One of the biggest complaints, you will hear from most Southern Californians is, “No I am not from LA!” As many things that Los Angeles has to offer you can quickly miss out by thinking of the region as one big place compared to a combination of many smaller and unique communities. To get a real feel for the area be sure to take the time to stay in different cities and neighborhoods and avoid jumping into the bigger Los Angeles tourist destinations.
One of these great local cultures is Pasadena, California. Just northeast of LA proper, you find the different flavor of this community full of local dining options, local theaters and shops and museums galore.
Always Start With Brunch
The best way to start just about any day is a nice brunch. One of the great finds in Pasadena is Abricott, a French/Vietnamese restaurant. You will find brunch including their delicious crepes with some Asian flair. I will admit before I bit in I was a little nervous, but the flavor combinations melted in your mouth. Bring a couple friends and try a little bit of everything.
Or for something more traditional swing by Marston’s Restaurant and grab some french toast or my favorite their pulled pork benedict. They have a great breakfast selection, but you can also stop by for a lunch menu full of loaded salads and tasty sandwiches. Plus Marston’s fills my love for restaurants in old houses, you sit scattered in what used to be a living room or the den.
Stop By One of the Local Museums
Pasadena is filled with some unique museums with very impressive collections. Spend your day wandering through the Huntington Library, a beautiful property of gardens and museums. Learn more about it here.
If you’re looking for either Asian-inspired or impressionist art you cannot miss the Norton Simon museum. I’m not the hugest art fan, and while I appreciate it I can only spend so much time looking at painting and sculptures. The Norton Simon was a perfect mixture of different periods and styles to keep you interested. Their collection includes the impressionists Degas and Monet, surrealists including Picasso and, of course, my (and many other’s) favorite Van Gogh as well as Ancient Hindu and Buddist sculptures, there was really something for everyone. There is also a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden to relax and enjoy a cup of tea.
Grab a Local Brew
Being a big coffee fan, I am always in search of the local roasters and will travel far and wide to avoid Starbucks. Thankfully, Pasadena has some great spots to enjoy a tasty cup of coffee or a home brewed ice tea. My favorite spot I’ve found so far is Jameson Brown Coffee Roasters. Their coffee is rich and full without being over roasted. Plus, if you’re anything like me you start avoiding too much caffeine in the afternoon. They have a wide array of teas that they will brew up for you and put on ice if it’s too warm outside. This spot is absolutely worth checking out. Grab a brew and a book and rest up for awhile.
For something a little different head to Amara Chocolate & Coffee and try their Venezuelan Hot Sipping Chocolate. Just don’t forget to order some of their churros to go along with it.
Dig In At the Independent Bookstore & Theatre
Two of my favorite things are independent bookstores and independent movie theaters. In Pasadena, you have both of them sitting right next to each other. Head over to Laemmle Playhouse Theatre, an independent movie theatre that is modern but still holds the Hollywood feel. Buy your ticket early for an indie or artsy film and then turn to your right and pop into Vroman’s Bookstore while you wait.
Vroman’s has everything you can look for in a local bookstore. It’s easy to get lost in, popping from section to section, reading staff reviews and picking up titles you haven’t seen elsewhere. They have anywhere from one to four events a day including author lead discussions and book readings for the kids. Just make sure you have room in your bag to add a new title or two.
Wrap The Day Up with a Drink
After a day full of exploring the neighborhood make sure to settle down and relax with a drink in your hand. Leaving the theatre you have some great options like Monopole Wine, a wine shop and bar where you can taste a flight, or if you’re looking for a craft cocktail check out Magnolia House.
Enjoy the Local Scene
This is just one way you can spend a day getting local in the Pasadena area. Whatever you do make sure to take the time to explore and dig in. Some of my favorite ways to get to know a community is doing some research on local bloggers, checking out yelp to find the great non-chain spots, and best of all: ask a local. Ask your friends who’ve lived in the area or ask you waiter, but the best place to get to know a city is by those who’ve spent time already digging in.
What are your tips for getting local in a new city? Do you have any favorite spots in Pasadena I missed?