Located about 10 miles northeast of Downtown L.A., the city of Pasadena has long been a charming, pleasantly slower-paced enclave, filled with walkable neighborhoods and historic turn-of-the-century brick buildings shaded by old-growth fig trees and eucalyptus.
Here, we highlight five must-do activities to enjoy this summer in Pasadena, from high-energy sporting events and scenic hikes to selfie-friendly backlot tours.
HIKE SAN GORGONIO MOUNTAIN
Clocking in at 11,503 feet, San Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California, and widely considered a bucket list item (and fodder for endless bragging rites) for vista-seeking adventurers. Most direct and scenic—hello, waterfalls and wildflowers—the 8.5-mile Vivian Creek trail is the most popular way up to “Old Grayback’s” peak. Be warned, it’s a grueling trek that includes switchbacks, rocky terrain and one vertical mile of elevation climb. Translation: There are sections that are rather steep, and may not be suitable for amateur hikers. But for those who can prepare properly and push through, the 360-degree views at the summit are spectacular, and well worth the sweat.
NORTON SIMON MUSEUM
First founded in 1922—and previously known as the Pasadena Art Museum—the Norton Simon Museum maintains a comprehensive collection of pieces by a range of artists, from Raphael and Fragonard to Marcel DuChamp, Matisse and Warhol, plus pieces of South and Southeast Asian art spanning more than 2,000 years. Industrialist and entrepreneur Norton Simon took over the museum in 1975 and oversaw its subsequent growth, forging partnerships with institutions like The Met and the National Gallery of Art to host some of SoCal’s most compelling exhibits. After perusing the artwork inside the 51,000-square-foot gallery, make sure to stroll through the garden, which boasts a picturesque, water lily-filled pond, lemon-scented gum trees, Spanish bluebells and (of course) incredible sculptures at nearly every turn.
ROSEBOWL FLEA MARKET
Held every Sunday from 9am to 3pm (serious bargain-hunters can buy tickets to get early access at dawn), the Rosebowl Flea Market features over 2,500 vendors and attracts 20,000 buyers every month. A Pasadena tradition for 50 years, the outdoor market is a treasure trove of antiques, home decor, apparel and artwork. As you browse the stalls—where neon signs sit alongside silver tea sets, and surfboards sidle up next to cruiser bicycles—nosh on tacos, tri tip sandwiches and Louisiana hot links and stay cool with frozen lemonade or a refreshing cocktail. Bring along a sun-shielding hat to beat the summer heat and some canvas bags for your purchases—and try to stick around until closing, when vendors might be more open to negotiating their prices.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS BACKLOT TOUR
While taking a trolley ride through the serene four-acre backlot of a 104-year-old Hollywood studio might sound restful, don’t be fooled—the one-hour Universal Studios tour will get pulses pounding with stunning demos of special effects and surprising appearances from some of Universal’s most famous villains (think larger-than-life gorillas and a bloodthirsty shark). A must-see for cinephiles of all ages, the tour includes encounters with sets from War of the Worlds, Jaws and Psycho, among many others.
WARNER BROTHERS LOT TOUR
Be sure to set aside some time to take in the Warner Brothers Lot Tour. At minimum a two-hour experience, this tour of the 110-acre backlot (which is also home to 30 soundstages) is initially led by an expert guide, who takes guests through sets of classic films and TV shows like Casablanca and Friends—grab an espresso at a working replica of Central Perk Cafe before exploring the Bat Cave’s vintage cars, like the Bathammer and Tumbler. Fans of Harry Potter or the DC Universe can get a first-hand look at costumes and props from films like Aquaman and Wonder Woman at the backlot’s interactive exhibits.