But there are exceptions.
Old Town Pasadena is today what Westwood Village was a decade ago: a premier pedestrian neighborhood, where car-weary Los Angelenos can actually stroll, window-shop, dine, and mingle with crowds in a relaxed outdoor, urban setting.
Unlike the Universal CityWalk or The Grove, Old Pasadena isn't a faux street built a few years ago. This neighborhood is authentic; it dates back to the 1870's, and was the city's main downtown shopping district before it fell into disrepair. Indeed, the entire district is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Where Old Town's streets were once forlorn and dingy, the sidewalks are now packed with happy crowds looking for a good time. The neighborhood pulls in 15,000 to 20,000 strollers on weekend evenings.
Most of the historic brick buildings in the area were preserved; their exteriors were shined up, the interiors often gutted and restored for modern use, and most of the former tenants were replaced with upscale vendors. Even the old alleyways have been scrubbed up and put to use.
Old Pasadena has become a popular, fun-spot filled with restaurants, movies, sidewalk cafés and popular boutiques. And among the crowds are a sprinkling of celebs. The O.C.'s. Misha Barton was spotted dining at Mi Piace - pronounced "me pe-AW-chay"), at 25 E. Colorado Blvd. Several years ago, the late r Beatle George Harrison and sitar master Ravi Shankar were seen dining together at the same spot. (Some say it has the best food in Old Pasadena.)
Old Pasadena is centered around a four-block stretch of Colorado Blvd. (the same street made famous by the annual Tournament of Roses Parade), between Pasadena Avenue on the west and the Arroyo Parkway on the east. In between, you'll find three (north-south) cross-streets: DeLacey Avenue, Fair Oaks Avenue and Raymond Avenue. Old Pasadena stretches a block south past Colorado to Green Street, and north two blocks, to Holly Street. Plus Miller Alley, a short street between Colorado and Green. (Some would argue that the boundary actually runs east to Marengo, where the enclosed Plaza Pasadena mall begins.)
In between, you'll find a collection of book stores, antique stores, art galleries, restaurants, bars, night clubs, billiard rooms, movie theatres and over 70 restaurants, many offering live entertainment after dark, as well as secluded walkways and charming plazas.
On the north side of Colorado Blvd, between DeLacey and Fair Oaks, you'll find "One Colorado Boulevard" an block-sized entertainment center built by the same people who gave us the charming Two Rodeo in Beverly Hills. It features numerous shops (including many national retailers), a multiplex, and many restaurants to choose from, all in a turn-of-the-century plaza featuring unique sculpture and outdoor dining.
The more expensive restaurants of Old Pasadena include: Xiomara (69 North Raymond Avenue), Rhapsody at the Green, and the restaurant Kevin Costner started, Twin Palms (101 West Green Street.)
For less expensive fare, you can try the Crocodile Cafe (88 West Colorado Blvd.), Ruby's Diner (45 South Fair Oaks Avenue), Il Fornaio (24 West Union Street), Market City Caffe (33 South Fair Oaks Avenue), Soda Jerks (219 South Fair Oaks Avenue), Johnny Rockets (1 Colorado Plaza), Tommy Tang's (24 West Colorado Blvd.), or the charming Old Town Bakery (situated in a garden courtyard, at 166 West Colorado Blvd.) among many.
For entertainment, there are clubs and theaters, and various spots around Old Town offers billiards, dancing, Dixieland jazz, string quartets, and even Flamenco (Friday nights at La Luna Negro.) And that's not to mention the street performers.
You can catch a movie at the AMC Old Pasadena 8 Theaters (42 Miller Alley), or at the UA Marketplace (64 W. Colorado Blvd.)
Located at the southeast corner of Colorado Blvd. and Pasadena Avenue, you'll find Tanner Market and the adjacent Cellophane Building. Tanner Market is almost hidden from view from the street, but step inside the gates and you'll find a wonderful brick courtyard filled with flowers, fountains, wrought iron. It houses a host of patio restaurants and cute shops, including the Ritz Grill, Pappagallo, and Old Town Bakery. Many people consider Old Town Bakery to be the best bakery in L.A./Orange, and while I don't agree, the place offers a wonderful, sweet-smelling collection of cookies, pastries and fat loaves of hot, fresh-baked bread, as well as waiter service on the sunny patio.
Every March, there's an annual St. Patrick's Day Parade & Festival - and it's free. Usually held on a Sunday near the holiday. The Parade starts at DeLacy & Green Street, goes to Raymond and ends at Raymond and Del Mar. The Festival follows at Central Park (just south of Colorado Blvd., between Fair Oaks & Raymond, near the Hotel Green.)
Each Summer, they hold "Summer Fest," also in Pasadena's Central Park. It features concerts by live jazz bands, a Summer Art Fest a kiddie area, plus a Taste of Pasadena food area featuring many local restaurants (including Mi Place, Robin's, Clearwater Cafe, Market City Caffe, La Salsa, etc.). Admission is free. (818) 797-6803.
Parking: Parking can be difficult. There is several city parking structures. The one on south DeLacey (near Twin Palms) offers the first 90 minutes free. Other parking lots include one at the northwest corner of Fair Oaks and Green Street, and three more on Union Street (two of them bordering One Colorado).
Getting there: from downtown Los Angeles, take the Pasadena (110) Freeway northeast (about seven miles) to where in become the Arroyo Parkway. Go north on Arroyo (about two miles) to Colorado Blvd, and turn left (west). The next four blocks (on both sides of Colorado and the surrounding streets) are the heart of Old Pasadena.
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