Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in San Gabriel Valley, CA

  • Published 2022/07/05

San Gabriel Valley sits as one of the most highly urbanized regions along Southern California.

It’s a region that encompasses more than 30 cities and neighborhoods, marking it as a powerhouse for all types of attractions in the state.

This far-reaching valley has its name tied to the San Gabriel River, which lies southward along the region’s center.

Some of the largest cities in the San Gabriel Valley include Pasadena, Pomona, and Claremont.

A trip to San Gabriel Valley might overwhelm you with a broad selection of cities and neighborhoods to explore.

However, here are the best things to do in San Gabriel Valley, CA, to help you narrow down your list:

Roam the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

The lake of Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Noah Sauve /

As its name suggests, the Huntington is a three-in-one destination in the great city of San Marino.

As a library, it’s a world-class destination with millions of collected items, books, and documents from the 11th to 21st century.

Meanwhile, the museum houses an impressive range of artworks from the 15th to the 20th century, focusing mainly on European and American art.

Artichoke plants at Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Noah Sauve /

Huntington’s botanical gardens are equally impressive, containing over 16 different themed gardens and over 27,000 types of plant species.

Wander through stunning, vibrant flowers, hand-sculpted statues, famous artworks, and historical artifacts in just one location.

With so much to explore, the Huntington is an upscale destination you can’t skip on a trip to San Gabriel Valley.

Exterior of the art gallery of Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Noah Sauve /

Feast at Grand Central Market

Exterior of Grand Central Market

bdaave /

This market takes in food stalls of various cuisines and puts them in a single emporium to provide guests with a wide selection of food options.

Established in 1917, this venue was once called the “Wonder Market.”

It was one of the finest public markets in San Gabriel Valley.

It’s housed in a historic Beaux-Arts-style building, reinforced with steel to become fireproof.

People shopping in Grand Central Market /

Until now, the market continues to be a popular destination, featuring a collection of uniquely LA-flavored stalls.

You can also try diverse cuisine here.

Eat your fill of traditional foods across the world, including those from the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico, Japan, and more.

For foodies, the Grand Central Market will be a dream destination.

Find them along downtown Los Angeles.

People eating at Grand Central Market

Hayk_Shalunts /

Make a Splash at Raging Waters Los Angeles

Raging Waters is one of California’s largest and most popular water parks.

With 60 acres of park facilities, you have a broad range of water rides and pools to explore.

Take your pick of calm, relaxing attractions and thrilling, heart-racing rides.

There are also restaurants and stalls for an assortment of cool dessert treats and filling, hearty meals.

An on-site gift shop with themed souvenirs can give you cute keepsakes of this fun adventure.

Raging Waters is in San Dimas, a region in the San Gabriel Valley.

Beat the heat with their refreshing water-related attractions.

Glimpse the Exterior of the Queen Anne Cottage

Exterior of the Queen Anne Cottage

Kit Leong /

Queen Anne Cottage is a historic home in Arcadia that deserves recognition.

It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It has retained various furnishings and details from the 19th century, especially its outdoor exterior.

Coupled with lush gardens, the complete scene looks like an actual piece of the past.

Wooden interior of the Queen Anne Cottage

Kit Leong /

You can sit at one of the seats or benches in front of Queen Anne Cottage and investigate its traditional architecture’s intricate details and styles.

Sometimes, they open the interior, so you can browse through antiques, artifacts, and vintage furnishings.

A visit to Queen Anne Cottage offers a scenic flashback to the past splendors.

Drop by the area at Baldwin Avenue if you’re a history buff.

A carriage in the Queen Anne Cottage

Kit Leong /

Explore the Food Stalls at 626 Night Market

Ten times a year, the city of Arcadia prepares itself to hold the annual 626 Night Market.

It’s a lively food festival that began in 2012, taking inspiration from the famous night markets in Asia.

An array of diverse food stalls is scattered across the area, each holding different specialty foods worldwide.

You can find Asian street foods, Mexican comfort foods, assorted drinks, and desserts on the premises.

Since most of their food items are finger food, you can roam around while eating.

Keep exploring the stalls and buying new snacks as you finish your current delicacy.

It’s a fun, fulfilling experience that can let you try the flavors and cuisines of other countries, especially those from Asia.

Admire the Architecture of the Gamble House

Exterior of The Gamble House

Sundry Photography /

Travelers from across the country visit the Gamble House to see masterful pieces of woodwork and architecture.

The Gamble House is a historic home built over 100 years ago.

It’s known for excellent wood craftsmanship, featuring 17 species of hand-sculpted and hand-carved wood furnishings.

They offer a variety of tours.

One of them can give you complete information on all things related to the wood carvings and decor of the house.

Interior of The Gamble House

Sundry Photography /

A different tour of the Gamble House can give you insights into Pasadena, one of the most populated cities in San Gabriel Valley.

The guides will discuss the beginnings of Pasadena and how people in the city lived during those early years.

Those who visit the Gamble House can expect an engaging learning experience inside an intricate, world-famous historical home.

Kitchen area of The Gamble House

Sundry Photography /

Walk the Streets of Old Pasadena

Daytime view of Old Pasadena

Angel DiBilio /

Old Pasadena refers to the downtown district of Pasadena, first established as the city’s commercial hub.

It went through a cycle of boom and eventual decline until the city revived it to thrive in modern times.

New businesses operated out of old buildings, so you’ll see hints of old-style, historic architecture along the entire district.

A trolley along Old Pasadena's road

Wangkun Jia /

Old Pasadena contains an assortment of quaint shops, restaurants, and old buildings.

This cozy district is a cultural and historical gem of Pasadena.

A leisure walk while seeing distinctive structures within a peaceful atmosphere is perfect for people who need to unwind.

Fantastic events like live concerts, movie screenings, and food tasting tours also occur often in the area.

Buildings along Old Pasadena

Michael Gordon /

See a Show at the Vineland Drive-in Theater

Try watching a movie through this drive-in theater at the City of Industry for something new.

You can stay in the comfort of your car while watching the movies on an enormous HD screen.

They’ll also provide you with a portable radio from the snack bar so you can listen clearly to the movie’s music and audio.

Bringing your own food and drinks is allowed.

However, they also have a concession stand for essential movie snacks and drinks like popcorn, hotdogs, pretzels, churros, and assorted soft drinks.

The Vineland Drive-in Theater is open only at night to display maximum visibility from their screen projector.

You can find this casual theater along Vineland Avenue.

Bike at San Gabriel River Trail

The paved San Gabriel River bikeway Trail

Chisq, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

San Gabriel River Trail is great for travelers looking into outdoor adventures.

The paved path makes it an easy, straightforward terrain, especially for those who bike.

While hiking and horseback riding are allowed there, biking is the most popular recreation along San Gabriel River Trail.

As you go through the cemented path, beautiful views of the San Gabriel River and the San Gabriel Mountains will guide you on your way.

Aside from those natural landscapes, the trail will also lead you through residential and industrial environments.

If this interests you, go to the trailhead, which starts at San Gabriel River Parkway in Pico Rivera.

Book a Ticket to Pasadena Playhouse

Neon signage of Pasadena Playhouse

Angel DiBilio /

Pasadena Playhouse is one of the most highly esteemed organizations in the country, having staged hundreds of plays throughout the years.

Some of their works have even made it to the illustrious Broadway.

The theater venue in Pasadena is a historic building from 1917 that features classic architecture.

Bring a date to the theater for a night of splendor and old elegance.

Exterior of Pasadena Playhouse

Angel DiBilio /

They stage shows with esteemed producers, varying from renowned classics to upcoming, original works from their playwrights.

Pasadena Playhouse has a beautiful outdoor courtyard with simple seating, mellow lanterns, a few tropical trees, and a fountain centerpiece.

Drop by El Molino Avenue to visit this respected theater.

Pasadena Playhouse's beautiful courtyard

Angel DiBilio /

Feel the Thrill at Bungee America

Face your fears and take on bungee jumping at the Bridge to Nowhere in La Verne City.

Bungee America offers one of the most thrilling experiences in San Gabriel Valley: jumping from 120 feet into the waiting picturesque canyons.

They have jump packages, depending on how many times you’d like to do bungee jumping.

Before that, you must go through a five-mile hike that begins at the trailhead of Bridge to Nowhere.

It may be a long and challenging trek.

However, along the way, you’ll immerse yourself in beautiful nature with rocky terrains, short riverbeds, and precious plant life.

Wear comfortable, athletic clothing before adding this place to your bucket list.

Join the Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Queen Elizabeth throne at Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Real Deal Photo /

You can find a unique venture in Irwindale, one of the cities under San Gabriel Valley.

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is an annual event held from April to May that highlights a Renaissance theme with merry festivities.

You can try many Renaissance-inspired activities at the fair, including archery, ax throwing, javelin throwing, hair braiding, painting, and more.

You can dress up like in the old days or admire other people’s costumes.

A woman dressed in a gown at Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Real Deal Photo /

There are also artisans and merchants selling handcrafted products like jewelry, clothing, toys, sculptures, and other knick-knacks.

Food and drinks are also an essential part of this festival

Roam the grounds for easy-to-eat meals and drinks during the event.

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ve got to try.

Wander around this fun reenactment of the Renaissance.

A man riding a horse at Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Real Deal Photo /

Watch a Rodeo at Pico Rivera Sports Arena

If you’re looking for a fun and lively destination, look no further.

Pico Rivera Sports Arena presents various forms of dynamic entertainment through concerts, rodeos, festivals, and night markets.

Built in 1979, this arena is the largest Mexican rodeo arena in America.

With Latin-styled performances, the shows will likely be filled with fun and amusement.

Located along Sports Arena Drive, this arena is a fun, spirited destination that can also give you a taste of Latin culture and hospitality.

Give it a chance.

Take Pictures at Los Angeles County Arboretum

Daytime view of Los Angeles County Arboretum's beautiful landscape

Kit Leong /

In 1953, they constructed the first greenhouse in the Los Angeles County Arboretum to jumpstart plans for the tourist destination.

Now, they have over 11 themed gardens, each having its own distinctive style and inspiration.

See rose flowers, tropical oases, aquatic parks, and a farm.

A walk across the gardens will present diverse landscapes, colorful flowers, and abundant greenery.

A bright-colored peacock at Los Angeles County Arboretum

Kit Leong /

It’s one of the best places to unwind and relax within the region of San Gabriel Valley.

They also have classes for adults, children, and families who want a more engaging and interactive experience.

Visit these beautiful gardens at Baldwin Avenue in the city of Arcadia.

Exhibit at Los Angeles County Arboretum's digital nature

Kit Leong /

Visit the Bunny Museum

Along the region of San Gabriel Valley lies a quirky museum featured in several articles and even in the Guinness Book World of Records.

The Bunny Museum, established in 1993, began with a romantic tale of a boy giving a girl a plush rabbit doll.

This act sparked their affinity for the animal.

This museum pins the spotlight on bunnies, an uncommon theme that often piques the curiosity of guests.

From fluffy, cute exhibits and real-life bunnies to a horror museum that details the abuse that some bunnies go through, the Bunny Museum fully deserves its name.

The museum has reportedly collected more than 40,000 bunny-related items.

Bring home a little piece of this museum from their adorable gift shop selling bunny-themed trinkets, t-shirts, and stuffed toys.

The Bunny Museum at Altadena is one of those rare, bizarre destinations that can make for an exciting visit.

Final Thoughts

With so many cities in the San Gabriel Valley, you won’t run out of things to explore.

You can easily find cultural destinations, unique venues, annual events, and historical sites within the region.

These cities and neighborhoods are also closely situated, so it won’t take long to travel from one to another.

Coupled with nature and its surrounding environment, San Gabriel Valley will be worth your time.

Book your trip today!

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