Four Hours: A kid-friendly guide to South Pasadena

Kids and Pasadena? A perfect match. Don't forget to include a detour to Fair Oaks Pharmacy, an old-school soda fountain.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Time travel doesn’t exist yet, but until then we have South Pasadena. It has all the charm of sitcom-style suburban living with the added benefit of being just 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles.

In this community of 25,000 people nestled between Highland Park and Pasadena, you can sip a root beer float at a 104-year-old drugstore or fulfill your ’90s nostalgia by searching through a real-life video store for rare movies that you won’t find on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Check out the historic library and its massive, primordial-looking tree. And if you’re feeling creative, you can make your own necklace in a playfully mysterious 1930s-themed bead parlor.


Most important, don’t forget to bring the kids. The following walking tour of South Pasadena, and the city itself, is totally child-friendly.

9:45 a.m. Our journey begins in the present. Grab a seat on the broad patio of Mike and Anne’s at 1040 Mission St., a classic brunch spot in the heart of town, and take in the scene: extended family gatherings, sleepy parents rocking strollers, fit retirees in workout gear, and a baby shower or three. If you’re hungry, an always-dependable choice is Mike’s Favorite, which comes with pancakes, eggs, bacon and potatoes. The latte is not to be missed.

11 a.m. Take a short walk down quiet, leafy Fairview Avenue to the South Pasadena Library at 1100 Oxley St., which dates to 1907 (it’s been remodeled many times). The children’s room is well-stocked with board books, puzzles and toys; older kids will appreciate the strong selection of graphic novels in the teen center. But if the sun is shining, let them play among the thick, fairy tale roots of the gargantuan Moreton Bay Fig tree just outside near the corner of El Centro and Diamond Avenue. It’s a great natural jungle gym.

12 p.m. Yes, video stores still exist, and Vidéothèque at 1020 Mission St. has lasted because it’s one of the best. Browse the 25,000 DVDs and Blu-ray titles that feature a heavy emphasis on foreign and cult films, or flip through their curated selection of vinyl records. Need something to carry those library books? Buy a stylish tote bag featuring illustrations of characters from Jim Jarmusch movies.


12:45 p.m. In the back of the Dinosaur Farm toy store at 1510 Mission St., you’ll find Kidd’s Jewelry Heist, an idiosyncratic jewelry-making parlor with an aesthetic inspired by “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Goonies.” Beads are arranged in small wooden drawers and baskets, giving the whole experience the feel of a treasure hunt. Call ahead to make sure that no birthday parties or Girl Scout troops have taken over the space.

1:30 p.m. If you have little ones in tow, proceed at your own risk to Fair Oaks Pharmacy at 1526 Mission St. With all the old fashioned candy, board games and toys, this joint is almost too thrilling. It may have opened in 1914, but today the vibe remains straight out of the 1950s. If you’re ready to eat again, grab an order of tater tots. If you want a massive sugar rush, try a soda fountain drink or what’s called the All-American Banana Split.

No trip to Pasadena is complete without a detour to Fair Oaks Pharmacy for a sweet treat.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times, Kelsey Delehanty / AP)