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Best Kids & Family Activities in South Pasadena

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Although South Pasadena is just 3.5 miles of area, but it packs a strong punch. South Pasadena’s city mission is to stay small, making plenty of room for mom-and-pop shops and creating the perfect family environment. There is a strong sense of community in the area, and kids are the center of that community. The South Pasadena neighborhoods are charming, and parents have plenty of opportunities to keep their children engaged. Here are some of the best kids and family activities in South Pasadena:

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Amy’s Playground

Amy’s Indoor Playground is the perfect place to take your little ones. The business was founded and continues to operate by Amy, a South Pasadena mom that always has the children’s best interest at heart. The shoe-free, carpeted indoor playground is designed to be challenging, stimulating, and a blast for anyone who joins.

What to expect: a huge bounce house with a slide, miniature houses and cars, and even a balloonist once a week that makes awesome balloon creations. And the space is also built to be just as cozy for adults: there’s a quiet reading area, free coffee, picnic tables, and a bring-your-own-food policy (though drinks and snacks are available for purchase). And at just $8 for a day pass, it’s a steal.

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 Visit Garfield Park

If the weather’s on your side, take your kids over to Garfield Park––a South Pasadena staple. This is a town where parks are the focal point of the city, and it shows when you arrive. There are six parks in total in South Pasadena, and Garfield easily ranks at the top for many residents.

This beautifully-landscaped park sits on seven acres, has plenty of picnic tables throughout, two tennis courts, a fire pit, and is even home to the Summer Concert in Parks series. Other events, (especially during the holiday) take place here, too. Keep an eye out for Eggstravaganza, an Easter egg hunt happening on March 31st, and check out the park’s website for more upcoming events. At the northern end of the park is the The South Pasadena Children’s Memorial and Healing Garden, a place reserved to memorialize young Pasadena residents who have passed away.

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Kids Klub Summer Camp

At Kids Klub, there’s an endless supply of fun. Michael Wojciechowski, CEO & President of the Kids Klub, says, “Our philosophy is a ‘Back to Basics’ approach where we provide a safe, clean, and stimulating environment for children to play, learn and grow in, while teaching the children self-esteem, respect, and responsibility.” Part of what makes the Kids Klub unique is their mission to mix fun with education by providing stimulating “Discovery Areas” that allow children to learn in a hands-on environment. There are a variety of services available: infant care, pre-school, after-school, and evening and weekend drop-off services. Prices are provided in “membership” tiers by season. Check out their site for more details.

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The Dinosaur Farm

The Dinosaur Farm is specialty toy and book store in South Pasadena, and if your children weren’t fans of these prehistoric creatures before, they just may be after they step through the Dinosaur Farm door. Everything dinosaur is found here: cups, puzzles, games, merchandise, inflatables, party supplies, and much more.

There are also other collectibles outside of dinosaurs to be found. But it’s not just about buying a handful of toy gear; what makes this place so great is the experience it offers. The store opened in 1994, and has received a handful of awards and press mentions since. Forbes Magazine listed the Dinosaur Farm as one of the Top 10 Amazing Toy Stores, alongside nationally recognized brands like FAO Schwarz.

Partake in Parade Festivities

The city puts on the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade annually, and it’s an event you don’t want the kiddos to miss. Every year, this floral-based event takes on a different theme. In 2016, the theme was “Find Your Adventure,” while 2018’s theme was “Making A Difference.” The event coincides with the Rose Bowl Tournament festivities, where several cities in the area make a float to contribute to the high-energy parade event.

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San Pascual Stables

South Pasadena’s San Pascual Stables make for an ideal day-trip during a warm day. Like many local businesses in South Pasadena, San Pascual is steeped in history. The center has been in operation since 1978 and has been offering premier horseback riding lessons ever since.

The expert instructors work with any type of rider, at all age levels. The Riding Academy also offers “Mommy (or Daddy) & Me” lessons, as well as a summer camp program for children who really enjoy horses. They also host events during the holidays, like the free San Pascual Holiday Horse Show this past December, which offered pony rides, games, and food.

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Kidspace Children’s Museum 

The Kidspace Children’s Museum is Southern California’s premier family destination, and one look at their reviews can attest to this. There are so many activities here, that you’ll have to check the lineup to see what’s happening during a particular time. It’s true that Kidspace has it all: fun physics classes, art lessons, mud to play in, science experiments, playgrounds, and tunnels galore. These sites and exhibitions allow your children to explore, have fun, and learn. Check out the Free Family Night, which occurs on the first Tuesday of every month.

Best Places To Eat In South Pasadena

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There’s a certain charm about South Pasadena, which the Los Angeles Times referred to as a “hip little enclave.” The area is steeped in city landmarks with its range of historic buildings, but that doesn’t mean the city has fallen behind the times. In this neighborhood, you’ll find inventine cuisine along the Gold Line tracks, Indie stores, restaurants steeped in history, and galleries galore. And when it comes to food, there’s little left to be desired. Here are some of the best places to eat in South Pasadena.

Cos&Pi

Cos&Pi focuses on seasonal breakfast and lunch menus. Their philosophy is to let the food speak for itself, and this has worked for the restaurant since it opened. This neighborhood eatery is small in size, so visitors are expected to arrive early to secure a seat. After all, this is one of the highest-rated restaurants in South Pasadena. Check out the breakfast menu here, and the lunch menu here.

What to try: Avocado toast, Breakfast burger, Potato hash au gratin, Egg tostada, Salmon toast

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Fiore Market Cafe

Owners Anne and Bill Disselhorst had a modest beginning. After visiting Italy in 2003, they were so inspired by the aura and cuisine there––particularly the slow pace and locally-grown food––that they decided to bring their own version back to South Pasadena. In a blog post that Bob wrote when the cafe first opened, he said: “It’s our vision and our dream to create a European style cafe with the charm and character of something you would find along the Seine in Paris.”

The market is not just about consuming or purchasing food, but making it, too–– their bread baking classes are a classic, and almost always fill up quickly. You can purchase everything here, from fresh salads and sandwiches to grains to local ingredients. There’s even a live jazz band that performs weekly. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Spicy udon noodles, Cold rare roast beef sandwich, Roasted chicken sandwich with basil walnut pesto, Walnut chocolate cookie

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Nicole’s

Nicole’s is part-gourmet store, part-gourmet dining. It has wide selection of over 200 cheeses from around the world. They also sell high-end French ingredients, imported wines, and fresh breads and croissants. The market and cafe are family-owned by a mother-daughter duo, and just steps away from the local farmer’s market. Check out the breakfast and lunch menus here.

What to try: Cheese plate, Melted brie and tomato, Prosciutto & Pecorino sandwich, Ham, Egg and Cheese on Croissant

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Gus’s Barbecue

Gus’ Barbecue began with a culinary mission of transplanting Southern cuisine and hospitality to Southern California. And it achieves this with its South Pasadena location. The restaurant’s meats are seasoned overnight and cooked old-fashioned style over pecan logs. Rubs and sauces are made daily in-house.

The original owners–-three siblings from Cleveland––left their family-owned bar and headed West on Route 66 sampling a plethora of flavors along the way. Today, Gus’s BBQ is the oldest barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles. Founded in 1946, it has stood the test of time and continues to thrive as a city must-have.

When its newest owners, brothers Chris and John Bicos, took over the restaurant in 2006, they decided to keep the family appeal, bring the design of the space up to modern standards (some have said its interior looks more like an upscale steakhouse), and go back in time to more traditional, pan-regional BBQ cuisine. Since then, the restaurant’s remained a Los Angeles landmark. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Beef brisket, BBQ sampler, St. Louis ribs, Carolina pulled pork, mashed potatoes

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Briganti

Briganti is the go-to spot for traditional Italian fare. This is a sleek, upscale spot with an outdoor patio perfect for sipping wine. The owner also runs La Buca, another well-regarded Italian spot in Los Angeles, though, according to LA Weekly, Briganti is the better of the two. Check out the menu here.

What to try: Fettuccine bolognese, Gnocchi, Crab ravioli, Spaghetti pescatora, Branzino

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Aro Latin

Aro Latin is a contemporary restaurant serving up Pan-Latin cuisine in a rustic, cozy setting (designed by Akar Studios in Santa Monica). The founders are a couple who met in Los Angeles––the husband, Karan comes from India, and the wife, Candy, hails from El Salvador. Together, they wanted to bring savory Latin taste to Southern California. To do so, they traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America looking for ways to reinvent classic Latin flavors without compromising authenticity. Check out their lunch and brunch menu here, and the Aro Latin dinner menu here.

What to try: Chaufa de pollo (Peruvian-style chicken fried rice), Costillitas (baby back ribs cooked in coconut milk with mango relish), Cordero aro (roasted lamb shank slow cooked with honey mustard glaze)

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Canoe House

Island culture and hospitality are in full force at this tropical-inspired Hawaiian restaurant. The interior is reminiscent of a Hawaiian plantation house, and in addition to the cocktails and cuisine, Canoe House provides the perfect backdrop for a fun evening of dining and drinking. Take a look at their list of menus here.

What to try: Hawaiian strip steak, Spicy tuna on crispy rice, Seared ahi sandwich, Hawaiian fried rice, Pineapple upside down cake

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Shiro

Creative French-inspired Japanese cuisine makes Shiro a uniquely fit place for experimental dining. For thirty years, it’s been one of the top restaurants in Los Angeles, and was even listed as the number one restaurant by Zagat. The menu is revolving depending on the season and availability, but you can check out their most current menu by visiting their homepage. Alternatively, you can view a gallery of food images from its most recent offerings.

What to try: Whole sizzling deep-fried catfish, Roasted New Zealand lamb chops, Sonoma breast of duck, Sea scallops and lobster, Broiled Chilean seabass with soy-ginger-mirin marinade & potato puree

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Crossings

Crossings was founded in 2011 by Patrick & Stephanie Kirchen, who aimed to create a dining space where people could feel at home, be a part of a community, and create memories centered around delicious American cuisine. Located in the historic Edwards & Faw building, it features two floors of dining space and a patio that’s partially shaded by a 100-year-old oak tree. The menu features locally-grown ingredients and food includes steaks, seafood, and a hearty selection of chops. Check out the Crossings menu here.

What to try: Uni carbonara, Filet mignon, Oysters on the half shell, Salmon with Yogurt, beet, blackberry, smoked roe, and fresh herbs

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Image source: LA Dreams

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The Unique Architecture of Echo Park

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Echo Park has an eclectic roster of homes, commercial buildings, and public spaces that make the neighborhood a destination of its own. Street art, sunset views, hidden city staircases, boutiques, and eclectic architect make up the foundation of Echo Park.

Early 20th century architecture allows history to speak for itself. On the opposite side of the coin, there’s an industrial-meets-nature vibe about Echo Park, and it’s emboldened in the city’s more modern architecture. This unique architectural flair of the community is what continues to attract new residents from all around the world. Featured here is some of the unique architecture of Echo Park:

Modernist House on Lemoyne Street

Echo Park real estate reached new records when it sold a three bedroom, two bathroom house on Lemoyne Street for $2.275 million––well over its asking price of $1.895 million. The wooden fence outside the house is dotted with bright, techni-colored glass panels and a set of teal concrete steps. The home was designed by was designed by architect Rachel Allen, whose previous work includes Echo Park Bungalows. She’s also currently working on Pershing Square Renew in Downtown Los Angeles and the multi-family residential unit Encore Capital in Eagle Rock.

The house is designed to nestle into the land and transform the space into an urban retreat among nature. The goal for the space was to maximize the architectural connection to the outdoors, and a large portion of the house is composed of floor-to-ceiling windows. A long strip of glass on the ceiling spans the home from one end to the other, making the trees feel just as part of the interior as the concrete floors and sustainably harvested walnut. Check out more photos here.

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Ark House

Situated along Lake Shore in Echo Park is the ultra-modern Ark House. Like other Echo Park staples, this multi-family building was sustainably designed to blend in seamlessly with nature; it features floor-to-ceiling sliding glass “windows” with corrugated metal screens that allow for temperature regulation. In the winter, they’re removed.

Los Angeles Times Magazine said the space represented, “smart, flexible design solutions that raise the bar on the indoor-outdoor connection so essential to life in Southern California.” The three-story building is built primary on concrete––the third floor features an expansive communal outdoor garden and terrace that overlooks Echo Park and downtown Los Angeles. Its design inspiration was based on the concept of a “mini mall” and all units in the building are the same (though each has its own interior flair based on the inhabitants, of course).

Architect Norman Mailer began working on the home in 2006 and  finished his design in 2010. Since then, it’s been included in several Los Angeles home tours, including Dwell on Design.

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The Atwater/ Holi Village Bungalows

We wrote about the Pueblo-style Atwater Bungalows in detail early last year, and they’re worth mentioning in any write-up about Echo Park real estate and architecture. Dr. H. Gale Atwater, an early Echo Park luminary, commissioned the property in the early 1930s, but they were designed by Robert Stacy-Judd. The design was inspired by traditional Hopi kivas in India and the concept of communal living architecture, and Stacy-Judd hoped to evoke the spirit of that. They were built from unfinished adobe to lend it a rustic appearance, and outfitted with pueblo-style windows, staircases, and cone-shaped chimneys.

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Victorian Homes on Carroll Avenue

Gingerbread trimmings and gabled roofs galore; this is a Victorian-era dream. Angelino Heights was the first suburb of Los Angeles, and it remains an important staple in the city till this day. Carroll Avenue is lined with grandiose Victorian homes from another era, and has the largest concentration of Victorian homes in the city. Originally constructed during the 19th century for upper and middle class families, today the 1300 block is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, while the entire neighborhood is the first in Los Angeles to be designated Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ).

This area has also had its share of Hollywood fame. Originally built for City Councilman Daniel Innes, 1339 Halliwell Manor is the iconic site of popular television series Charmed––and it still gets plenty of attention from the show’s fans. Walk a little further down, and you’ll reach 1345 Carroll Avenue from Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video. And a little walk from there is Carroll Avenue, which is “Mad Men” Don Draper’s childhood home.

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Blackbirds

Blackbirds is an 18-unit small-lot housing project from architect Barbara Bestor. Polished concrete, white oak, fancy landscaping, rooftop decks, and tailored cabinetry are just a few features spread across these 18 properties. Bestor aimed to construct a progressive solution for high-quality, dense housing. According to its website, “Blackbirds is an experimental contemporary urban living where community, nature, and design are in balance with each other.” Each two and three-bedroom property is built around public and private outdoor spaces.

Each also features large windows for natural light, patios, and amazing outdoor views.

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Image: Bestor Architecture

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Jessica’s Bungalow

Jessica Fleischmann is the owner of an Echo Park bungalow that, upon first glance, doesn’t look like much of anything out of the ordinary. The fleshy pink siding of the front exterior was kept in tact to preserve the historic character of the place, but Fleischmann, a graphic designer and daughter of Ernst Fleischmann (who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic) wanted a renovation that reflected modernity.

She commissioned architecture firm PRODUCTURA to work on the redesign. Today, it has a steel, grid-like frame in the back with full-glass windows spanning two floors. Oak wood, concrete flooring, and metal all blend together to create an urban oasis of sorts. Check out a full description of the renovation and its photos on Dwell.

The home was also featured in the Mark Ruffalo-featured film, “The Kids Are Alright.” Read more about her experience renting out her home for four days for $15,000.

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Image source: Dwell

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Lento Brick Court

In 2010, the Lento Brick Courtyard was officially declared a Los Angeles historic-cultural monument. This prevents the property from any interior or exterior changes (and demolition) unless approved by the Cultural Heritage Commision in Echo Park. And while there’s nothing overtly historical about this (as with the Victorian homes on Carroll Avenue) or overtly modern (like Ark House), its unique courthouse housing design is a symbol of its time.

Unlike the surrounding area, it uses brick instead of stucco and wrought-iron fencing rather than wood. One writer from Echo Park Now said the design looks like something “you might find in New York as opposed to Los Angeles.”

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