Visitor's Guide to Pasadena, CA

Pasadena City Hall
Pasadena City Hall. Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

Pasadena is the queen of the San Gabriel Valley, sitting at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains next to a dry riverbed known as the Arroyo Seco. Some Angelenos think of the city as just another LA suburb. It's closer to Downtown Los Angeles than most of LA's actual suburbs and neighborhoods. But Pasadena is a city in its own right. In 1886 it became the second incorporated city in Southern California after Los Angeles.

It is the 6th largest city in Los Angeles County with the 2005 population estimated to be around 145,000. Its valley location keeps the city about 20 degrees warmer than beach communities during summer months.

The name Pasadena means "in the valley" in the Minnesota Chippewa language. Why use the Minnesota Chippewa language and not the local Tongva Indian language? Well, somebody knew somebody.

Pasadena is an upscale community with a thriving arts, cultural and entertainment scene and lots of great places to eat and shop centered around Old Town Pasadena and extending into the Theatre District.

Pasadena is best known for the Tournament of Roses, which includes the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game that take place every New Year's Day.

Getting to Pasadena by Air

The Bob Hope Burbank Airport is the most convenient airport for traveling to Pasadena. Ontario is a little farther away than LAX but since it's a smaller airport, it's easier to navigate and quicker to get through.

It's also a much easier drive than LAX, unless you're flying in the middle of the night and traffic isn't an issue. Learn more about flying to the LA area.

Driving

Main travel routes into Pasadena are the 110 Harbor Freeway, which ends in Pasadena and becomes Arroyo Parkway heading north into town and the 134/210 Freeway which merge and become the 210 crossing the northern part of Pasadena west to east.

Beware: The 710 freeway, known as the Pasadena Freeway, does NOT go to Pasadena although it heads from Long Beach north in that general direction. They've never been able to acquire the neighborhoods they'd have to bulldoze to complete the freeway to Pasadena. So if you take the Pasadena Freeway to the northernmost point, you still have quite a few miles to go on surface streets through Alhambra and South Pasadena before getting to Pasadena. The signs say Pasadena, but don't believe them. From the 710, the 5 north will take you over to the 110 and into town.

By Train or Long Distance Bus

Pasadena does not have an Amtrak Station, but Amtrak buses from some destinations stop at the Pasadena Hilton Hotel at 150 S. Los Robles Ave. There is a Greyhound Bus Terminal at 645 E. Walnut Street.

Taking Public Transportation to Pasadena

The Metro Gold Line starts at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles and travels to the far edge of Pasadena at Sierra Madre with six stops in Pasadena. Bus service is provided by the MTA and the Foothill Transit Authority. There is also an Arts Bus that shuttles people between various arts and shopping destinations in Pasadena for $.50. More on riding the MTA Metro.