One day each year, the “Museums of the Arroyo” in Pasadena host “MOTO Day”, a special day when this network of museums and historic homes is open for free to the public AND free shuttles are provided to transport visitors to all the sights. This year, MOTO Day is on Sunday, May 20, 2007.

There isn’t really time in one day to fully appreciate all the stops on the tour, but over the years I have had the opportunity to dig into most of them. You could put all the locations on a historical time line and start with the earliest, which is the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. There may be some special exhibits and demonstrations there this year in lieu of viewing the permanent collection halls which the museum website says are undergoing extensive preservation efforts. It would probably be best to just ask one of the docents at Heritage Square Museum if they know what’s going on before taking the shuttle over there.

By the way, we park our car at Heritage Square, which is reached by going north on the 110 freeway from downtown Los Angeles and exiting at Avenue 43. You can see the historic houses from the highway so it’s very easy to find the museum. Technically, Heritage Square would be your second stop on the historical location timeline (but since you’re already there…) Heritage Square is a collection of Victorian era houses and buildings which have been rounded up from different locations over the years and brought to the museum grounds to maintain and keep open to the public. Heritage Square not only offers an outside viewing, but an inside look at these beautiful homes as well with period furnishings and docents who are eager to share their knowledge. On the grounds of the park are ongoing demonstrations, reenactments and activities for children such as how to play the old fashioned game of hoop and stick—so don’t be shy!

The third location on the historic timeline would be the Lummis House, which, like Heritage Square, is in Highland Park. Surrounded by a sweet and subtle garden, the Lummis House was built from 1898 to 1910 by a writer named Charles Lummis, who gathered river stones to make his curious little castle.

It is a far cry from the Fenyes Mansion, also built around the turn of the last century. Fully furnished and loaded with artwork, there is a lot to see in this home on “Millionaire’s Row” in Pasadena, but I found the pantry in the kitchen with its old food containers and cooking utensils the most interesting part.

The can’t miss spot on the tour is the Gamble House, which is across the street from the Fenyes mansion/Pasadena Museum of History. The Gamble House is the quintessential example of the American Arts & Crafts style architecture. Built in 1908, everything about it, from the front door to the banisters to the kitchen cabinets, is hand crafted and beautiful—even the walls are made of fine wood. It is a very warm and livable environment.

Finally, on the tour, there is the Los Angeles Police Museum. Frankly, I don’t recall this being on the tour before and consequently I’ve never seen it, but from the looks of the photos on the website, it may be of great interest to the boys in your particular tour group as the museum collection promises antique handcuffs, billy clubs and other necessary tools of law enforcement.

Overall, the stops of the MOTO Day tour would not generally go over well with the pre-school set as the house tours will become very trying to them within thirty seconds, but older children who are accustomed to visiting museums may enjoy it and certainly the demonstrations on the grounds of Heritage Park should be fun.

For information on “MOTO DAY” please see:
Or call: 213-740-8687.
Heritage Square Museum, 3800 Homer St., Los Angeles. Take the 110 North toward Pasadena, exit at Ave. 43
Gamble House: 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, phone: 626-793-3334. The Gamble House is located off the 134 freeway or by taking the 110 N and continuing on to Orange Grove, north of Walnut Ave.