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.
Nestled against the picturesque backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena, California, exudes an irresistible charm that effortlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. This vibrant city, located just a stone’s throw away from the bustling heart of Los Angeles, offers a unique blend of small-town intimacy and cosmopolitan sophistication.
Pasadena boasts a rich tapestry of experiences, from its historic architecture and world-class museums to its thriving culinary scene and lush botanical gardens. Join us on a journey through this Southern Californian gem as we explore the diverse facets that make Pasadena an enchanting destination for both residents and travelers alike.
Whether your family loves art, are enthusiastic about the outdoors, or you’re simply seeking a fantastic place to have fun with your kids, Pasadena’s multifaceted allure promises something extraordinary for everyone.
19 Fun Things To do in Pasadena with Kids
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. There, you’ll find one of the largest private collections of Asian, European, and modern art – all amassed by philanthropist Norton Simon.
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 $20, and children 18 years and under are free. Admission is free for all guests every first Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. 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. They are home to first editions of literary works, great works of art, beautiful gardens, and 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 over 45,000 objects focusing on European art from the 15th to early 20th century, American art from the late 17th century to the mid-20th century, and Asian art. 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.
The Children’s Garden allows kids to learn about earth, air, fire, and water in an interactive, fun way. Admission prices are slightly higher on weekends than weekdays, ranging from $25 to $29 for adults and $13 to $24 for children ages 4 to 18. Children under 4 are free, and so is parking.
The Huntington offers a free day on the first Thursday of every month, and availability opens up on the last Thursday of the previous month. These tickets go very fast.
Related: Places to do Archery in Los Angeles
Kidspace Children’s Museum
480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91103
Geared towards 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 learn 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 $15.50 for everyone over one-year-old. (Be sure to check the website for daily programming notes. Some mornings can be very busy with school field trips). Kidspace also offers free admission on the first Friday of every month from 4 to 7 p.m. with advance ticketing that opens up two weeks prior, but the crowds you’ll have to endure are not worth the discount.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, CA 91109
If you’ve got a family member interested in outer space, 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 is available online.
Tours are booked two months in advance and open up on the 1st Monday of the month at 9 a.m. Spots are taken up in a matter of minutes, so be prepared to click that mouse! 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 in 1987, first as the Pacific Asia Museum. It was renamed in 2013 when the partnership began with USC. 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 Crossroads: Exploring the Silk Road Gallery, which takes visitors on a journey through Dunhuang and includes an interactive discovery map, music, and various stations where your child can play their way through the story.
Admission is $10 for adults, and children 17 and under are free. (Parking is free as well). The museum offers free admission to all visitors on the second Sunday of each month and “pay what you wish” admission on Thursdays.
Pasadena Ice Skating Center
300 E. Green St., Pasadena, CA 91101
If your 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.
Pasadena Civic Ballet
253 N. Vinedo Ave Pasadena, CA 91107
Unleash their inner ballerina by attending a performance or a class with the Pasadena Civic Ballet. Performances often include interactive elements such as a high tea with the dancers beforehand or a crafting station. If your child is more interested in being on the stage than watching, they offer ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, and music theater classes for students as young as three and a half.
1510 Mission Street, South Pasadena, CA 91030.
The Dinosaur Farm is a specialty toy and book store in South Pasadena that specializes in every kind of dinosaur item imaginable, as well as educational toys that you won’t find anywhere else.
While it might be hard to leave this place empty-handed, just think of the cost of that TREX as your admission ticket to a magical little shop that’s out of this world.
There’s also a hidden “gem” inside the Dinosaur Farm: Kidd’s Jewelry Heist. This is an interactive, by-appointment-only experience where children of all ages can riffle through chests looking for jewels in an old speakeasy-style setting with red plush couches and ornate wood furniture.
Southern California Children’s Museum
459 East Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91101
The Southern California Children’s Museum was founded in 2013 to help foster creative exploration for children ages 0-7, focusing on arts and the environment and culture of Southern California. The museum is open daily as early as 9:30 a.m. and includes a rotating menu of daily programming activities like Story and Crafts, Messy Play, and Sing-Alongs.
All the exhibits are meant to be touched and include a variety of Tunnels and Slides that explore the various Southern California ecosystems, a Puppet Area, several different Block Stations, a Reading Corner, and so much more.
The museum can get crowded on the weekends because of birthday parties, so if you can visit during the week, you’ll enjoy the added bonus of actually being able to hear the mindful instrumental music playing in the background.
Admission is $10 per person for everyone over one-year-old, but it includes ins and outs and is valid all day. There’s also a Nursing Room and a Snack Room, which make visitors feel very much at home. While the museum does cater to children as old as 7, the younger ones will enjoy it most.
Eaton Canyon Falls Nature Center
1750 N Altadena Dr. Pasadena, CA 91107
This 190-acre nature preserve includes free access to hiking trails, wildlife, and the crown jewel: a waterfall. While the hike from the nature center to the waterfall might be a bit much for younger children (a 3.5-mile walk), a secret entrance is available if you’re visiting on a weekday that cuts the time in half.
The Mt. Wilson/Pinecrest Gate is located in a residential neighborhood, so parking is restricted on weekends, but it’s a straight shot down to the waterfall without as much work. If you’re looking to take advantage of that insider information, map yourself to 2264 Pinecrest Dr, Altadena, CA 91001.
Parent Education at Pasadena City College
3035 E. Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107
The parent education program at PCC is a tuition-free program for adults that’s run similarly to a “mommy and me” class and covers ages 0-5 years. There are over 14 classes to choose from, ranging from Parenting your 2-Year-Old to Parenting for Cognitive and Language Development 0-5 years old, happening both in the morning and afternoon. These free classes are a great addition to any routine and will help foster adult friendships and give your child hours of explorative play and preschool readiness.
Related: Mommy and Me Classes in Los Angeles
275 Arlington Drive Pasadena, CA 91105
Arlington Garden is a 3-acre public garden that was created in place of a freeway. It is open daily to enjoy California native plants and wildlife. Children will enjoy walking the grounds, sitting by the Vernal Pool, and exploring the Rock Labyrinth.
Neon Retro Arcade
28 South Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105
This arcade in Old Town Pasadena offers an array of vintage games and pinball machines and charges by the hour versus the game. There’s also an option to play all day for just a little more. Hours are Noon to 10 p.m. daily.
360 North Arroyo Boulevard,Pasadena, CA 91103
Brookside Park is one of Pasadena’s largest parks and is located South of the Rose Bowl. It’s also the home of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center. Pasadena has over 24 parks! Brookside Park offers a large play structure with a maritime/pirate theme and lots of free parking.
Chuck E. Cheese
3737 E. Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107
While this might be a glorified baby casino, it’s no denying that kids love the mouse house. Chuck E. Cheese offers arcade-style games for younger ages where you can win points and redeem them for prizes. There are also some small rides available. The soundtrack is Kidz Bop, with the occasional performance by Mr. Cheese himself on the half hour. Food is available for purchase, and pizza is always a popular choice. Overall, if you’ve done the rounds of Chuck E. Cheese locations in Southern California, you’ll agree this is one of the cleanest.
Related: Indoor Play Places in Los Angeles
MomsLA is your source for Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).
Caroline Gelabert-Noh (of Eat Drink LA) also contributed to this article.