PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Street-side viewing of the nationally televised annual New Year's Day Rose Parade isn't the only free thing to attract visitors to Pasadena, Calif., a mere 10 miles (17 kilometers) northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
A charmingly quaint, quiet city flanked by the San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena was founded in 1874 by folks from Indiana desperate to escape their winter doldrums for warmer Southern California weather. The nice climate means Pasadena boasts plenty to do year-round, and many of them at no cost. Too broke to see tourist highlights such as architecture gem the Gamble House and the Norton Simon Museum of Art? Check out the five free things on this list. Pasadena is nicknamed "Crown of the Valley," but you don't need a crown to enjoy it.
With summery temps almost the entire year, Pasadena is home to three certified weekly farmers markets. Vendors sell everything from tangerines in the winter to asparagus and tender skinned cherries in the spring, all locally grown, plus jams, roasted granola and more. The Victory Park Saturday market on Sierra Madre Boulevard and Paloma Street in front of Pasadena High School is especially good, with colors and smells that make you want to eat everything in sight.
Old Pasadena, also called Old Town Pasadena, is the city's main drag, a walkable 22-block historic district brimming with boutiques, cafes, bars and movies theaters that of course cost money, but window-shopping and people-gawking are absolutely free. Scurry down Colorado Boulevard, Old Pasadena's lengthy main street and prime Rose Parade route, and you'll get in a good walk as well.
To throw in some more exercise, head to protected parkland the Arroyo Seco, known to residents as "the Arroyo." The leafy hiking, running and dog-walking mainstay on the western edge of Pasadena includes about 22 miles (35 kilometers) of trails next to a seasonal river and canyon. For one easy hike, start out from Pasadena's Lower Arroyo Nature Park, where parking is ample and free. To get there, exit the 134 Freeway at Orange Grove Boulevard, head south on Orange Grove, turn right onto California Boulevard and right again onto Arroyo Boulevard. The park entrance is on the left, before Norwood Drive. While hiking, look up to see the Colorado Street Bridge, the Rose Bowl and the famed wild parrots of Pasadena squawking overhead. Be sure to look down to avoid dog poop.
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