By Mimi Slawoff
To celebrate our anniversary, my husband Bruce and I headed for the storybook town that sits at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains: Pasadena. Rich with greenery, architectural charm, art and all manner of restaurants, Pasadena is a great place to spend a day with your valentine. Explore the Pasadena Playhouse District, South Lake Avenue and our favorite, Old Pasadena, a 22-block historical area with 19th-century structures, boutiques, eateries and taverns.
Norton Simon Museum (nortonsimon.org)
Housed in a Frank Gehry-designed building, the museum has lovely gardens and collections featuring paintings and sculptures from Europe, Asia and America.
It’s a great place for couples to share intimate thoughts about paintings by Rembrandt, Botticelli, Raphael, Monet and Van Gogh. Outside in the sculpture garden, we strolled along a path circling a duck pond. Enjoy happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in the Garden Cafe.
Public Art Walking Tours
Pasadena’s eight public art walking tours span districts and include various art forms from sculptures and carvings to fountains and murals. Each tour takes 30 to 60 minutes. Map in hand, we worked as a team searching for artwork, some easy to find (like large sculptures) and others less obvious – like ironworks in railings and leaded glass doors. It became a game, and we found ourselves laughing instead of arguing over directions.
The Raymond 1886 (theraymond.com)
After a day of walking (nearly 14,000 steps on my Fitbit!), we relaxed over cocktails at The Raymond 1886, a casual yet elegant bar with a romantic ambiance befitting an old Hollywood movie. In 1886, Walter Raymond built the Raymond Hotel, which burned in 1895. He built a larger hotel along with a caretaker’s cottage, where he and his wife hosted Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and other celebrities. The hotel was razed in the 1930s, but today the original cottage is beloved for its craft drinks served inside or outside on the patios. We sat inside, where our server recommended the Smoking Jacket, a fire-torched, woodsy whiskey drink. Bruce opted for the Angry Optimist, a bourbon concoction.
This hip restaurant serves modern Mexican cuisine and Mezcal cocktails in a rustic, contemporary setting. No chips and salsa, but the menu is organized from smaller bites to entrees. We started with margaritas rimmed with ground hibiscus. I ordered arrachera, a tender grass-fed citrus marinated skirt steak with cilantro, chickpea rice and house chorizo chimichurri. Bruce ordered seared scallops with huitlacoche rice, epazote foam and greens. He said they were the best he’d ever had. Likewise, our date in Pasadena passed with flying colors – and flavors.