This piece originally appeared as part of our Be A Tourist in Your Own Town guide, in the December 2017 issue of Los Angeles magazine.
Both untamed and refined, the Arroyo Seco connects L.A.’s rugged mountains to the sprawling metropolis. Millions around the world see the riverbed every New Year’s Day during the Rose Bowl game, but for the rest of the year, it’s all ours—as quintessentially Southern California as the beach. Haven’t delved into it? Here’s your excuse.
It’s early, sure, but breakfast is no fun when you have to wait in line for it. Park in Old Pasadena or ride the Gold Line to the Memorial Park station, then walk to FrenchiFornia. Ham and Comté cheese croissants and pain Suisse overflowing with chocolate chips are the order of the day.
If it’s the second Sunday of the month, power up for the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl Flea Market. With more than 2,500 vendors, the market, like a journey into deep space, is vast and terrifying (but still filled with infinite possibilities). It’s out there, somewhere, whether you’re looking for that Eames chair or a vintage longboard. Pros know that the early bird gets the Vermeer: Gates open at 5 a.m. for VIP admission ($20).
The Colorado Street Bridge looms large in Pasadena lore and, quite literally, over the Arroyo. (It was once a vital link on Route 66; at 150 feet tall, it’s also tempted scores to leap to their deaths.) But there are two other historic bridges nearby: Walk the trails in Lower Arroyo Seco Nature Park to see the recently restored 1914 La Loma Bridge and the 431-foot-long San Rafael Bridge, which dates to 1922.
If the regular one-hour tour of the Gamble House leaves you wanting more Greene & Greene, consider coming back for master woodworker Jim Ipekjian’s intimate, obsessive three hour Details & Joinery tours ($80, usually one Saturday amonth). There’s also the Greene & Greene Neighborhood Walking Tour ($17, usually one Saturday a month), which explores the surrounding Arroyo Terrace historic district.
Built entirely of river rock by polymath Charles F. Lummis, Lummis Home and Gardens in Highland Park is one of the most important reminders of Arroyo culture, which celebrated the handcrafted during a time of rampant industrialization. Visitors can get a gander at 18th-century carved doors from New Mexico and windows superimposed with photos Lummis took in the Southwest.
Head back up the Arroyo Seco a bit to Monte Vista Street, where La Fuente Restaurant serves up classic micheladas and camarones al mojo de ajo. Pop in before heading to nearby Highland Park Bowl; if you have to wait for a lane—and you probably will—kill time at the bar. Craft cocktails and wood- fired Neapolitan pizza more than transcend the usual bowling alley grub.
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