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Southern California Close-Ups: Pasadena and environs

The area has its traditions, including Craftsman homes, Old Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, its greenery including Huntington Library, its Asian flare with Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants, and its fun and funky side at Eagle Rock hangouts.

June 05, 2012|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Din Tai Fung (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Tired of people? Try peacocks and cycads instead. At the 127- acre L.A. County Arboretum & Botanic Garden (301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia;, you can do that, inspect reflections on Baldwin Lake and read up on the life, times and wives of local pioneer Lucky Baldwin, whose land this once was.

When you get hungry, there are hundreds of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants along the main drags of nearby San Gabriel, Alhambra and Monterey Park. But you have world-famous dumplings within 1.2 miles, so you're headed to Din Tai Fung (1108 and 1088 S. Baldwin Ave.). Din Tai Fung is a global restaurant chain, born in Taiwan, and the sibling Arcadia restaurants are its only California outlets. Customers often wait in line (no reservations taken) for a chance at xiao long bao -- steamed dumplings filled with pork and broth, explosively flavorful.

9. Eagle Rock, Glendale

Annette Baghumyan and Arthur Abopyan enjoy lunch at Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock.Auntie Em's cafe ( Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

Start in hipster-heavy Eagle Rock, just west of Pasadena, with a comfort breakfast at Auntie Em's (4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles;

Then head about three miles west to Forest Lawn Memorial Park (1712 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale;, which is a cemetery in the same sense that Hearst Castle is a house. Begun in 1906, these 300 acres of rolling green hills contain more copied Michelangelo sculptures and celebrity graves than any place else you'll find all week. Humphrey Bogart. Walt Disney. Nat King Cole. Shortly after his death in 2009, Michael Jackson arrived, followed in early 2011 by Elizabeth Taylor. Management gives no celebrity directions and keeps many resting spots behind locked doors, but you'll get plenty of hints from

10. A real charmer

Buster's Ice Cream & Coffee Stop (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

South Pasadena (another sort of Main Street USA, but this time with yoga and lattes) won’t jolt you with its high energy. In fact, it may tranquilize you with its prosperous, family-friendly calm. First, get breakfast at Heirloom Bakery (807 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena). Stroll on highly walkable Mission Street, Meridian Avenue and El Centro Street, and maybe break for a snack at the mural-bedecked Buster's Ice Cream & Coffee Stop (1006 Mission St., South Pasadena;, next to the Metro tracks. If it's Thursday afternoon, catch the farmers market on Meridian between Mission and El Centro. Then retire to your room.

What room? Perhaps the Arroyo Vista Inn (335 Monterey Road, South Pasadena;, a genteel bed-and-breakfast at the top of a long driveway. It has nine well-appointed bedrooms in a 1910 Craftsman (not so good for children). If you have kids, look at the Bissell House (201 Orange Grove Ave., South Pasadena;, a lived-in Victorian on the Pasadena/South Pasadena border with a pool in back. From there, it's a half-mile to a quiet, elegant (but pricey) dinner at the Raymond Restaurant (1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena;

11. Home of the Huntington

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

When in San Marino (median household income: about $159,000 a year), why not loll like a 1-percenter? Have an elegant breakfast at Julienne (2649 Mission St., San Marino;, or get a meal to go from its gourmet market and head for nearby Lacy Park (1485 Virginia Road, San Marino;, a 30-acre refuge of tall trees, playground and paths well-suited to picnickers and beginning bicyclists. On weekends, there's a $4 fee for nonresidents 4 and older, so you might prefer smaller Garfield Park, which is almost as close at Mission Street and Park Avenue in South Pasadena.

Either way, don’t linger too long, because the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; is in your future. This is where Thomas Gainsborough's 18th century "The Blue Boy" painting and 120 acres of gardens have long been big attractions. In the library, you can eye a Gutenberg Bible and a Charles Bukowski manuscript. In the American art collection, take a good look at the ocean in Edward Hopper's 1935 painting "The Long Leg." Who knew this inland journey would bring you to the most luminous blue sea ever?

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