Exactly one year ago, I moved to Pasadena and yesterday I had to say goodbye. It has been a short time in Pasadena, but I have grown to love this little, ok not-so-little, town that allows me to experience living in Los Angeles without dealing with all the crazy traffic. Pasadena turned out to be the perfect place for my family, especially for my one-year-old daughter, because of all the great places to explore nearby. Just as the Pasadena Weekly compiles a “Best of Pasadena” list each year, I decided to document some of my “Best of Pasadena” (and slightly beyond) recommendations to help me remember this past year.
My “BEST OF PASADENA” List
BEST APARTMENT COMPLEX: Terraces at Paseo Colorado
375 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91101, (866) 310-6639
Although on the more expensive side, these apartments are worth every penny. First of all, there is no doubt that it is in the absolute best location with a walkscore of 97. Living on top of a shopping mall means it is safe to take my dog out for walks even at midnight, I can go downstairs anytime to take my daughter outside for a stroll or to play in the fountains, and there are plenty of restaurants or shopping to choose from, especially since Old Town is literally a block away. Secondly, the apartments are much more spacious than other complexes in the area. Our two-bedroom, two-bath, apartment is 1200 sq. ft. and I love that we have extra storage closets in every room. In addition, the staff is extremely hard working. They make sure that the entire complex, from the garage to the elevators to the hallways, are clean and functioning correctly. I love that you can put a maintenance request for anything – broken light bulb, plugged drain, water stains – and they will fix it within 24-48 hours. Worth every penny.
BEST FITNESS CLUB: Breakthru Fitness
345 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 396-1700
You can workout because you HAVE to, or you can workout because you LOVE to. Breakthru Fitness offers the most amazing programs that motivate members to WANT to work out, and have fun at the same time. I personally became addicted to their Peak 10 program, created by Breakthru’s co-founder, Michelle Dozois. However, they also have other unique and effective programs such as Training for Warriors, Lose to Win, or Metabolic Conditioning 3 for adults, and they even offer Parisi Speed School for the youth. Add on some fantastic instructors, unique choreography, an intimate community you can’t find in large chains, and the leadership of Michelle and her co-founder, husband Phil Dozois, and there is nowhere better to get healthy than at Breakthru. Plus, they have a childcare room and babysitters who really care about your child. It’s the best.
BEST SOCIAL EVENT: Rose Bowl Parade
Colorado Boulevard between Orange Grove Boulevard and Sierra Madre Boulevard
I never knew so many people made it a tradition to camp out overnight on Colorado Boulevard New Years Eve to save a front row seat for the New Years Day Rose Bowl Parade! Just the fact that people bring mattresses, firepits, or couches to camp overnight, and families of all ages from infants to grandparents participate in the freezing sleepover, makes this the most anticipated and biggest parade I have ever attended. When you see the actual floats that pass by, you realize that every little detail is indeed made with all sorts of flowers… It is quite an impressive parade!
BEST TODDLER FRIENDLY PLACES:
480 North Arroyo Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91103, (626) 449-9144
Perfect example of the saying, “Learning can be fun.” Indoor and outdoor activities that are educational too. In my opinion, best for kids who can walk already.
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108, (626) 405-2100
Pretty amazing how the rarest plants who normally live in opposite environments can blossom in this garden. From a Desert Garden to a Rose Garden and even a Children’s Garden with activities teaching the four elements – Fire, Water, Earth, and Air.
360 North Arroyo Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91103
Pirate-themed park right next to the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center that has bbqs, swings, sand, and playground equipment. Pretty clean and modern for a playground, and has a good amount of shade.
380 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101, (626) 577-2214
If you are looking for a clean indoor playground, this place has a bounce house, ball pit with slide, ride-on toys, climbing structure, imaginative play materials, and more. Drop-in rates or expensive monthly membership.
380 South Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 795-2501
Hourly babysitting for the evenings and weekends in a huge facility that is normally used as a preschool during the week. Great ratio of teachers-students, ie. under 2 years old the ratio is 3:1, and they have plenty of toys. They also offer dinners for a small fee. I think every city should have a Kids Klub to help parents have a date night regularly!
34 East Holly Street, Pasadena, CA 91103, (626) 584-0712
A very small Thai restaurant hidden on one of the streets off of Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena. We love that Linda is the one that is always there welcoming and serving you. Our favorites: Tom Kha, Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Green Curry, and Japanese Eggplant.
– My Vegan
633 South Arroyo Parkway Suite 3, Pasadena California 91105, (626) 578-9017
A friendly vegan restaurant that serves Thai-inspired dishes. Our favorites: Orange Chicken, Yellow Curry Noodles, Spicy Wild Mushrooms, and Pad Thai.
14 South Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 793-5551
Sweet Wedding Almond Macaroons. Enough said.
20 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91105, (626) 397-3010
My husband loves their pulled pork sandwich and beware of ordering their extremely tasty, but very unhealthy, portobello mushroom fries. Secret sauce!
BEST FOOD OUTSIDE OF PASADENA:
651 West Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91007, (626) 446-0886
Always crowded Taiwanese restaurant, famous for their sausage dishes. I just like getting their authentic Taiwanese-style shaved ice with red bean, flan, almond jello, mochi, lychee and brown sugar (on the side if you want it less sweet).
27 East Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA 91801, (626) 308-3898
A casual food court restaurant where you order and then sit down. Must get their Shanghai Pan Fried Shen Jian Bao, hot, juicy, and tasty if you eat it freshly made. They also have a huge shaved ice option for dessert.
1088 South Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007, (626) 446-8588
Famous for their Juicy Pork Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao), but we also love their Pork Chop fried rice, Spicy Shrimp & Pork Wonton, Shanghai Rice Cake, Sauteed Spinach, and the Sweet Taro Dumplings for dessert. Probably the nicest and most modern Chinese restaurant you will experience, with every employee greeting you with hellos and goodbyes, and using their ipads to serve you.
315 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA, (818) 956-5996
Amazingly affordable pastries and bakery items that are addicting like their Guava and Cheese pastry, Almond Danish, or Pineapple Danish. Mix the sweets with a little bit of savory and make sure to try their Potato Filled Balls.
700 South Grand Aven, Los Angeles, CA 90017, (213) 802-1470
With over 5000 reviews on Yelp, this restaurant meets all your expectations just in the first moment you step into the beautiful venue. Delicious food, cocktails, and of course, desserts.
7290 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, (323) 939-6455
MILK serves mostly desserts, from cupcakes to milkshakes to my favorite – ice cream macaroon sandwiches. Something you can’t find everywhere!
138 East Valley Boulevard, Alhambra, CA 91801, (626) 308-9535
Just get the Hainan Chicken. Dip it in the sauces and eat it with rice and I don’t understand why it tastes so good.
11311 Mississippi Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025
The new craze is snow ice, or a modern twist on shaved ice. Blockheads really does shave the ice so smoothly that the ice melts on your tongue and you don’t have to do any “crunching” like you normally do when chewing ice. I like the Black Sesame base, but that’s just a personal favorite.
11313 Mississippi Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Next door to Blockheads is one of my friends’ restaurants who won the Great Food Truck Race in Season 3. They have a very simple, but unique, menu mixing up Korean flavors into traditional items like fries or cornbread.
If you are ever visiting Pasadena, or maybe you live in Pasadena and have not tried some of these restaurants or activities, I hope this list is helpful. I am sure there are lots of other “Best of Pasadena” places that I did not get a chance to discover during this past year. Please share your favorites with me if you have a recommendation! I am sure I will visit Pasadena again in the future and would love to try them!