If all you know about Pasadena is that it’s home to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl, you’re missing out. Pasadena has a lot to offer families. Science, books, arts, athletics — Pasadena has it all.
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Norton Simon Museum
411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91105
The Norton Simon Museum is a museum that a family can walk through, in its entirety, in one visit. You’ll find Asian art, European art, and modern art. The Norton Simon also has a small garden cafe located outside in the beautiful sculpture garden. The sculpture garden includes a pond with water lilies, trees, and colorful flowers. It’s a tranquil spot in the middle of the city. Each Sunday, the Museum also hosts “Stories in the Afternoon,” a free program that combines a story and a related art activity for children ages 4-8. Adult admission is $12 and children 18 and under are free. Parking is free as well. (The Museum is closed on Tuesdays).
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108
At the Huntington you’ll see it all. First editions of literary works, great works of art, beautiful gardens, wildlife (including several types of birds, squirrels, and koi fish in the ponds). In the Library, you’ll find early editions of Shakespeare’s works, Henry David Thoreau’s manuscript of Walden, a Gutenberg Bible, and much more. The Art Collection includes 440 sculptures and 650 paintings with European art from the 15th to early 20th century and American art from the late 17th century to mid-20th century. Popular pieces include Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Pinkie by Sir Thomas Lawrence. 12 gardens with 15,000 different varieties of plants will give the kids lots to explore, including a rose garden, a California garden, a jungle garden, and more. And the Children’s Garden gives kids the chance to learn about earth, air, fire, and water in an interactive, fun way. (Admission prices are slightly higher on weekends than on weekdays. Children under 4 are free. Parking is free).
Kidspace Children’s Museum
480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91103
Geared for kids ten and under, Kidspace Children’s Museum will have your kids completely engaged and entertained. The Museum’s mission is “nurturing the potential of all children through kid-driven experiences inspiring them to become joyful, active learners.” Through hands-on learning activities, children are learning about physics, play in a special outdoor play area, create and invent in the Imagination Workshop, and much more. Some exhibits utilize water, so make sure you come prepared with towels and a change of clothes and shoes. Admission is $11 for adults and children (children under 1 are free). (Be sure to check the website for daily programming notes. Some mornings can be very busy with school field trips).
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, CA 91109
If you’ve got a family member interested in outer space, then you must take advantage of the tours offered at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Family tours (10 people or less) are offered; information about dates and reservations are available online. The tour begins with a presentation that explains the activities at JPL as well as visits to the Space Flight Operations Facility and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101
Founded in 1894, Vroman’s Bookstore is the “oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California.” Each year, Vroman’s hosts more than 400 events including children’s story times, book launch parties and signings, and more. The children’s section is housed on the second floor of the store. They offer weekly story times, a monthly craft time, a book club, and a summer reading program as well.
USC Pacific Asia Museum
46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101
The USC Pacific Asia Museum was established over 40 years ago. It is one of the few museums entirely dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum’s collection includes more than 15,000 objects. Additionally, the museum offers workshops, festivals, and other child-friendly events throughout the year. One special interactive exhibit you won’t want to miss is Journeys: The Silk Road. Families can get an up-close look at this trade route by trying on period clothing, touching jade, investigating a map, and more. Admission is $10 for adults, and children 11 and under are free. (Parking is free as well). The second Sunday of each month, the museum offers free admission to all visitors.
Pasadena Ice Skating Center
300 E. Green St., Pasadena, CA 91101
If you’re New Year’s Resolution is to get the whole family more physically active, then you’ll need to try ice skating. The Pasadena Ice Skating Center offers public sessions each day of the week (times are available online). They welcome all ages and all skill levels, and have skates to rent.
Rose Bowl Stadium
1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena, CA 91103
There’s more to the Rose Bowl than the Tournament of Roses Football Game. The Rose Bowl offers tours which will provide your family a new way of looking at and learning about this famous stadium. Additionally, on the second Sunday of each month you can shop at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, also called the “World’s Largest Flea Market.” Throughout the year, the Rose Bowl hosts various concerts and special performances as well as UCLA Bruins football games.
491 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101
The Hat (in business for over 60 years) is where the locals go for sandwiches piled-high and “small” orders of French fries that are anything but small. This casual restaurant offers hamburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, and their famous Pastrami Dip sandwich.