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Fair Oaks Avenue in Old Town Pasadena

Fair Oaks and Colorado was Pasadena's central intersection when the city incorporated  in 1886.  After a long decline, this old commercial neighborhood has been turned around to become one of 3 major shopping centers for the city and region.

The Old Pasadena Historic District -- or as it is locally known, Old Town Pasadena -- has been a shining example of the revitalization of a run-down city center.  Photos from the 1800s show Fair Oaks and Colorado Street as the primary crossroads for the new city.  But by three decades ago it was home to a great antiques store (Jay's), a bar or two that opened at 6 a.m. and many seemingly vacant storefronts.  After 5 p.m. not a person was in sight.  They might as well have rolled up the sidewalks.

Today Old Town Pasadena is a dynamic shopping center at the heart of Pasadena.  Jay's Antiques, alas, has moved away to be replaced with mall-favorites such as J. Crew and Crate & Barrel, along with other chain stores along Colorado.  After dark the sidewalk traffic really picks up as people head for the dozens restaurants and clubs.

Lula Mae on Holly St. in Pasadena What locals know -- and visitors often do not -- is that the side streets off Colorado are where to find the more interesting shops and great dining.  These smaller, independent businesses are stocked with  unusual items, and, in the case of restaurants, the owners have developed their own unique menus.

For  example, Lula Mae, a whimsical gift store facing Fair Oaks,  is one of a handful of small shops along Holly Street, which runs parallel to Colorado.  Two doors away is one of the best chocolatiers in the Southern California.  At the end of the block at Holly and Raymond is Cafe Bizou, a long-time favorite local bistro.   

You will find more unique stores along Green St. which runs parallel to, and one block south of, Colorado.

One notable exception to the "go to the side streets" guideline is 21 Choices, a yogurt shop on Colorado that is like taking a time-trip to the 1970s.  Put on your old Birkenstocks and stop by for a yummy dish of tart or sweet stuff.

As Old Town became revitalized, developers and builders saw an opportunity and began building apartments and condos within two or three blocks of Colorado Blvd.  But condos and cottages are topics for another page on this website.

In addition to Old Town, there are two other major shopping areas in Pasadena. One is along Lake Avenue south of Colorado where there are new, smaller chain stores and restaurants alongside independents.  Out east on Foothill Blvd. is where the Big Box stores reign.  So if you just have to have the latest at  Best Buy, Old Navy, or Bed Bath and Beyond -- Go East!

Castle Green Old Town Pasadena California About Castle Green.  If you walk down Raymond from Colorado Blvd. you will see an enormous, ornate building -- the Castle Green. Once upon a time it was the smaller (Yes, smaller!)west wing annex  of the Hotel Green, a luxury resort.  The larger east wing is now gone but half the walkway  between the two buildings remains.  Castle Green was designed by Frederick Roehrig and opened in 1899.  It now contains about 50 condos.   In November and April  there are tours of the  building.




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