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One of L.A’s best-kept secrets is the quaint town of Pasadena. Famous for its annual Rose Parade the city is exceptionally family- friendly with top-notch museums, exquisite gardens, and ethnic restaurants. Here are the top places to stay, dine and explore when visiting Pasadena with kids.
Pasadena is L.A. County’s ninth largest city and home to world-famous landmarks, including the Rose Bowl and Jet Propulsion Laboratory From cultural and historical locations to innovative food venues, the town offers visitors many great options to explore. Whether planning to attend this year’s Rose Parade or just ready to discover a new Los Angeles gem, here are the best family-friendly spots in Pasadena.
Where to Stay in Pasadena with Kids
The Langham Huntington Pasadena
If you are looking for a posh place to stay, the Langham Huntington is a great option. We overnighted for a staycation and enjoyed every minute. This property is near various attractions, including Old town Pasadena, the Huntington Library and the Rose Bowl Stadium. Also, it is close to LAX and Burbank Airport.
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The Langham Huntington boasts twice daily housekeeping. Guests can enjoy the Chuan Spa with Traditional Chinese Medicine-inspired treatments as well as a fitness center and outdoor heated pool.
Dining options include the Royce Wood-Fired Steakhouse as well as The Terrace for bistro style food. If staying at the hotel over a weekend, make sure to book their lavish afternoon high tea.
Pricing starts at $270 a night. Guests can also book in advance on the hotel’s website to save fifteen percent. Overnight valet parking is available for twenty-nine dollars per night.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Our son got a kick out of attending the exclusive bell ceremony in the garden held nightly at 7 PM.
The Sheraton Pasadena
Located at 303 Cordova Street and within walking distance of Old Town Pasadena, the Sheraton Pasadena is a more budget-friendly option for families.
The property features a newly renovated complimentary wi-fi system as well as a free shuttle service to nearby landmarks. The hotel offers a 24-hour fitness center and outdoor heated pool.
Dining options include Restaurant Soleil featuring Mediterranean cuisine as well as Charlie’s Bar offering appetizers and continental cuisine in the evenings.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
Since the Sheraton Pasadena is an SPG Property, guests can stay on SPG or Marriott accrued loyalty points. Pricing starts at $260 per night, and there are AAA discounts. Self and valet parking is $18-22 per day, respectively.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Some rooms at the Sheraton Pasadena feature private balconies. Parents who might be concerned about this should avoid booking rooms with balconies.
Where to Dine in Pasadena with Kids
Zankou Chicken offers traditional Mediterranean food in a casual fast food setting.The chain has locations in the L.A area including Pasadena. The restaurant’s menu includes tri-tip shawarma, falafel, kabobs, and rotisserie chicken. Visitors absolutely must try the unique and delicious garlic sauce, our family favorite.
This venue can be hard to park at as it only has a small back parking lot along with some nearby street parking. Zankou chicken keeps extended hours, from 10 AM to 11 PM daily.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: If you order your food to go, ask for the salads to be put in small containers. This way the salads won’t drip. Also, be sure to ask for extra napkins since the food is delicious but messy.
Su Beoreg & Monta Factory
Su Beoreg & Monta Factory located on 1531 E Washington Blvd offers Middle Eastern and Armenian cuisine. We love to watch as cooks create their dishes. Menu favorites include Sini Monti, Tomato Soup, and large plates of Monta. The best part is that they also sell frozen Monta for guests to take home!
The restaurant does not have indoor seating, but the staff is accommodating. The venue opens at 10 AM from Monday to Sunday with a two-hour pause in the afternoon.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Since opening hours vary, it is best to call the restaurant ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Pencil on 12 Harkness Ave is a quaint family-owned sandwich shop and juice bar. This cafe offers various drinks and smoothies along with delicious freshly -made sandwiches.
If you are there for breakfast, make sure to get the avocado toast. Our son always orders it. Also, the venue offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan items. Hours are 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday.
TravelingMom Autism Tip:: Be sure to check out the art on the walls, a tribute to a young son who passed away.We found it very moving.
What to See in Pasadena with Kids
Old Town Pasadena
Old Town Pasadena is an excellent place to visit for a downtown outing.The main thoroughfare is Colorado Boulevard which constitutes most of the Rose Parade route. We love to visit the Neon Retro Arcade or shop for artisan souvenirs.
The area around Colorado Boulevard features many ethnic restaurants, including Argentinan, German, Indian, Mexican, and Japanese. There are several vegan options including Green Earth Vegan Cuisine as well as various bakeries and gelato places. Visitors can also enjoy the Farmer’s Market every Sunday from 9 AM to 2 PM.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: If you want to beat the crowds then head onto the Boulevard in the early afternoon.This way you can enjoy items on the ‘happy hour’ menu and find seats without waiting.
The Norton Simon Museum
For any art lover, Norton Simon on 11 W. Colorado Blvd is the place to visit. Since this venue is particularly family friendly it has a unique audio guide for kids and docent lead special tours. Most of all, this museum is famous for its collection of European Masterworks from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Our sons always come back for their Degas and Rembrandt paintings. But its other exhibits are impressive too.
The Norton Simon is open from Noon to 5:00 PM Mon-Thus, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm Friday and Saturday and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm Sunday. Admission is $12 for adults with discounts for seniors. Access is free for students, museum members, and anyone 18 and younger.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Most noteworthy is the Sculpture Garden, a beautiful outdoor area. It features artistic sculptures and is perfect for antsy kids to run around. Our son nicknamed it ‘Monet’s Garden’ because of the waterlilies.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena is home to the world-famous NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at 4800 Oak Grove Drive. While the laboratory offers free public tours they do need to be reserved in advance. On the tours, guests can see the von Karman Visitor Center, Space Flight Operations Facility, and Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
The Visitor Day Tour accommodates up to ten people, at a time. It runs once a week on Mondays or Wednesdays.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Tours run for two to two and a half hours with a lot of walking and stairs to climb. Hence, guests need to wear comfortable shoes.Finally, the tour can accommodate persons with disabilities if the Lab is notified in advance.
The Kidspace Museum on 480 North Arroyo Blvd is an interactive museum designed for children ten and younger. The museum features several exhibits meant to stimulate artistic and scientific exploration in kids. Moreover, once a month the venue hosts a Free Family Night. During the event, the museum teaches visitors about different cultures from around the world.
The Kidspace Museum is open on Mondays from March 13 – September 4, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is $13 for adults and children. Admission is free for infants, Kidspace members, and ASTC Passport holders. Discounts are available for EBT card holders, military, and AAA members.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Pack an extra set of clothes, water shoes, and a towel if your kid wants to play in the water and mud exhibit. Kids and adults need to wear socks indoors at all times.
The Huntington Library and gardens, on 1151 Oxford Road San Marino, was founded in the early 1900s by Henry Huntington. The library started as a research center with an art collection and botanical gardens.
The library itself features rare books and manuscripts from British and American history. The art section of the Huntington Library boasts three separate galleries and features 18th and 19th century British and French art. The onsite Botanical Gardens covers 120 acres with specialized sections, including the Herb Garden.
The library is open all days of the week excluding Tuesdays from 10 AM to 5 PM. Weekday admission is $23 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students, and children. Access is free for children under four as well as members.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: The Huntington Library offers wheelchairs as well as a color-coded map of areas of the museum that those with physical disabilities might want to avoid. Also, the library provides a Special Assistance Vehicle that makes stops every half hour at various locations.
As a final relaxing stop, one should visit the Descanso Gardens on 1418 Descanso Drive La Cañada Flintridge. The gardens feature California native plants as well as a rose garden. Furthermore, during the holiday season, the gardens host the Enchanted Forest of Light event. This nighttime experience includes light displays throughout the gardens.
The Descanso Gardens are open daily except on December 25 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is nine dollars, with discounts for seniors, students, and older children. Children younger than five get in for free.
TravelingMom Autism Tip: Not to be missed is the Enchanted Railroad, a train through the gardens that runs Tuesdays and Fridays ten to noon and ten AM to four PM on the weekends. Parents should arrive early to avoid crowds on weekends.