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Before Rose Bowl Kicks Off, Explore Pasadena

The floats and football of the Tournament of Roses obscure Pasadena's rich history and robust arts scene.

PASADENA, Calif. (TheStreet) -- Pasadena is best known as the home of the Rose Bowl and the giant pep rally known as the Tournament of Roses Parade. But floats and football obscure a rich history that rivals the story of its more famous neighbor, Los Angeles.

The rise of Pasadena follows the development of American transportation, which made the city a holiday sanctuary for the bourgeoisie. With the completion of the Transcontinental Railway, East Coast socialites expanded their real estate empires to California. Architects Charles and Henry Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright, Julia Morgan and Wallace Neff built the homes and buildings that became the region's trademark.

Out with the old and in with the new at updated lobby bar at the Langham Hotel.

Getting to Pasadena

: It's a brutal drive from Los Angeles International Airport to Pasadena. From the back of a taxi, you'll take in the sights of the city as the metal buttresses of the Colorado Street Bridge and the former Vista del Arroyo Hotel welcome you to Pasadena. The hotel is now home to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. As you travel the streets of Pasadena, you'll see the relics of a once-ambitious hotel city. Gargantuan structures with lavish pools, gardens and ballrooms like Hotel Green, the Raymond Hotel, the Vista del Arroyo and the Huntington Hotel served as the winter homes of aristocrats, such as the Astors and Vanderbilts.

Of the four historic properties that once stood, the Huntington Hotel on the edge of Pasadena is the only one that remains a hotel. Langham Hotels recently made the site its second U.S. location, taking it over from Ritz-Carlton. Entry-level rooms maintain an updated Victorian charm with Chippendale chairs and heavy tasseled drapes. Those looking to splurge should consider the cottage suites, freestanding houses arranged throughout the hotel gardens with private terraces and entrances. Guests can indulge themselves at the hotel's one-Michelin star Dining Room restaurant or at its 11,000-square-foot spa.

View the great homes

: Pasadena has long been a magnet for socialites looking to immortalize themselves through architecture. Today, many of these homes serve as museums.

The Gamble House, for example, was commissioned by David Berry Gamble, one of the children of the co-founder of

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. Gamble selected Green and Green, who were part of the California Craftsman movement, to construct their iconic residence, which is now open to the public.

Railroad tycoon Henry Huntington also left a legacy, housing the Huntington Botanical Gardens, Art Collection and Library inside his former estate. The 150-acre property is home to a prestigious art and manuscript collection, and serves as one of Pasadena's examples of Beaux-Arts architecture. Gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.'s former-estate is now the home of Tournament of Roses headquarters Tournament House and Wrigley Gardens.

See the art museums

: Pasadena's first art museum began as an endeavor of Grace Nicholson, a dealer of Native American and Asian art. Designed by Marston and Van Pelt, the Han Dynasty-style structure was built as a combined shop and home for Nicholson. Today, it serves as the Pacific Asia Museum, home to one of the most impressive collections of Asian and the Pacific Island artwork in the U.S.

Pasadena's most-famous museum is the Norton Simon Museum. The structure is a rare example of modern architecture in Pasadena, but features a 1999 interior renovation by Frank Gehry, who added a grand staircase and Asian galleries. The museum is one of Southern California's best, with pieces by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Degas.

Do the Rose Parade

: The main event of America's New Year's Day celebration, the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl, begin at 8 a.m. as the handmade floral floats and marching bands make their way down Colorado Boulevard in front of the numerous grandstands constructed directly opposite the Norton Simon Museum.

Tickets for Rose Parade seats start at $25 and are available through Sharp Seating. However, those willing to sit along the parade route overnight can sit on the curb for free with front-row views. If you oversleep, all the floats will be on display through Jan. 3 at the end of the parade route on Sierra Madre Boulevard for $7.

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Reported by Michael Martin of JetSetReport.com

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.