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Old Pasadena, Calif.

Pasadena's 22-square-block historic district hums with shoppers and diners.

Old Focals Vintage Eyewear in Pasadena, California
Photo caption
Old Focals offers 2,000 pairs of never-used vintage eyeglasses from the 1950s and 60s.

Nine miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, Old Pasadena hums with strolling weekend shoppers and diners. On January 1 each year, a million spectators flock to Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade, which rolls through this 22-square-block historic district. Area code is 626 except as noted.

  • A multidomed Spanish-Moorish fantasy, the 1893 Castle Green is a reminder of Pasadena's origins as a winter watering hole for wealthy Easterners. The former hotel is a highlight of a self-guided architectural tour (800-307-7977, and of guided walks from Pasadena Heritage (441-6333,
  • Take in a vibrant van Gogh landscape or a solemn Rodin sculpture at the Norton Simon Museum, three blocks west of the district. Along with European works from the Renaissance to the 20th century, you'll find South and Southeast Asian sculptures—from majestic stone Buddhas to gilded Himalayan deities—and a garden with a lily pond worthy of Monet. 449-6840,
  • For a bite of history, stop into La Grande Orange Café, housed in a newly renovated 1935 Santa Fe depot. The menu is eclectic—burgers, fish tacos, deviled eggs—and in cool weather, heat lamps keep the patio toasty. 356-4444,
  • The selection at Old Focals Vintage Eyewear—pointy, round, or square; tortoise, black, or ruby red—is a kicky time capsule of eyewear fashion. On display: the Tart Arnel frames favored by Johnny Depp. 793-7073.
  • Tucked in an upstairs space with moody lighting and a flickering fireplace, Vertical Wine Bistro offers more than 50 wines by the glass or in tasting flights. Pair your pour with small-plate fare such as duck confit with chanterelles, or dates stuffed with serrano ham, Gorgonzola, and pickled jalapeños. 795-3999,
  • At Distant Lands, one of Southern California's largest sellers of travel books and gear, a quick browse feels like a trip around the world. Need a 1:800,000 scale map of Nepal? You'll find it. Ditto a superlight Osprey roll-aboard travel bag and an insect-repelling shirt. 449-3220,

Photography by Nick Onken

This article was first published in November 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.