Just northeast of Los Angeles, Pasadena is a world apart: a place where you can stroll streets lined with craftsman-era homes and contemplate the galaxy in the spirit of Einstein and Hubble.
1. Each New Year's Day, the city basks in the spotlight as 72 million people tune in to the Rose Parade, a riot of marching bands and floral floats. (Last winter, a giant sea monster stole the show with its green and yellow chrysanthemum "scales.") Snagging free curb seating requires overnight camping, but you can view the floats for two days afterward, parked on Sierra Madre and Washington Boulevards.
2. See Doc Brown's house from Back to the Future—also known as the Gamble House, a 1908 arts-and-crafts creation—plus settings from La La Land and Parks and Recreation on a bus tour of over 30 Pasadena filming locations. Says guide Jared Cowan, "Each stop is like visiting an old friend."
3. The sprawling campus of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in nearby San Marino merits a full day's exploration. Beginning this fall, you can watch live as its most famous painting, The Blue Boy, undergoes a year of conservation.
4. Pasadena claims to have invented the cheeseburger, citing an ingenious teen employed at the long-gone Rite Spot. For a classic with house-made Thousand Island, Pie 'n Burger is the best bet. Dog Haus skews modern, serving a fried egg–topped version inside grilled King's Hawaiian Rolls.
5. Observations through the Hooker Telescope allowed Edwin Hubble to prove that the universe is expanding and helped Albert Einstein refine his complete theory of relativity. See the famed telescope—which turns 101 this year—on a guided tour of the Mount Wilson Observatory.