If you ever get the chance to visit the old city of Pasadena – just a 30 minute drive out of Los Angeles, I urge you to go. The main attraction for me is the magnificent Huntington Gardens, which contains over 14,000 plants in over a dozen different gardens. This is an absolute treat for a nature lover and there’s something to enjoy whatever time of year you visit. My mother-in-law loves to go in June when the roses are sublime, my daughter loves to visit the Japanese Gardens to see the enormous lilies and Koi fish whenever, and I love to just sit under an enormous shady tree and breathe in my surroundings.The Huntington Botanical Gardens were founded by Henry E Huntington in 1919. He was a successful businessman with a great interest in art, culture and gardens. The gardens now boast a library, which contains some of the rarest books and manuscripts in the world. There is also an art collection, research/education center and a glorious tea house. Last year the Huntington opened “The Ranch,” which is an brilliant outdoor classroom that teaches sustainable urban agriculture. I recommend visiting the gardens for tea one day, and giving yourself plenty of time to visit any art exhibits that might be going on, as well as walking around the entire grounds.
My husband took me to Huntington when I was very pregnant (2 weeks past my due date,) -it was my birthday and we sat on a bench under a tree so I could open my gift from him. I remember just sitting there with tears streaming down my face – the incredible emotions of being in such a beautiful spot, with a seriously romantic husband, and a baby about to be born (she was born 4 days later.)
So back to Pasadena: I love Pasadena’s old town, which has been revitalized with tons fun & interesting one-off boutiques. I love Lula Mae, a little treasure trove of adorable trinkets for your home, your baby or your friends. Gold Bug is another wonderful store in the old town, especially for window shopping fabulous jewelry!
If you’re up for a few days away for a special treat, you might want to check out the newly renovated Langham Hotel and Spa. The original luxurious hotel was built in 1865 and the new renovation honors the old. It it set on 23 lush acres, and has one of the finest spas in California. Even if you’re not up for staying in the hotel, a visit to the exquisite new Chuan Body & Soul Spa is a must. If you are new to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Chuan spa will introduce you to the basic concepts during your treatment. You fill out a questionnaire to find out which treatment will benefit you the most (fire, earth, etc,) and then you will dissolve into a warm massage bed, where the therapist will use the specific healing oils that are needed. Where many hotel spas tend to offer a cookie cutter kind of experience, I love the Chuan’s unique approach, which goes a little bit further than your basic deep tissue massage. If I’m spending my hard-earned money on this kind of luxury, I want an entire experience that I’ll remember.
There are a number of incredibly good restaurants in Pasadena. I’m particularly loving the Green Earth Vegan Cuisine. It’s not the most romantic ambiance, but really great vegan food. You would never know the cheese in their excellent lasagna is not real cheese.
Finally, the crowning glory of the Pasadena experience is to visit the Rose Bowl Flea Market. It’s on the 2nd Sunday of every month and it’s well worth planning your trip around a visit there. It’s massive and so much fun to get up early and spend the morning browsing through vintage stalls overflowing with just about everything you can think of.
So if you’re planning a visit out West, don’t forget to factor in a day or too for Pasadena.