Even if you've never visited South Pasadena, you probably recognize its tree-lined streets and stately homes from seeing them on TV in shows such as "Modern Family," "Parenthood" and "CSI." You'll find life in South Pasadena as idyllic as the movie studios do, thanks to the city's high income levels, emphasis on children's education and warm, community feeling.
The community of South Pasadena, colloquially known as "South Pas" to locals, has bonded together for decades over successful efforts to keep a freeway from splitting the neighborhood in half. The result is a town where people know each other and are used to working side by side for the betterment of the community. With a stable population that's highly educated and ethnically diverse, this tidy and safe neighborhood welcomes you to put down some roots.
Restaurants & Nightlife
With the delights of Pasadena's Old Town just to the north, residents of South Pasadena have a hard time choosing where to eat out, whether for a quick bite or a special occasion. Right in South Pas, expect to find many welcoming restaurants ranging from casual cafes and bistros to ramen shops and cutting-edge foodie haunts.
Fans of Asian cuisine can't stop raving about Modan Artisanal Ramen in the Bristol Farms center on Fair Oaks Avenue. The simple menu lets you focus on your favorites. Whether you prefer the spicy tonkatsu ramen with grilled chashu, wood ear mushrooms, soft-boiled eggs and black garlic truffle oil, or the ramen shoyu with its earthy flavor, don't miss the add-ons. Grilled Brussels sprouts and the spicy tuna don win universal praise, and green tea ice cream makes a perfect, light dessert.
When you're in a rush or only want a light bite, try the perfect sandwiches served up by the tiny Mix 'n' Munch on Mission Street. When you're taking the kids to the library or park, stop here for kid-friendly grilled cheese with ham and tater tots. Adults enjoy a Firebolt sandwich filled with roast beef, spicy mayo, pepper-jack cheese and jalapeños.
For a more upscale experience, head to Crossings on Mission Street. With its elegant, intimate ambiance, this fine dining restaurant delights with juicy swordfish served with charred sweet onion risotto, perfectly cooked lamb chops served with kale and pearl onions, or an amazing black cod with chorizo and couscous. The extensive wine list lets you celebrate a special occasion in style.
You can find bars and nightlife of every description in South Pasadena. Head to the Holy Water Room for an old-school Prohibition vibe combined with generous cocktails, a great DJ and, on some nights, a burlesque show. 1886 at the Raymond restaurant on Fair Oaks Avenue serves up hand-crafted cocktails with fun, gourmet bar food in a romantic atmosphere. Enjoy live music at The Barkley Restaurant & Bar, where the cocktails are strong and inexpensive. With an old-school lounge and retro atmosphere, this place offers a side of vintage charm with every pour. A delightful dance floor awaits you here, letting you kick up your heels if you don't want to sit back and chill.
History & Culture
Although South Pasadena was originally a part of Pasadena when that city incorporated in 1875, in 1888, the residents of South Pasadena decided to form their own city. The Raymond Hotel and Cawston Ostrich Farm attracted tourists, and development boomed in the early 20th century when the Pacific Electric red cars connected the town to downtown L.A., making it an attractive suburb for people working in the city.
Since the 1960s, South Pasadena has fought efforts by the state of California to extend Interstate 710, the Long Beach Freeway, through the city to connect it to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. The city's success so far allows it to maintain its small-town atmosphere.
Although South Pasadena does not have any museums, the Norton Simon Museum and Huntington Library are nearby in Pasadena, as is the Pasadena Playhouse. Many locals head north to Pasadena every New Year's to enjoy the Rose Parade.
Despite the shortfall of the Long Beach Freeway, South Pasadenans still primarily use their own cars to get around the city and commute to work. The Long Beach Freeway does end just south of the city to take folks down to Long Beach, and nearby, residents can also easily access Interstates 110 and 210 to get to downtown Los Angeles, the Santa Clarita Valley, the San Fernando Valley and the Inland Empire. Parking tends to be free and readily available on residential streets, though major thoroughfares have metered parking and some residential areas require parking permits.
The Los Angeles Metro public transportation system services South Pasadena. The Metro Gold Line subways connect Pasadena to East Los Angeles and downtown L.A., and numerous bus routes provide connections to East L.A. and Compton, as well as locally around the San Gabriel Valley. While taxis can't be found roaming the streets, you can always call a cab, Uber or an airport shuttle for a pickup.
South Pasadena has a bicycle master plan that includes bike lanes, special timing for traffic signals and bike parking all over the city. Many locals enjoy walking around the neighborhood, though few handle their basic transportation needs on foot.
Life in the serene community of South Pasadena comes with a price tag that runs about 36 percent higher than the general cost of living in the Los Angeles area. Much of that extra cost comes from the housing prices in the neighborhood, with a one-bedroom apartment averaging $1,576 per month.
When it comes to daily life, you'll find it easy to get to downtown L.A. for just $1.75 using L.A.'s public transportation. The cost of gas runs about 12 percent higher than the national average if you choose to drive. When you want to stop to grab a casual beer on your way home, it'll run you about $7 for a pint.
South Pasadena residents interested in high-end shopping typically head for Old Town Pasadena. The nearest shopping mall is Paseo Colorado, which attracts locals for its great choices of restaurants and the high-amenity ArcLight Cinemas as much as for its stores.
Closer to home, though, you can find some great shopping choices in South Pas, especially along Mission Street. Boutique Jasleen lifts your spirits with its carefully selected inventory of dresses, shoes, scarves and gifts. When you need a party dress, choose one here to know you don't have to worry about wearing the same thing as anyone else.
Hodgson's Antiques takes you back in time with its rich collection of vintage jewelry, old magazines, dishes, furniture and vinyl records. If you're looking for vintage clothes from the 1950s to the '80s, you need look no further. Just ask the owner for a little help if you need to track down something special and unique.
Trader Joe's, Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions and the gourmet haven Bristol Farms all find a home in South Pasadena, giving you abundant choices when it comes to grocery shopping. Those in search of vegan, gluten-free and organic options head to Grassroots Natural Market and Kitchen on Fair Oaks Avenue. Find a full supply of supplements, natural bath products and prepared foods here as well. The South Pasadena Farmers Market opens up on Thursday afternoons. Stop by to pick up freshly made goat cheese, tamales and roasted corn as well as your week's supply of farm-fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables.
A unique destination park shared by South Pasadena and Pasadena, Arroyo Seco Park nestles in a deep canyon and provides a breath of relaxation amid the city. This patch of wilderness provides locals with a place to take a long walk and enjoy the natural beauty. If you walk far enough north, you'll find yourself at the Rose Bowl. The park also includes an archery range, running trails, tennis courts, a full golf course, a baseball diamond, and horseback riding trails. Fees apply to some activities.
At Garfield Park, kids love climbing the trees as much as the playground climbing structures. Bring your leashed dog for a stroll, book a gazebo for an outdoor party, or come during the summer for the annual outdoor movies.