Mild winters were what once drew frost-bitten vacationers from the Midwest and East Coast to Pasadena. People as diverse as Henry Ford and John Muir chose to spend their winters here, rather than freezing their behinds off back home. Sunny days in December are something we at Hometown Pasadena appreciate, too. So while others are shoveling snow in colder climes, and we’re still reveling in the incredible weather we’ve been having, it’s time to look at some of our favorite cool-weather picnic spots.
Charles S. Farnsworth Park
568 E. Mount Curve Ave., Altadena
A former nursery, Farnsworth Park was built by the Works Progress Administration during the Depression utilizing the labor of unemployed Altadenans. Ideal for picnics at any time of year, it’s a beautiful place to while away an autumn afternoon, and contains children’s play areas, horseshoe pits, and numerous picnic tables. For the athletically-inclined, there are two baseball diamonds, and lighted basketball and tennis courts. The San Gabriels provide a magnificent backdrop, and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Senior potluck the first Monday of every month.
Echo Mountain Picnic Area
Angeles National Forest
626.574.1613 (Forest Service general line)
Reachable by a brisk 2.5-mile hike up the breathtaking Sam Merrill Trail, this picnic area will appeal to history buffs and hikers alike. Picnic tables are shaded by pine trees and situated among the ruins of “The White City”—twin resort hotels that once stood on the spot. As Dan’s Hiking Pages notes, “exploring the ruins has a feel of visiting historic ancient sites in Egypt or Greece.” Pack a warm jacket—the elevation (3,207 feet) can make it a chilly spot at this time of year. Map information is available at the Forest Service website.
1485 Virginia Rd., San Marino
The classic Pasadena-area picnic spot, Lacy Park is one of the most well-tended parks in Southern California. (No surprise that it’s in San Marino.) Designed in 1925, the park is named for former San Marino mayor Richard H. Lacy, who served from 1926 until 1942. The park is part botanical garden, part public recreational area, and is home to many rare plants donated by Henry Huntington from his personal estate. Be sure to check out the Rose Arbor, one of the most beautiful spots on the grounds. A children’s playground, picnic tables, and acres of open grass make it a perfect spot for families with kids. Free entrance on weekdays; $4 for non-residents on weekends.
1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena
A landscape architect’s dream, Caltech is full of grassy expanses and shrub-filled nooks that are well-suited to picnics. Throop Memorial Garden, with its man-made waterfalls, stone paths, and ponds (home to koi and turtles), is one of the most serene and pleasant spots on the campus. If you don’t feel like packing food, pick something up at the Red Door Café, located in the Winnett Student Center. A self-guided tour, “Along the Olive Walk,” is available from the Caltech website.
Hahamongna Watershed Park
Oak Grove Dr. between Berkshire Pl. and Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
A 300-acre park, Hahamongna is a water conservation and flood management area that also contains hiking trails, picnic facilities, equestrian gathering areas, and a multi-purpose playing field (home to the world’s first disc golf course). Numerous wildlife and bird species are found throughout the park. Group picnic areas available by reservation.
1100 Oxley St., South Pasadena
Two acres of landscaped grounds surround South Pasadena’s lovely 81-year-old public library. Trees, grass mounds, and winding walkways form a small slice of urban tranquility. The grass mounds are a great place to spread out a blanket and relax with a book—and perhaps a cup of coffee from Kaldi (located across the street), or a few delicacies from Nicole’s Gourmet Foods on nearby Meridian Ave.