With Los Angeles a household name around the world and a little neighborhood called Hollywood vying with the city for influence where name recognition is concerned, it can be easy to forget about the historic Southern California communities that were founded independent of the nation’s second-largest city and entertainment capital.
One such place is Old Pasadena, the commercial center of one of Southern California’s most desirable living communities. Here’s a little bit about the history and attractions that made this community special enough for the Beach Boys to popularize a Jan and Dean song about a “little old lady” who hailed from there.
History of Pasadena
Pasadena, Calif. was first incorporated as a village in 1875, primarily so farmers in the surrounding area could have easier access to the national postal system. Its founders had no intention of creating a major commercial center in the midst of their farmland, but that is exactly what happened. By 1883, two hotels, two general stores, two hardware stores, a drug store, and retail and service centers that catered to all other primary needs of the time had emerged in the area we refer to today as Old Pasadena.
In 1890, the first Tournament of Roses was held. Proud residents organized the event to showcase the beauty of their “crown of the valley,” the English translation of the Chippewa word “Pasadena.” The name “Tournament of Roses” came after the event, which featured an abundance of roses simply because they bloom in the San Gabriel Valley all through the winter. Today, hundreds of millions of people from more than 80 countries tune in to watch the celebrated New Year’s parade.
To learn more about the Pasadena of the past, you can visit the Pasadena Museum of History. For now, let’s turn our attention to modern-day Old Pasadena. Which, to be fair, is inextricably linked to Pasadena’s history.
Old Pasadena Today
A mix of Victorian, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Art Deco architecture gives shape to the historic center of Old Pasadena. This architectural medley reflects the periods of time during which the most significant building developments took place. The massive, ornately designed Pasadena City Hall is still the centerpiece and dominant structure of the community’s cityscape. Arranged neatly throughout the 22-block area are some 200 boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and bars.
The area is idyllic enough to draw thousands of visitors from Southern California and beyond each weekend, many of whom come simply to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere. In addition to shopping and enjoying the generally beautiful weather outdoors, you can sample food from some of the area’s best restaurants on an organized food tour. Guides offer fascinating tidbits about the community’s architectural highlights and historic folklore.
Around Old Pasadena
If a walk around Old Pasadena can only keep your interest for a few hours and you have an entire day in the area, consider hiking up Echo Mountain or on one of the many trails in the Eaton Canyon Nature Preserve. If you’re after tasty ethnic food and in-country culture shock, visit one of the Chinese-dominated settlements in Alhambra, San Gabriel, or Monterey Park, Calif. The nearby communities of Glendale, Calif., home to AMLI Lex on Orange, and Burbank, Calif. also have plenty to offer.
Southern California apartment residents and out-of-town visitors tend to be impressed by Old Pasadena’s beautiful architecture, navigable layout, and breadth and quality of entertainment offerings. If you haven’t visited for a while or you have never explored all the community has to offer, venture out to the crown of the valley.
Have you been to Old Pasadena? What are some of your favorite places to eat, shop, and pass time?
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