In case anyone hasn’t noticed, Pasadena is home to an inordinate number of Christian churches, so many, in fact, that this is the reason given for never holding the Rose Parade on Sunday — so as not to spook horses and disrupt religious services. 

But did our God-fearing, teetotaler forbearers know something else about Pasadena to make attending services not just compulsory but necessary, even to the point of disrupting the city’s signature New Year’s Day festivities? 

There have a been a few evil people from this area over these many years, so we don’t know for sure if folks back then needed more help than usual in resisting the urges of their darker selves and embracing their inner Dr. Jekylls. 

We do know, however, that our collection of Best of Pasadena winners — this year with a few pleasant surprises — is a positive reflection of our better natures, as well as a haunting but welcome reminder of the excellence required to make this annual list in the Pasadena Way category.

Speaking of the Rose Parade, it is again our Best Annual Event, with the parade starting shortly after sunup most New Year’s mornings, driving stakes through the heart of the cold, dark night and the old year. 

Other perennial honorees this year include Caltech, the Best Place to Work and the Best Institute of Higher Education (duh), where not-so-mad scientists ply their science and engineering skills to answer the many questions posed by our vast and mysterious universe; Aveson Charter School, winning for Best Charter School; the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, voted the community’s Best Music School; Mentor Avenue Preschool, named Best Preschool; and Yvonne Davis of Don Benito Elementary School, once again voted Best Teacher.

Like years past we’ve seen an infusion of fresh blood in the Pasadena Way list, and some old blood appearing in fresh guises. 

Some of that new blood in the world of academia belongs to Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy, voted Best Public School, and High Point Academy in eastern Pasadena, deemed by voting readers the community’s Best Private School.

Domesticated canines that don’t shift shapes but do break hearts were apparently high in the minds of readers this year, with the annual Wiggle Waggle Walk, benefitting the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA, voted the community’s Best Charity Event. 

When it comes to the city’s Best Public Official, that honor was usually reserved for former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. Bogaard, the city’s first elected mayor in decades, served from 1999 to 2015, replaced that year by current Mayor Terry Tornek. This year, former Board of Education member and sitting City Council member Tyrone Hampton has won this noble honor. But not to be left out, Bill Bogaard has returned, this year as Best Citizen.

Following is a list of all the winners and those attaining the recommendation of our loyal readers.



The Rose Parade

For the 128th annual Rose Parade presented by Honda to go off without a hitch requires some 80,000 hours of work, performed by 935 members of the nonprofit Tournament of Roses Association. The theme of this year’s event, which will be held on Monday, Jan. 2 due to the tournament’s “Never on Sunday” rule, is “Echoes of Success.” The Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, “The Granddaddy of Them All” now in its 103rd year, is also subject to the “Never on Sunday” prohibition that’s been in effect since the 1890s.

Reader Recommended


Make Music Pasadena


Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

(626) 405.2100 |

The Huntington is a research library that includes an extraordinary collection of rare books and manuscripts, among them a Gutenberg Bible on vellum and early editions of Shakespeare’s works. And it’s an art gallery, boasting one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of 18th- and 19th-century British and French art. It’s also home to an ever-evolving botanical paradise; 120 acres of rolling hills supporting a dozen specialized gardens. But perhaps more than anything, the Huntington is a national treasure, one started by transit and real estate magnate Henry Huntington, who died in 1927, in his own home.

Reader Recommended

Armory Center for the Arts

145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena 

(626) 792-5101 |

Flower Pepper Gallery

121 E. Union St., Pasadena

(626) 795-1895 |


Art Center College of Design

1700 Lida St., Pasadena

(626) 396-2200 |

Founded in Los Angeles in 1930 as the Art Center School, the institution changed its name to Art Center College of Design in 1965 and moved to its current Hillside Campus in Pasadena in 1976, opening a South Campus in Pasadena in 2004. Today, Art Center’s alumni list reads like a who’s who in the fields of transportation design, product design, graphic design, illustration, and photography and imaging. In 2003, Art Center became the first design college to receive NGO, or nongovernmental organization status, from the United Nations.

Reader Recommended

Armory Center for the Arts

145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-5101 |


Wayne Jason

Wayne Jason Jewelry Designs

105 W. California Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 795-9215 | 

If what people say about you and your business can be used as a gauge, then Wayne Jason of Wayne Jason Jewelry Designs richly deserves this award. “Kind” and “personal” are two ways Wayne’s been described. As one recent customer wrote, “We had a wonderful experience yesterday looking for and ultimately purchasing, my wedding band.” Another happy camper said, “I had a fantastic time finding an engagement ring here. … I knew it was the right ring and that I was getting it from the right place. Everyone who I talked to here was very friendly and helpful.” Keep up the good work.


Aveson Charter Schools

1919 E. Pinecrest Drive, Altadena

(626) 797-1438 |

At Aveson Charter Schools, it’s all about Personalized Mastery Learning (PML) for its 800 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Here, teachers are called “advisors” who guide students through the PML continuum and teach them about learning itself. In the end, children master all the necessary skills and content while building confidence in their ability to learn, thrive intellectually and think independently.

Reader Recommended

Odyssey Charter School

725 W. Altadena Drive, Altadena

(626) 229-0993

Pasadena Rosebud Academy

3544 N. Canon Blvd., Altadena

797-7704 | 


Bill Bogaard

After becoming Pasadena’s first elected mayor in decades back in 1999, few years passed in which Bill Bogaard was not voted Best Public Official by PW readers. Today, now two years out of office, Bogaard has been spending much time with his family, yet he has also been able to stay active in the city he loves, being voted this year’s Best Citizen. Welcome back, Bill.


Make Music Pasadena

On a Saturday in June take 20 city blocks, erect six stages and 30 other separate venues, invite bands from across the country to perform, then add 50,000 fans and it all adds up to one of the most exciting events of the year: Make Music Pasadena. Produced and organized by the Old Pasadena Management District and Playhouse District Association, MMP is modeled after the Fête de la Musique event that began in Paris in 1982 as a way to celebrate music by making all genres accessible to everyone by taking it to the streets.

Reader Recommended 

ArtNight Pasadena

Latino Heritage Parade


Pasadena City Hall

100 N. Garfield Ave., Pasadena

(626) 744-4000

Nearing its 89th birthday, Pasadena City Hall is considered the crown jewel in a city full of architectural gems. Completed in December 1927, the six-story, 235-room structure, a combination of Mediterranean Revival style and Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture, has been a popular backdrop in films, TV shows and advertising for decades.  Located in the heart of the city’s Civic Center District, the district and City Hall were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Reader Recommended 

Colorado Street Bridge

Gamble House

4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena 

(626) 793-3334



1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 395-6811 |

Caltech is many things to many people. For the government, it manages Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA. To historians, it has produced 33 Nobel Prize winners and 70 National Medal of Science or Technology winners since opening in 1891. It was even once briefly home to Albert Einstein in the early 1930s. But to students, faculty and administrators, Caltech is a world-class university, recently named among the best colleges in the United States.

Reader Recommended

Art Center College of Design

1700 Lida St., Pasadena

(626) 396-2200 |

Pasadena City College

1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 585-7123 |


Kidspace Children’s 


480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 449-9144 |

The mission of Kidspace Children’s Museum is simple: nurture the potential of all children through kid-driven experiences, inspiring them to become joyful, active learners. By working with core values such as respect, integrity, safety and experiential learning, Kidspace offers a place where children of all ages can work at their own pace and focus on topics of interest to them. 

Reader Recommended

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

(626) 405.2100 |

Neon Retro Arcade

28 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 568-2924 |


Union Station Homeless Services

825 E. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 240-4550 |

It seems homeless people have always gravitated toward Pasadena. Then a study showed that most of those people — nearly 1,200 folks less than five years ago — were actually from this area. Although that number has since been cut almost in half, the problem persists, and Union Station has been there to ease some of that pain with hot meals, good advice and a number of other services. Formed in 1973, Union Station began as a hospitality center for homeless men in Pasadena and became the largest nonprofit agency of its kind in the San Gabriel Valley.

Reader Recommended

Friends In Deed

444 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 797-2402 |


940 Avenue 64, Pasadena

(323) 254-2274 |


Ronald McDonald House

763 Pasadena Ave., Pasadena

(626) 585-1588 |


Wiggle Waggle Walk

This is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Pasadena Humane Society, a local nonprofit organization that serves the cities of Arcadia, Bradbury, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Monrovia, Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena. Now in its 18th year, the Wiggle Waggle Walk brings together thousands of walkers from all over Southern California and their four-legged friends and includes demonstrations, contests, children’s activities, pet-related vendors, food trucks and music. And remember, all funds you contribute to PHS stay in the community.

Reader Recommended

AbilityFirst Festival of Fall


Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA

361 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

(626) 792-7151 |

Founded by Methodists in 1903, the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA is an independent, donor-supported, nonprofit agency that provides animal care and services for homeless and owned animals. Each year, PHS takes in nearly 12,000 animals from the cities of Arcadia, Bradbury, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, Monrovia, Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena. With over 100 employees, they are dedicated to promoting humane treatment and compassionate care for all animals — domestic, exotic, wild or livestock.

Reader Recommended

Five Acres

760 Mountain View St., Altadena

(626) 798-6793 |

Pasadena Village 

236 W. Mountain St., No. 104, Pasadena

(626) 765-6037 |


Michael Calderon, aka Mr. Pasadena

Ever know someone who somehow knew where to find the best food at the best prices, or the best happy hour, or the best night club to hang out in? Our voters this year know this person well, and his name is Michael Calderon, 47, perhaps better known as Mr. Pasadena. How did they find this treasure trove of vital social life info? Online, of course, on “I made this group to gather fun people to enjoy great places to eat and drink in Pasadena,” he writes. Plus, he continues, “There are always going to be a great group rate and a chance to meet new friends (or even better a chance to catch up with some old friends).”


Norton Simon Museum

411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 449-6840 |

Over the past 30 years, the Norton Simon Museum has stood apart in a city full of art galleries and museums. Once the only modern art museum in Southern California, today the Norton Simon, sitting at the gateway to Pasadena, near the corner of Colorado and Orange Grove boulevards,  features one the country’s most extensive and rarest art collections, with some pieces dating back two millennia. 

Reader Recommended  

Kidspace Children’s Museum

480 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 449-9144 |

Pasadena Museum of History

470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena

(626) 577-1660

USC Pacific Asia Museum

46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena

(626) 449-2742


Pasadena Conservatory of Music

100 N. Hill Ave., Pasadena

(626) 683-3355

The Pasadena Conservatory of Music, opened in 1984, is an independent, nonprofit, nationally accredited community school whose mission is to educate, advocate, inspire, and share through music study and performance. The school was designed to help those willing to learn, whatever their skill level might be. The Conservatory offers a comprehensive curriculum that encompasses traditional and contemporary music for children and adults. More than 1,200 students attend the school annually and over 3,000 students in schools throughout Pasadena benefit from its extensive outreach programs.

Reader Recommended

Altadena Academy of Music

2235 N. Lake Ave., No. 207, Altadena

(626) 296-0799

Los Angeles College of Music

370 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 568-8850


Off Kilter Kilts

2610 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 817-9999

At Off Kilter Kilts, it’s not only OK for men to show off their legs; it’s part of the job. Here kilts from Utilikilts, Verillas, Sport Kilt, StumpTown, Got-Kilt, and Damn Near Kilt ‘Em are for sale, as well as all the accessories one needs to go kilting in style. They have a wide array of Irish, Faire, and Celtic music in a curated collection. And the store features other items, namely the works of local artisans Mythica Metalworks, J&L Wicked Hook Boutique and Noble Knives.

Reader Recommended


1214 E. Green St., No. 200, Pasadena

(626) 241-0455

Vain Hair Studio

2563 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 529-3180


Brookside Park

360 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 577-3100 |

Home to the Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, Kidspace Children’s Museum and Brookside Golf Course, Brookside Park is Pasadena’s second largest neighborhood by area, and its second most sparsely populated. But it’s also one of the city’s most popular recreation areas, with fitness trails, tennis courts and soccer fields. Pasadena officials purchased the property in 1912 and later named the park in honor of Everett Wellington Brooks, who donated a swimming pool to the city.

Reader Recommended

Eaton Canyon

Lacy Park

1485 Virginia Road, San Marino

(626) 300-0790 |


All Saints Episcopal Church

132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena

(626) 796-1172 |

Located directly across the street from Pasadena City Hall, All Saints Episcopal Church seems to have a direct line to policy makers when it comes to backing projects started at the church. Leading voices against war and police brutality, and proponents of gay marriage, racial equality, social justice and equal pay, among other progressive issues, All Saints is known as the Church of What’s Happening Now to those in the know.

Reader Recommended 

Friendship Baptist Church

80 W. Dayton St., Pasadena

(626) 793-1062 |

Lake Avenue Church

393 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 844-4700 |



1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 395-6811 |

When it comes to maintaining the Caltech campus, working in its many historic buildings, administering its books and running day-to-day operations, what’s not to like about working there? The well-manicured campus is situated near the center of town, close to trendy shopping districts, theaters, clubs and restaurants. But more than that, Caltech is literally the epicenter of the known universe, the final scientific word on the physical condition of our world and whatever lies ahead on Mars and beyond. Exciting things happen at Caltech on a daily basis. But along with that, it’s also become an outstanding venue for the arts, playing home to the MUSE/IQUE symphony headed by Rachael Worby. Add in great pay and perks, and again, who wouldn’t want to be part of that? Another question might be, are you hiring?

Reader Recommended

Kaiser Permanente 

3280 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

(800) 954-8000

Wescom Credit Union

123 S. Marengo Ave., Pasadena

(626) 535-1000 |


Mentor Avenue Preschool

308 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena

(626) 396-7008

Mentor Avenue Preschool is a Christian school dedicated to providing early education while nurturing Christian values in order to prepare children for kindergarten, elementary school and beyond. The year-round children’s center offers full- or part-time enriched care in which students get plenty of one-on-one time with teachers due to the school’s low enrollment. The school’s language, music and science programs make it a full day for inquisitive little ones.

Reader Recommended

Cottage Co-Op Nursery School

169 Arlington Drive, Pasadena

(626) 799-0387 |

St. Edmunds Nursery School

1175 San Gabriel Blvd., San Marino

(626) 792-7742 |

Woodbury Preschool Village

712 W. Mountain View St., Altadena

(626) 794-3211


High Point Academy

1720 Kinneloa Canyon Road, Pasadena

(626) 798-8989 |

High Point Academy, an independent, coeducational kindergarten through eighth-grade school, is dedicated to awakening the joy of learning in each student and inspiring every student to reach his or her fullest potential in a close-knit, nurturing, collaborative, and stimulating community of caring and learning. They are committed to developing the Whole Child (academic, social, emotional, ethical). Here, students are encouraged to embrace creativity, critical thinking, communication/public speaking, character education, collaboration, and cross-cultural understanding.

Reader Recommended

Judson International School

1610 E Elizabeth St, Pasadena

(626) 398-2476 |

Polytechnic School

1030 E. California Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 396-6300 |


Rochelle Branch

City of Pasadena Cultural 

Affairs Manager

Rochelle Branch has managed the city’s Cultural Affairs Division since 2007, when she took over as the interim manager. Since coming to work for the city, she’s pushed for more public arts installations throughout Pasadena. Branch knows whereof she speaks when it comes to art. She holds a master’s degree in fine arts administration from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in art history from Hampton Institute. 


Pasadena City Councilman Tyron Hampton

Tyron Hampton has probably walked his district and interacted with local residents more than any other council member. Even after winning the District 1 seat, he still walks the neighborhood, finding out firsthand what’s on the minds of his constituents. Hampton served on the Board of Education before making the jump to City Council in 2015.


Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy

593 W. Woodbury Road, Altadena

(626) 396-5700 |

With a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy offers an innovative academic program that nurtures the communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creative skills necessary to be a successful adult. Dual Language provides an opportunity for students to be fully immersed in Spanish 90 percent of the day in kindergarten, then taper to 50 percent English and Spanish by third grade.  


Reader Recommended

Don Benito Fundamental School

3700 Denair St., Pasadena

(626) 396-5870

Pasadena High School

2925 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena

(626) 396-5880 |


Yvonne Davis

Don Benito Elementary School

3700 Denair St., Pasadena

(626) 396-5870

As the saying goes, “The best teachers teach from the heart, not from a book.” This accurately describes repeating Best Teacher Yvonne Davis of Don Benito Elementary School. Perhaps the best testament to Ms. Davis’ abilities is her school is not only a Reader Recommended winner this year in the Best Public School category, but Don Benito this year was named one of five local schools to win California Gold Ribbons for excellence. 



Test Prep Tutoring

845 Cordova St., Pasadena

(626) 639-8810 |

MeriEducation’s philosophy is that a student’s success can be highly affected by his or her learning environment — happy people, fresh smells, modern spaces, and positive energy are all conducive to how a student studies. From each center’s themed interior design to its snazzy MeriPlanners, MeriEducation instills the beauty of learning in everything it does. 

Reader Recommended

H-Bar Tutoring

At Sequoyah School

535 S. Pasadena Ave., Pasadena

(626) 375-0575