27 Fun Things To Do in the San Gabriel Valley If You’re In The Neighborhood

The San Gabriel Valley may not be known as the valley when folks think of Los Angeles, but the SGV encompasses more area than you probably think, ranging in neighborhoods and cities from La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena to Monterey Park, Alhambra, Whittier, Hacienda Heights, and even as far east as Pomona.

With so much ground to cover we decided to select some of the best attractions around the SVG for you to explore. This includes a foodie night market, one of the last remaining operating drive-in movie theaters, L.A.’s best botanical gardens, a massive free music fest, plenty of outdoor activities and much, much more.


So come on over to the (true) east side of Los Angeles County and discover some of the best things to see and do in the 626.

List starts after the jump in no particular order.

[RELATED: 20 Fun Things To Do In Pasadena If You Happen To Be in The Neighborhood]

Huntington Library Bridge
Japanese Garden Bridge at the Huntington Library. Credit: Michael Saechang via flickr

1. Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens

Take a breathtaking garden walk at the Huntington Botanical Gardens with 120 acres and over a dozen specialized gardens and landscapes, this spot is truly one of the most beautiful and romantic locations in all of Los Angeles.

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2. Fishing, paddle boating, or hiking at Bonelli Park

Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park is a man made recreation park located in San Dimas. The 250 acre park contains a lake called Puddingstone Reservoir, where park patrons can fish, swim, sail, wind surf, go boating and jet skiing. Other recreations include: Horse rentals, RV camp sites, a play ground, barbecues, hiking, hot tubs, biking, family picnic areas and private picnic areas.

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3. Turnbull Canyon

If you take Beverly Blvd east through Whittier it eventually becomes Turnbull Canyon Rd., at which point you’ll find a a small free dirt parking lot on the north side of the road where you can get out, then journey up a relatively short hiking trail through the canyon, winding your way up to a Water Tower with some truly spectacular views of the San Gabriels to the north and the Los Angeles basin to the east  (see below).

Just keep in mind that parking lot fills up super fast on the weekends!

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Turnbull Canyon View
View looking west from Turnbull Canyon. Credit: Brian Champlin / We Like L.A.

4. 626 Night Market

The 626 Night Market lays claim to being the largest Asian-themed night market in the United States with over 200 food and craft vendors participating in each event on average every year.

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5. Visit The Original In-N-Out Burger Replica

Check out a replica of the original 1948 In N Out drive-thru stand in Baldwin Park. Then go next door and order some serious grub! The Original In N Out Replica is located at 13766 Francisquito Ave, Baldwin Park, CA 91706.

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The In N Out replica at a glance. Credit: Brian Champlin
The In N Out replica at a glance. Credit: Brian Champlin

6. Vineland Drive-in Movie Theatre

Vineland Drive-in is one of the few remaining drive-ins in Los Angeles. Located in the City of Industry the space is a swap meet by day and a drive-in movie venue by night. Open seven days a week, folks get to watch a movie under the night’s sky inside the comfort of their own cars.

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7. Attend The Altadena Farmers Market

This particular famers market has a great selection of artisanal offerings and plenty of fresh produce, fresh oysters, tasty food vendors and a guy named Ben who will sharpen your knives. The market happens every Wednesday 4:00pm to 8:00pm (Spring and Summer) and 3:00pm to 7:00pm (Fall/Winter).

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8. Hiking Sturtevant Falls / Santa Anita Canyon

Our friend Casey Schreiner from Modern Hiker chose this trail as one of 5 Hikes You Gotta Do Your First Year Living in Los Angeles, and with good reason. Here’s Casey’s insight: “Whether you want an easy, shaded hike to a beautiful waterfall or a longer trek through some of the most gorgeous canyon country in the San Gabriel Mountains, this canyon has something to offer. It also has a ton of history – the oldest U.S. Forest Service structure still in its original spot, the last remaining wilderness resort from L.A.’s “Great Hiking Era,” and one of the last operating pack mule stations in the country.”

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9. The Los Angeles Arboretum

127 acres of some of the most beautiful botanical space you’ll find in the greater Los Angeles area.


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L.A. County Arboretum
L.A. County Arboretum. Credit to Chris M. Morris via flickr

10. Hsi Lai Temple

Visit the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights and bask in the awe that is dynasty architecture. Walk the gardens, dine at the vegetarian food hall and climb the massive steps that lead up to a golden temple. This 15 acre Chinese monastery took ten-years to plan and construct and was completed in in the late 80’s.

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11. Old Town Pasadena

Head on over to Old Town Pasadena for a little shopping, entertainment and dining. Start your day with some delicious baked goods from popular Asian bakery 85C Bakery Café and get caffeinated over at Intelligentsia. Shop on Colorado Avenue and the Paseo Mall, relax and enjoy a movie at the Arclight or see a play at the Pasadena Playhouse. Last but not least, take advantage of the booming food scene. Visit Union or Racion both have been selected on J. Gold’s 101 Best Resturants 2015 in the L.A. Times. If you have kids drop them off at the ice skating rink!

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12. Levitt Concert Series

Since we’re on the subject of Old Town, let’s not forget the Levitt Pavilion Concert Series, which offers dozens of free outdoor musical performances each and every summer at Memorial Park.

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Levitt Pavilion Concerts
Levitt Pavilion Concert Series. Credit: Justin Higuchi via flickr

13. Rose Bowl Flea Market

One of the biggest and most popular flea markets in California is located in Pasadena inside of the Rose Bowl. Held on the second Sunday of each month the Rosebowl Flea Market has everything you can imagine. With 2,500 vendors from vintage tees, jewelry to furniture, there is no doubt you will find something unique at this market. The market takes place on the second Sunday of each month and admission is $8.

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14. The Exit Game

Step into a real-life immersive experience at The Exit Game located in Monterey Park. Like being in a video game, choose from a variety of missions and join a group of about 10 people in completing the mission by solving interactive puzzles and mind games to escape each room and complete the mission.

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15. Norton Simon Museum of Art

The museum is regarded as one of the most remarkable private collection spanning 2,000 years. Pieces from Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse and Diego Rivera are all on permanent view. In addition to the collections, The Sculpture Gardens are a delightful addition to the museum including a diverse collection of art dispersed throughout. Also, admission is free after 5:00pm the first Friday of every month!

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Norton Simon Sculpture Garden
The Norton Simon Museum Gardens. Credit: Parker Knight via flickr

16. Salsa Dancing At The Granada

Go salsa dancing! Take a quick class before the band starts to play and dance the night away. The lively salsa band will get you on your feet but the veteran salsa dancers will sweep you off your feet! Head upstairs where the style turns to Bachata a Dominican Republic dance for two.

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17. Santa Anita Park

Pick out your best hat and place your bets at the Santa Anita Race Park! Spend a day cheering on for thoroughbred horses with the San Gabriel Mountains as your backdrop.

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18. The San Gabriel Mission

The San Gabriel Mission is a historical landmark and fully operating Roman Catholic mission and museum. Visitors can tour the church, museum, grounds and they even have a cemetery with lots of ghost stories!

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19. The Gamble House

Take a tour inside an American masterpiece. The Gamble House in Pasadena belonged to Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future movies! Aside from that Hollywood fact, this house is the most complete and well-preserved work of American Arts and Crafts architects Charles and Henry Greene.

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The Gamble House
The Gamble House. Credit: Ken Lund via flickr

20. Descanso Gardens

Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge boasts ten different gardens, including a California Natives Garden featuring the Matilda Poppy and other California flowers, a Nature’s Table Garden featuring solely edible plants and this year they introduced the Ancient Forest a collection of over 180 plants representing 60 varieties virtually unchanged in form since the days of the dinosaurs.

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21. Kidpace Museum

A great family destination the Kidspace Children’s Museum located next to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is nearly 3.5 acres of kid-driven experiences. On any given day you can find workshops, art centers, gardening classes and lots of explorative interactive learning activities.

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22. Make Music Pasadena

Make Music Pasadena is a FREE, all-day, all-ages music celebration in the heart of Old Town Pasadena. Usually happening in June, thousands of people show up to watch shows from the main stage as well as 30 other additional venues, spanning 20+ blocks.

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23. San Gabriel River Bike Trail

The San Gabriel River Trail is 28-miles of biking heaven. Take your bike along the San Gabriel River through El Dorado Regional Park and near the Alamitos Bay Marina. If you head south you will end up in Seal Beach. Go north and you’ll find yourself near Whittier Narrows Recreation Area.


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24. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (or JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in La Cañada Flintridge, just northwest of Pasadena.

JPL does an open house once a year in October with free admission to the public. The open house includes an insider’s view in their machine shop, the microdevices lab, lifesize 3-D models, and more! They also have a weekly lecture series that takes place twice a month on consecutive days with industry experts discussing relevant topics to the space and technology field. The lecture series is also free!

JPL Open House 2009
From JPL’s Open House in 2009. Credit: Brian Karczewski via flickr

25. Pasadena Roving Archers

The Roving Archers have been doing their thing in the Lower Arroyos since 1935 and are a great group to connect with if you want to learn the art of archery. You can’t beat the free class (all equipment included) that they offer every Saturday morning.

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26. Eaton Canyon

A 3.8 mile hike that crosses over a streams and ends at a beautiful 40 foot waterfall. Will take 1 to 3 hours to traverse. May want to check it out on the weekdays as it will get very crowded on the weekend.

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27. Vroman’s Bookstore

Pasadena’s oldest bookstore is a great spot to spend a rainy afternoon perusing, reading, or just hanging out, and they also have plenty of signings, readings, and other community oriented events on their calendar to keep you coming back week in and week out. Two locations in the SGV, one on Colorado Blvd and the other on Foothill.

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Did we miss any of your favorite things to do in the SGV? Let us know what’s cool in the comments below!


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