Pasadena is peaceful city located just 10 miles northeast of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. The name "Pasadena" comes from the Chippewa word meaning "crown of the valley," describing the area at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The flight from Chicago is a breeze and upon arrival The Westin Pasadena offers a luxurious property for relaxation. The top notch staff will even shuttle guests to surrounding destinations. The rooftop jacuzzi, pool and exercise room all add to the experience overlooking the city.
Hungry from breakfast? Start off with Lincoln, at 1992 Lincoln Ave. The buttermilk pancakes are a good choice and the egg breakfast sandwich should satisfy the early riser. Be prepared for long lines as the cashiers take their time with each guest and appear to be in no rush.
Another breakfast place with an even more expansive menu is Central Park Restaurant, located inside a 100-year-old flower warehouse. Say "buenos dias" to huevos rancheros, breakfast quesadillas and the big breakfast burritos containing a choice of meat, scrambled eggs, sour cream and avocado.
Hungover or had a late night? The Raymond is dark, cozy, and secluded all in one casual setting. Create an omelette or devour a griddle cake presented by Chef Tim Guiltinan.
Walk off the calories by shopping in Old Pasadena with some of the chain retail stores that surround the area. Definitely stop by Crossroads Trading Co., a vintage clothing store where customers can both buy and sell items.
While a bit overwhelming, the Rose Bowl Flea Market hosts more than 400 vendors and up to 20,000 bargain hunters each month digging through 2,500 booths. Bring your own water and plan on walking while rummaging through the merchandise.
Just wandering around to see Victoria-era bricked buildings and beautiful architecture could keep one busy all day. Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra are among the architects who have contributed works in Pasadena. The city is divided with the Civil Center District landing between Old Pasadena and the Playhouse District.
For lunch places, try La Grande Orange Cafe set in a Santa Fe Railway depot. The deviled eggs were heavenly and the short rib tacos were messy but worth the work.
The Parkway Grill is a more upscale lunch experience with options such as the roasted Mary's chicken or the whole ginger fried catfish that is simply a showstopper. Check out the wood-fired oven to the place that is often described as "the Spago of Pasadena."
Say "aloha" to the new Crackin' Kitchen with a mix of Hawaiian and cajun seafood. Who knew clam chowder would pair nicely with french fries? Just by tasting the cuisine, you will know a Michelin Star chef created it. Chef Takeshi Omae knows what he's doing and it shows.
Before dinner explore some of the massive museums Pasadena has to offer. The Norton Simon Museum features seven centuries of European art including classic masterpieces from Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh, among others. Explore the garden outside with beautiful sculptures and a reflecting pool that should relax your spirit.
Put on your walking shoes before hitting the trails at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens and give yourself plenty of time to take in the scenery.
Swing by the Gamble House, or the Heritage Square Museum before sampling more delicious cuisine.
For dinner head to the heart of Old Town Pasadena in the historic One Colorado Courtyard area and find Prawn Coastal Casual by Mark Peel. The employees are welcoming and the clam chowder is served piping hot. Custom order a grain bowl with quinoa and mix in veggies with choice of protein for an unforgettable healthy option.
The small but mighty Maestro Restaurant serves modern Mexican food by Chef Elena Vega. The chicken enchiladas were filling, the grass fed arrachera had just the right marinade, and the mezcal campfire cocktail washed everything down.
Also try The Arbour who uses regional ingredients to pull off dishes like a duck breast that really smokes. Husband and wife team, Ian and Nancy Gresik earn points for creative experiences such as the spicy beef chili that's served with an edible beef fat candle.
For entertainment the Rose Bowl Stadium hosts not only sports, but outdoor concerts such as Ed Sheehan on Aug. 18 and Beyonce on Sept. 22 and 23 in 2018. A 10-year agreement was just signed with the LA Galaxy for future soccer games.
For late night options there is only one gay bar in Pasadena with The Boulevard smartly named after the address at 3199 East Foothill Blvd. Karaoke is very popular there after patrons have summoned up some liquid courage. Drag shows, a pool table, and people watching are all part of the fun in this local haunt.
While some may think of Pasadena as just a suburb of Los Angeles, it really deserves so much more credit as a perfect travel destination. The people are welcoming, there's lot to see and do, plus the weather alone will give Chicagoans a nice change of pace. VisitPasadena.com for more tips on festivals, hotels and nightlife to explore in this part of the West Coast.