First published on Nov. 27, 2011. Revised and expanded in early 2012.
It's 1922, and nothing much is up in Pasadena. Not among the orange groves, not along the leafy streets. Just as the little old ladies like it.
But wait. Down in the Arroyo Seco, a crew has just started erecting some kind of stadium. On Pepper Street, Mallie Robinson's 3-year-old son may already be showing signs of amazing athleticism. Over at Polytechnic School, a tall 10-year-old named Julia McWilliams is developing the taste and aplomb that will make her America's best-known chef.
That's right, the Rose Bowl, Jackie Robinson and Julia Child came up in supposedly sleepy Pasadena around the same time, and 90 years later, they make a useful reminder: This western edge of the San Gabriel Valley and the area near it can fool you. Beyond the stillness at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, behind all those handsome old Craftsman facades, there's no telling what the restless minds and bodies of this valley will come up with next. Earthquake measures. Exploding dumplings. Here are 11 micro-itineraries for Pasadena and neighboring areas.
1. Greene and greenery
The Gamble House (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
To see why the Arroyo Seco is so central to the Pasadena state of mind, join the early-morning dog-walkers for some vigorous striding along South Arroyo Boulevard near Arbor Street, where grand old trees tower above grand old houses. On your way in and out, look at the stylish old U.S. courthouse (Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena) and imagine when it was the Vista del Arroyo Hotel or, before that, Emma Bangs' boardinghouse.
You won't be able to miss the 1912-13 Colorado Street Bridge, better known among locals as "Suicide Bridge" for reasons you can imagine.
Now, for a closer look at Craftsman style -- woodsy buildings, art glass, plenty of tile and bricks but no Victorian fussiness -- step into the iconic Gamble House (4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena; www.gamblehouse.org), designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908. It opens for tours Thursday through Sunday and has a great bookshop in the garage. On Tuesdays, two shortened 20-minute lunchtime tours are offered. From nearby sidewalks, you can also see the 1901 Charles Sumner Greene House (368 Arroyo Terrace); the 1906 Cole House (2 Westmoreland Place); the 1909 Hindry House (781 Prospect Blvd.) and Frank Lloyd Wright's 1923 La Miniatura, which looks like a Mayan jungle temple (645 Prospect Crescent).
2. Simon & Co.
Norton Simon Museum (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
For a lot of top-notch art in a small place, you can't beat the Norton Simon Museum (411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; www.nortonsimon.org). It begins out front with "The Burghers of Calais," Rodin's 1884 bronze celebration of heroic and doomed politicians. It continues inside with a murderers' row of European and Asian artists, including Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Rafael. Then there's the handsome garden and pond in back. (Closed Tuesdays.)
For a salad, sandwich or dessert, zip west across the Colorado Street Bridge to Little Flower Candy Co. (1424 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; www.littleflowercandyco.com).
Feeling renewed? Head about a mile east to the Pacific Asia Museum (46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena; www.pacificasiamuseum.org) or the Pasadena Museum of California Art (490 E. Union St., Pasadena; www.pmcaonline.org), which stand around the corner from each other. Both are open Wednesdays- Sundays.
3. The Parade
123rd Tournament of Roses Parade (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
In late December, you can expect scaffolding to go up along Colorado Boulevard – reviewing stands for the Rose Parade, which lays siege to Pasadena every Jan. 1 (or Jan. 2, if Jan. 1 falls on Sunday, as it did in 2012). For details on the opportunities and complications that come with it, from float-viewing to road closures, check www.tournamentofroses.com.
And for a more intimate view of the institution, there’s the Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens (a.k.a. the Wrigley Mansion, 391 S. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena). The rose garden is open to the public (except Dec. 31-Jan. 2), and free interior tours are offered at 2 and 3 p.m. Thursdays from February through August.