“Southland” as the giant southern California urban region is known, is carland, so you may wish to rent one during your stay, especially if you want to see more of the area than Pasadena, downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), and Hollywood, the areas reachable by light rail in realistic time from the conference site. If you plan to stay mostly in Pasadena and/or do mainly conference activities, you will be able to get around by foot and bus. If you plan to drive in Southland, expect to pay for parking everywhere, to vigilantly monitor parking meters, and to encounter valet parking in unexpected places. When driving in Pasadena, avoid using your horn to express frustration, learn to tolerate left-hand turns long seconds after lights have changed, expect drivers to employ rolling stops at stop signs, and you will fit right in.
Those with data phones can take advantage of Uber, the crowd-sourcing taxi app. Using satellite technology, the app allows you to signal a nearby, available driver (ordinary people with clean driving records who have passed background checks) and summon them to you. You can watch their approach on your phone in real time. Because you’ve already entered your credit card information into the app, the transaction requires no cash; the tip is included. And, you get a $10 credit on signing up, so your first trip, if local, may be free. https://www.uber.com/
If you want to use public transportation, the ARTS buses (http://www.cityofpasadena.net/Transportation/Arts_Routes_and_Schedules/) will get you around Pasadena; Metro Rail (http://www.metro.net/riding/maps/) is the light rail system that will take you from Pasadena to other points in Los Angeles County; and Metro Link (http://www.metrolinktrains.com/) is the larger, commuter train system you will take to visit other counties (say, to Santa Barbara, San Diego, or Anaheim).
Weather-wise, the end of October is a transitional period: most likely, Santa Anna winds will keep the temperatures hot during the day (80s-90s Farenheit) and warm at night (70s), but there’s a small chance a storm could bring the first rain of the fall season. In general, temperatures will be about 10 degrees warmer than the rest of Los Angeles. Just check the forecast before you pack.
People dress more casually – if more expensively – in Pasadena, so you may see trendy jeans and designer t-shirts in high-end restaurants.
Historic downtown Pasadena is the collection of restaurants, shops, and bars between the north-south streets of Arroyo Parkway and South Pasadena Avenue, and the east-west streets of Holly and Union; its central hub is Colorado Boulevard. From the Westin, walk south on Los Robles to Colorado, then head west. (You can always orient yourself directionally by noting that the San Gabriel Mountains are northeast of you). “Old Town” has two diagonal street crossings to facilitate foot traffic, and locals tend to obey the red hand “halt” sign even when no traffic is present. Roving guides wearing yellow polo shirts can furnish information. There’s another commercial cluster in the Paseo Colorado (on Colorado between Los Robles and Marengo), and one on South Lake Avenue (between Colorado and California). Old Town Pasadena is generally a safe area; there’s a small homeless population, and nightclubs attract visitors and street life on weekend evenings. Use the same caution you would in any other large U.S. city. As in the rest of California, last call is at 2 a.m., after which the town shuts down.
If you’re looking for a cheap-to-moderately priced drink or meal, wandering through Old Town, the Paseo, or down Lake Avenue will serve you well. Southland chain restaurant / bars such as the Yard House (330 E. Colorado, on the second level of the Paseo) and B.J.’s (234 E. Colorado at Arroyo) offer a wide selection at moderate prices, and emphasize beer. The places described below are the best of their kind in the area, or are unique to it:
Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea (55 E. Colorado Blvd. between Raymond and Fair Oaks) brews the best coffee in town, and it is fair- or direct-trade to boot. It can cost you upwards of $4 for a latté and you may have to wait for it, but if you know and like coffee, it will not disappoint. “The Angeleno” (four shots of espresso over ice with milk and agave nectar) will wake you right up for an early morning panel. Pastries, yogurt, and juice also available; in the evening, it doubles as a chic beer and wine bar, though the only food is charcuterie and cheese. http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/location/pasadena-cafe
Copa Vida (70 S. Raymond at Green) offers single-origin coffees, artisan teas, gourmet pastries, and a small but top-notch lunch menu in its spacious, light-filled location. Try the pistachio-kumquat croissant and the decadent faro and portobello salad. The WiFi password is “cupoflife.” http://www.copa-vida.com/
The Market on Holly (57 E. Holly Street between Raymond and Fair Oaks) serves eggs, breakfast burritos, chai porridge, and more from 7 a.m. M-F, 8 a.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. Sunday; their salads and sandwiches are great for lunch, too; and they have indoor and outdoor seating. http://themarketonholly.com/
Russell’s (30 N. Fair Oaks between Colorado and Union) offers standard U.S. breakfasts in a clean and cheerful diner setting.
Le Pain Quotidien(88 West Colorado Blvd at De Lacey), an international chain, serves omelets, granola parfaits, and more in its shabby-chic bistro setting from 7 a.m., as well as lunch and a limited dinner. http://www.lepainquotidien.us/#/en_US/locations/california/pasadena
Urth Caffe (594 E. Colorado Blvd. at Madison) of west side, celebrity-sighting fame has opened its Pasadena location, serving lovely organic breakfasts, lunches, coffee, and desserts in a pristine, stylish setting. It’s best for short visits rather than lingering. The staff will help you in that oddly chilled-out, yet slightly managerial southern California style. Just submit and enjoy. http://www.urthcaffe.com/
Euro Pane Bakery (345 E. Colorado between Los Robles and Euclid) serves salads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee in an elegant atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating.
The Café at Il Fornaio (24 W. Union at Fair Oaks) is tucked behind the main restaurant and offers a quiet, charming outdoor area to get away from conference or Old Town hubbub and enjoy a made-to-order salad for not much money. It’s in the pedestrianized area known as One Colorado Place, between Colorado and Union, and Fair Oaks ad De Lacey http://www.onecolorado.com/main.php
La Grande Orange (260 S. Raymond between Green and Del Mar) offers trendy California comfort food (tuna tartar, kale and quinoa salad, burgers) on its patio and in its dining room; it’s also a solid dinner choice. http://www.lgostationcafe.com/
Umami Burger (49 E. Colorado Blvd. between Raymond and Fair Oaks) sells their remarkable gourmet array of burgers in this stylish location. http://www.umami.com/umami-burger/locations
Tender Greens (691 E. Colorado Blvd. between El Molino and Madison) in the opposite direction from Old Town, is an upscale cafeteria-style branch of a Southland chain, offering salads, sandwiches, and dinners focused on local sustainable green produce. It has vegan options, indoor and outdoor seating, and is also a nice choice for a casual dinner. http://www.tendergreensfood.com/
Vol. 94 (239 E. Colorado @ Marengo) is currently the best restaurant in Pasadena, serving inventive, eclectic modern dishes with a San Gabriel Valley spin on its seasonally-changing menu. At this writing, the menu section devoted to “S[e]oul Food” featured Galbi-Marinated Escolar and Abalone Congee with Santa Barbara Sea Urchin. Other standbys include “Pirate’s Gold” (Inked Gnocchi) and “The ‘60s” (Hen of the Wood mushrooms, dandelion greens, popcorn grits). It’s also a wine bistro with an extensive list. Reservations recommended. http://www.thevol94.com/
Vertical Wine Bar (70 North Raymond between Colorado and Union) is a wine bistro and restaurant that serves some of the finest food and wine in Pasadena. The cuisine emphasizes modern American standards. It’s a versatile venue that can accommodate a stylish dinner or wine and cheese. Reservations recommended. http://www.verticalwinebistro.com/
Trattoria Neapolis (336 South Lake Ave. at Del Mar) draws you into its light-filled atrium, perfect for lunch, then makes you want to return to its dark, wood-paneled interior with beautiful bar for drinks and dinner. The menu includes trendy yet crowd-pleasing pizzas, pastas, and grilled mains; sample the lobster arancini and ling cod saltimbocca. Several large back rooms make this a great choice for a large group. http://www.trattorianeapolis.com/
Ración (119 W. Green Street between De Lacey and South Pasadena Avenue) serves exceptional Basque and French tapas. Delicious croquettas, oxtail canelones, and duck sausage-stuffed squid grace the dinner menu; the wine list is impressive, and chic dining room is also open for lunch and brunch. Reservations recommended. http://www.racionrestaurant.com/
Champagne Pop (33 E. Union between Raymond and Fair Oaks) is a champagne and sparkling-wine themed bar and restaurant that offers fine food and desserts to go with the bubbles in a charming Art Deco setting. Reservations recommended. http://www.popchampagnebar.com/
1886 Bar at the Raymond (1250 S. Fair Oaks) offers Victorian cocktails –hot punch has been on the menu in winter months-- as well as the trendier Prohibtion-era ones. It’s Pasadena’s answer to DTLA’s Varnish and The Edison. Tucked behind The Raymond Restaurant, which is hidden behind a power station, it is worth the drive or cab ride and long wait times for fabulous drinks and gourmet bar food. http://hometown-pasadena.com/eat-drink/1886-bar
The Luggage Room (260 South Raymond at Del Mar) is a festive restaurant and bar where you can enjoy gourmet pizza, salads, and seafood in comfortable but trendy indoor or outdoor settings. It’s attached to La Grande Orange restaurant and steps away from the Del Mar Gold Line Station, your conduit to DTLA, Hollywood, and elsewhere. http://theluggageroom.com/
Bodega (260 E. Colorado Blvd, on the second level of the Paseo Colorado) serves wine, beer, soju cocktails, and small plates on their relaxed, Philippe Starck-furnished patio. http://www.bodegawinebar.com/
La Luna Negra (44 W. Green Street, between Fair Oaks and De Lacey) is known for its paella and other home-style Spanish tapas, and live entertainment including flamenco dancing. http://lalunanegrarestaurant.com/
Sushi Roku (33 Miller Alley, between Colorado and Union) offers respectable sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese dishes in a buzzy setting in the pedestrianized area known as One Colorado Boulevard.
AKA (41 Hugus Alley, in the One Colorado pedestrianized courtyard between Sushi Roku and Il Fornaio) offers upscale comfort food (Portobello fries, P.E.I mussels, short ribs) with a Napa aura and wine list on its lovely patio, which overlooks the One Colorado Courtyard, a great perch for people-watching. http://akabistro.com/.
The Tap Room at the Langham Hotel (1401 S. Oak Knoll) dispenses foodie delights and premium drinks in a luxury setting with a view of Los Angeles, about a ten-minute drive or cab ride from the Westin. It’s in the same Langham Hotel group of 1860s London fame: http://pasadena.langhamhotels.com/restaurants/cocktail_bar.htm.
Coolhaus (59 E. Colorado between Raymond and Fair Oaks) rolls its premium, food truck cookies and ice cream into a storefront setting. http://eatcoolhaus.com/
Kindkreme (319 S. Arroyo Parkway @ Del Mar) serves raw, vegan ice cream that is kind to you and the planet, and downright delicious. They also have a small savory menu of raw and quinoa bowls that works for a casual lunch or dinner. http://www.kindkreme.com/pasadena.html.
Whole Foods (465 S. Arroyo Parkway between Del Mar and California) is the flagship West Coast store, offering an extensive food court with sushi, beans and grains bar, wine bar, and massage services on the weekends. http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/arroyo
Real Food Daily (899 East Del Mar @ Lake Avenue)sells organic, plant-based cuisine with a macrobiotic bent in a pleasant setting. http://www.realfood.com/
The Gamble House was designed by Arts & Crafts architects Greene & Greene in 1908. You can see a remarkable variety of Craftsmen architecture walking around residential Pasadena, but you can see the furnished interior of the Gamble House, at 4 Westmoreland Place. Planning ahead is essential. http://www.gamblehouse.org/
Gold Bug (22 East Union St. between Raymond and Fair Oaks) sells whimsical and macabre steampunk Victoriana; it supplied authentic props for Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland, and is worth a peek if you’re in Old Town. http://goldbugpasadena.com/
Tiffin Afternoon Tea at the Langham (1401 S. Oak Knoll) must be booked well in advance and isn’t cheap, but it’s the best and most special of the English and Asian tearooms scattered around Pasadena. http://pasadena.langhamhotels.com/restaurants/traditional_afternoon_tea.htm
The Edison (108 W. 2nd Street, # 101 in Downtown Los Angeles) is worth a special trip to L.A.’s historic core: it’s a nightclub with an amazing late nineteenth-century industrial aesthetic. Dress in fin-de-siècle style, enjoy the vintage décor, and quaff absinthe like it’s 1899. http://www.edisondowntown.com/
Vroman’s Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Blvd. at El Molino) is a large, two-story bookstore that also sells gifts and features readings. http://www.vromansbookstore.com/
Laemmle Theater (673 E. Colorado Blvd at El Molino, next to Vroman’s) shows all the current art-house flicks. https://www.laemmle.com/viewtheatre.php?thid=6
Norton Simon Museum (411 W. Colorado Blvd at Orange Grove Blvd) is Pasadena’s other premier art museum, with the Huntington. In addition to its nineteenth-century European collection, enjoy the serenity of the outdoor pond.
Pasadena Museum of California Art (490 S. Union Street @ S. Oakland Avenue) showcases work by California artists. http://www.pmcaonline.org/
Asia Pacific Museum (46 N. Los Robles between Colorado and Union) is an architectural gem of Pasadena, and its galleries are newly restored. http://www.pacificasiamuseum.org/
Echo Mountain(E. Loma Alta Drive at Lake Avenue)is a 5-mile hike that brings you to the ruins of an old hotel. Hear your voice resound through the canyon when you use the echo phone at the top. http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/EchoMountain_4472.asp
CVS (727 S. Arroyo Parkway south of California) is the closest 24-hour pharmacy.
Pasadena Public Library (285 E. Walnut, between Marengo and Euclid) has free Wifi and offers printing services and a coffee bar. http://cityofpasadena.net/library/central_library.aspx
U.S. Post Office is at 281 E. Colorado Blvd. between Marengo and Los Robles.