Pasadena's downtown is extremely walkable - but not in a small town way - I'd say medium sized town. It has a mix of very trendy, upscale shops and dining, combined with eclectic and more family oriented venues. The parks and museums in the area are unparallelled, and in my opinion, feel very safe to me when I am there with my children, and friends with children. Both the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, and the LA Zoo at Griffith Park - very near attractions - are excellent places to wile away a sunny care-free weekend.
There are little enclaves, such as Alta Dena, as one answer mentioned, that feel very small-town. La Canada-Flintridge, nearby, also has a secluded, small-town feel to it - but tends to be higher priced homes exclusively, without much of a mix of moderately priced homes. Pasadena schools have not been rated exceptionally high, which tends to put off some families. There are a few areas in transition where the loveliness of the architecture (craftsman bungalows) might fool the eye initially, covering up some real underlying crime issues that are improving, but still very transitional. When looking at schools - as a parent - I always caution people to look beyond JUST the school score cards. Some schools test better than others for reasons that have little to do with the quality of the education your child will receive. The scores are an initial indicator - but if you love the area, do look further. Go to the schools, attend a school function and talk to the parents. The parents of children actually attending the school will tell you more about a school than statistics ever will. My children attended a LAUSD elementary school with virtually no budget for any frills. The parent-teacher assocation, however, was so active and dedicated that my children received the benefit of private school level extras, teachers who were involved and inspired, plus enriched music and arts programs in a very safe environment.
South Carolina will feel very far away in Los Angeles - there's no doubt. As a Southern hearted woman myself, I yearn for the slower, sweeter pace and lingering - albeit sweltering - joys of the South. In all of Southern California, I think that you'll find yourself closer to your roots in the Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley region than anywhere else I have found. They say that birds of a feather flock together - a number of my clients tend to come from the Carolinas, Georgia, Louisiana... I'd be happy to introduce you to a few transplanted folks from the South when you arrive. Mostly they have settled in the San Gabriel Valley areas also, and might be able to share their experiences..
Welcome to town!
Jeri Creson, Broker
TotalAccess Realty Advisors