When I queried my Facebook friends to see who wanted to be my +1 for the Pasadena Wine Festival, my friend Don got first dibs. Actually, he was supposed to be my +1 for the 5th Annual AltaMed's East LA Meets Napa event, but he got held up at work and couldn't make it. Too bad because that was my favorite food and wine event. Nonetheless, he was excited at the thought of any wine festival. I warned him to keep his expectations low since I anticipated long lines and wasn't sure whether I was getting general admission or VIP tickets.
Earlier that day, I picked up oldest nephew's childhood friend from the airport and we stopped off for a late lunch/early dinner at Bamboodles Restaurant - San Gabriel. Don joined us at the tail end of our meal so we filled up on green tea pork noodles, spicy beef stew spinach noodles, and spicy wontons before heading out to the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.
Most people parked across the street at the mall and walked over, but I had injured my foot earlier this month and was still hobbling around, so Don offered to spring for parking at the arboretum. $13! We met up with the middle '87 and older '88, who decided at the last minute they wanted to go.
After checking in, I found out that I got complimentary VIP tickets after all. Thanks Nick and the folks at Pasadena Wine Festival!
We got there around 5 p.m. and the lines were already pretty long. But early October in Southern California is usually so nice -- still warm, but cool and in the shade of the arboretum's trees, the Pasadena Wine Festival looked to be a pretty popular event.
At the entrance we saw a peacock!
I wanted to see more, but everyone wanted to check out the festival, so we went inside instead of hopping onboard the tram for a tour. We never did get around to seeing the botanic garden that evening.
Seriously, the Pasadena Wine Festival gets bonus points for picking the perfect venue.
Unfortunately, neither my friend nor I am a fan of lines. Crowds of people waited in lines to buy tickets for food and drinks, which they then had to wait in more lines to redeem those tickets for food and drinks.
A typical line for wine tastings. We got wine glasses since we had VIP tickets, but my cousins got plastic cups since they only had general admission tickets. The $1 pours were pretty skimpy too, and even when Don requested more since he had the VIP wristband which entitled him to free drinks, the guy at the first wine booth refused to fill his glass. Faced with the prospect of waiting in line yet again for another skimpy pour, we decided to walk around.
We went to the opposite side of the water area and laid out my picnic quilt.
Then while my cousins held our place, Don and I went to check out the VIP area.
The VIP area was slightly less crowded with some cabana lounges.
We got some cheesecake bites.
More generous pours of wine and steak bites. And that's it in terms of food. Sooo not worth the $50 price difference between general admission and VIP tickets.
My cousins got some cheese samples from the food area.
Which looked even more crowded as the evening went on. So much for my plans to sample from some food trucks. I wasn't willing to wait in line to buy food tickets to again wait in another line to get food. But we're already here so we might as well try, said the middle '87 so off she went with the older '88 to score some food.
Meanwhile, Don grabbed my glass and went back to the VIP area to get more wine.
A long while later, my cousins finally came back with some limp garlic fries.
And Korean tacos from the Calbi truck.
Too bad we weren't allowed to bring our own food and wine, because I wouldn't have minded it so much with live music and being outdoors.
The hot air balloon was getting blown up and in the early evening light, I could see a lot of potential with this venue.
I mean seriously, doesn't this look so fun and inviting?
After staying for only a few hours, Don and I called it quits and went home. My cousins stayed since their friends were just arriving at the festival. Don decided to head off to Vegas after all since it was still early. And I had oldest nephew's childhood friend still staying at my house. (I'm not a bad hostess. He doesn't drink, was still jetlagged, needed to do laundry, and wanted to catch up online.)
I guess to put it into perspective, the Pasadena Wine Festival is one of the more affordable food and wine events around. Sure you have to pay for admission, pay for wine, and pay for food trucks, but it's in a nice location with live music and great ambiance. The better, in my estimation, food and wine events such as East LA Meets Napa or Malibu Wine Classic cost more than $100 so you get what you pay for.
To get your money's worth out of the Pasadena Wine Festival, I would suggest either going early so you can take the tram tour and see the botanic garden, which is worth half the price of general admission, and hitting up the food trucks before the lines get too long, or eating beforehand and going later in the evening when you can just lay outside, enjoy the music, and line up for wine if you wish.
For tickets and information, check out Pasadena Wine Festival, which is held at:
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
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