CicLAvia Pasadena: A Guide for Angelenos Venturing East

Since its inception in 2011, CicLAvia has focused on opening up Los Angeles streets to bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, and anybody else who wants to amble along without a motor. Even when it went "To the Sea" in 2013, the route began where L.A. itself started: El Pueblo. And earlier this year when it touched down in the San Fernando Valley, its North Hollywood route was still within L.A. city borders.

But on May 31st, CicLAvia will extend its semi-annual event beyond the City of Los Angeles for the first time ever and into the streets of Pasadena.

But does this mean that the May edition of CicLAvia is just for Pasadena residents and the other foothill communities of the San Gabriels? No! This is a great excuse for all Angelenos to venture out to the great City of Roses, and experience all the history and culture that makes Pasadena the Crown of the San Gabriel Valley.

To make the day as car-free as possible, the Metro-sponsored route's hubs will be strategically positioned along Metro Gold Line stations at Old Town Pasadena, Memorial Park, and Lake Avenue. For those who must drive, Old Town Pasadena's parking structures provide 90 minutes of free parking without requiring validation, but they are likely to fill up quickly, and the local street meters need to be fed even on a Sunday.

If you don't usually frequent Pasadena, why not make a day of it? The 3.5 miles of closed streets conveniently run through a vibrant area that's already pedestrian-friendly, with lots to entertain people of all ages who walk (or pedal) through. Here are a few highlights of what's available along the route (and not just during CicLAvia):

Dupar's is an L.A. institution and a new addition to Pasadena. Since 1938, Dupar's has been serving up pancakes in L.A. at its original Farmer's Market location. It recently opened a new site in the former location of the second-to-last Hamburger Hamlet, a medieval-themed, sit-down hamburger restaurant. Dupar's didn't delay their move-in date by renovating, so you still get to sit in those red leather booths and eat like a king or a queen. It's open 24 hours, catering to your pre-CicLAvia carbo-load, or your post-CicLAvia splurge. And if you "Beat the Clock" and dine between 4-6 p.m., the cost of your meal is the time you arrived.

La Grande Orange Café and Luggage Room Pizzeria
The old Santa Fe Railroad depot -- now a dining destination -- is right behind the current Del Mar station on the Metro Gold Line, along the closed street route. These two restaurants are housed in the historic Mission Revival-style Del Mar train station. The pizzeria literally set up shop in the actual former luggage room, with outdoor seating options as well. On the day of the event, be sure to grab a free salted chocolate chip cookie while waiting for a table at either restaurant, or on your way out.

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After all that exercise (and hopefully a good meal), you'll probably be looking to cool off with a refreshing dessert. And even if you don't really "get" the architectural references of Coolhaus' gourmet ice cream and ice cream sandwiches, it's fun to stop into their Pasadena shop. Try some of their wackier flavors, with unlikely ingredients that include Sriracha, foie gras, olive oil, tea, and root beer.

Gold Bug
Sure, if you're looking to do a little shopping while in Old Town, you have your choice of chains like the Container Store, Crate & Barrel, and the Apple Store, but why not visit a shop that is unique to Pasadena? Enter Gold Bug, a repository of offbeat wares whose inspirations range from natural history to the macabre. It's a hybrid of art gallery, jewelry store, and cabinet of curiosities -- and yes, there are bugs. Gold ones. Peruse the goods to your heart's content, but keep your cell phone and camera in your pocket. This is not an Instagram-friendly establishment.

Central Park
Located across the street from the Del Mar Station (and its two historic restaurants), Central Park is a welcome green refuge in the middle of a pretty busy commercial district. There's plenty of open area to park your bike or stroller and just relax, but there are also six horseshoe pits and two lawn bowling courts to keep you occupied. While you're there, head to the south end of the park and venture down Edmonson Alley (between Fair Oaks and Raymond). This is where the California Cycleway, an elevated wooden tollway specifically for bikes, used to run until the end of the late 1800s.

Historic Alley Walkways
Even when Colorado Boulevard is open to traffic, Old Town Pasadena is already a very pedestrian-friendly area, thanks to an alley walkway plan adopted by the City Council in 1995. Many of the alleys behind commercial buildings have been closed to traffic and transformed into pedestrian walkways, allowing patrons to access commercial businesses by foot from either the front or the back door. Most of the alleys are marked with signage referencing its specific historic significance. Take a stroll down Legge Alley (named for real estate developer Charles Legge), Mercantile Place (still a service road for early morning deliveries), or Exchange Alley to pay homage to Pasadena's earliest settlers, merchants, and businesses.

Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein
Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein

Public Art
One of the many hidden treasures of Old Town Pasadena is its public art in not-so-obvious places. Whether it's a tile mosaic, a mural, or a cast bronze sculpture, there are literally dozens of monuments and works of art that aren't quite as obvious as the giant heads of Jackie and Mack Robinson by City Hall. The Public Art in Public Places website lists them all with exact addresses, or you can pull up Google Maps on your smartphone and search nearby for "public art" to find the one closest to you. There's even a drinking fountain for animals in Central Park.

CicLAvia Pasadena runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Visit their website for event info, downloadable maps, and details about street closures, bus detours, and bike rental locations.

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