab rides and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are readily available. It’s also worth noting that Pasadena has a well-connected public transportation system, including buses and the Metro Gold Line train.

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