A lush nook that’s been at the base of the San Gabriels since 1881, Sierra Madre is so picturesque, it’s almost otherworldly.
Head to Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard, aka “downtown” Sierra Madre, to find neighborhood hangouts like Bean Town, a coffeehouse with comfy couches, board games, and a wall full of flyers for movie nights, outdoor concerts, and the town’s summertime Shakespeare festival. (The tiny radio station 1630 AM broadcasts around-the-clock updates about art fairs, the Huck Finn fishing derby, and other local doings.) Poppy Cake Baking Company serves Lamill coffee along with a stellar selection of carb-tastic pastries and cookies. (Owners Brittainy and Matthew Turnquist are no slouches in the sandwich department either.) At Belle’s Nest you’ll find plateware thrown by a local artist, artisanal candles, jewelry, and other domestic delightfulness.
Smucker’s just won’t seem the same after a trip to Savor the Flavor, where the jams and jellies are made from fruit grown at nearby E. Waldo Ward & Son orchard. Just of Sierra Madre Boulevard, kids snack on Mother Moo Creamery cones in the small pepper-tree-shaded Kersting Court. Or head up Baldwin to the arts district taking shape in the industrial buildings of East Montecito Avenue. Ukulele players gather at workshops held inside Rockin’ Rollers salon, while Big Daddy’s Garage can outfit your man cave with arcade games, pinball machines, and roadside signage. Go traditional with some mac and cheese or short ribs at Wistaria restaurant, named after Sierra Madre’s most famous resident, a 250-ton flowering vine. Or settle for something simpler at RT Rogers Brewing Company, which is giving local stalwart Lucky Baldwins and its 46 taps some competition.
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With the mountains looming large here, a hike is obligatory. The trailhead at Bailey Canyon offers a plant identification kiosk, and for more advanced hikers, Sturtevant Falls is three miles uphill. From Mount Wilson Trail Park, you can ramble up to the historic observatory. Afterward, grab a seat (and a bite) at Mary’s Market.
Want to extend the fun? The Jailhouse Inn is a one room B&B in a 1920s lockup. The former cell just fits a queen-size bed and a container filled with snacks. The cozy quarters are owned by a criminal prosecutor, so don’t steal the bathrobes.
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