(Pictured above: Pasadena photo courtesy Visit Pasadena)
It all started with a desire to escape winter — and a dream of being citrus farmers.
After a particularly miserable winter, Julia Long, the founder of Pasadena Walking Tours, explained that Pasadena as we know it today was founded by a group of people from Indiana who searched high and low for the perfect destination to produce lemons, oranges and grapefruits.
“They called themselves the Indiana Colony,” Long said walking through the city in Southern California. “The winter of 1872–73 was apparently pretty horrible so they decided that there just had to be a better way of life than dealing with winter.”
Eventually changing its name to Pasadena to represent a Chippewa word meaning “crown of the valley,” early postcards from the region depicted sunny citrus groves set against the backdrop of mountains along with the headline ‘Pasadena in winter.’
“The idea was that you were sending this back to home and saying this is our winter,” she said. “And that’s how the Rose Parade got started. It was very much an ‘aren’t you jealous’ kind of thing because this is Jan. 1 in Pasadena.”
From its agricultural past to tracing the rise of the renowned New Year’s Day celebrations, Pasadena is packed with history, architecture, art, science, shopping, entertainment and dining for clients to discover.
Located less than 20 km from downtown, the charming destination can easily be combined with a trip to Los Angeles or packaged as an alternate hidden gem to explore for clients looking for somewhere new to go beyond Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica.
There’s something about Pasadena
While Pasadena gained more recent international recognition from the TV show The Big Bang Theory, which is set in the city, it’s been on the map for centuries drawing in big names like Ansel Adams and Charlie Chaplin to Albert Einstein alike over the years. (For fans of the show, there’s an alleyway named after the series in Old Pasadena.)
A defining characteristic of Pasadena is its impressive architecture, following the City Beautiful Movement, a reform philosophy of North American architecture and urban planning which focused on expansive view points with monumental grandeur.
“It’s a movement that’s associated with overcrowding in cities and fighting against that,” said Long. “The idea is that you have wide boulevards, you have a lot of trees, a lot of plants, and you have monumental architecture. The idea is that the architecture is supposed to inspire you to do amazing things and then you’re also surrounded by nature as well as man-made beautiful structures.”
Pasadena Civic Center district is considered one of the best examples of the City Beautiful Movement and Pasadena City Hall, completed in 1927, is the centrepiece. The impressive building was designed by John Bakewell and Arthur Brown who were influenced by the early Renaissance style of 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio.
“Pasadena by the turn of the century around 1900 the late 1890s was a very wealthy city and it was a city that wanted to be seen as prosperous. They decided to plan this Civic Center and it was meant to be impressive, it was meant to be beautiful,” she said. “In the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s Pasadena had the highest per capita income than anywhere in the country. We’re a very wealthy city and we want to reflect that.”
Where old meets new
Today Pasadena’s storied past is met with hip neighbourhoods to discover like Old Pasadena and The Playhouse District filled with galleries, shops, gardens, independent businesses and a thriving food scene with over 650 restaurants.
“The Playhouse District has lots of great restaurants, coffee shops, bars, a movie theatre, a fantastic old bookstore and The Pasadena Playhouse, which is the namesake,” she said. “The original business district, Old Pasadena, is now [filled with] shopping, dining, all kinds of things.”
From museums to vibrant murals and one-of-a-kind street art, Pasadena also continues the tradition of being at the forefront of the art scene.
“One of my favourite things about Pasadena is not only were they wanting to build impressive structures and show off wealth, it’s also a city that has always been devoted to the arts, to culture, and the sciences,” Long said. “We’ve always had people who were interested in studying, in discussions.”
And just like its original settlers from Indiana, Pasadena provides a refuge for travellers seeking an escape from the cold winter with year-round warm climate surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains.