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Tournament of Roses – Tips for Watching the Rose Bowl Parade

New Year’s Day is notable for different things, depending on the person. A bunch of us nurse hangovers from late-night New Year’s Eve parties. The more sentimental among us reflect on the past years events and memories. And many, many Americans watch the Tournament of Roses on TV, right before the Rose Bowl game. If part of your New Year’s Day plans include going to Pasadena and watching the parade in person, you might want to keep in mind these facts and tips about it.

Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day, in Pasadena, California

The Tournament of Roses has never been canceled due to rain, so chances are good that the weather will be perfect (or at least balmy) for the parade. Check Pasadena’s weather listings just in case.

Don’t bother arriving early in the week to somehow save a spot for your group or family. The whole area is is sealed off on December 30, and opens to the public at noon on December 31. Curbside camping is not only legal, it’s recommended.

By “camping,” I mean folding chairs and the like. No tents or ladders, and please – leave your couches at home.

The parade starts at 8:00 in the morning; early! This may be a painful wake-up for those of us who enjoyed celebrating the New Year at midnight.

The Rose Bowl Parade follows the same route every year. Starting on Ellis Street, the parade heads north on S. Orange Grove Boulevard. It then proceeds east on Colorado Boulevard, north on Sierra Madre Blvd., and ends at Paloma Street.

Colorado Blvd. is typically the most crowded street for parade-viewers; this street is also Pasadena’s main thoroughfare. This is also the longest stretch of the Rose Bowl Parade.

Here’s a tip for light-sensitive parade-viewers: Try to sit on the west side of the street for the parade route. The sun won’t get in your eyes (also bring sunglasses, like any tried-and-true Southern Californian).

The best place to try to get a good spot for the Tournament of Roses parade is early on in its route. I like the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado. If you plan ahead, buy grandstand seat tickets for this area. You’ll see camera crews here, interviewing the parade dignitaries and celebrities.

Do I need to say it? Don’t throw anything at the floats or the people on them. It’s not cool, and if you get caught, security will remove you.

No bonfires, of course, but small “hibachi” types of grills are just fine. Barbeques have to be raised a foot off the ground.

The Rose Bowl Parade lasts around 2 1/2 hours. Afterwards, the flower-covered floats head to Victory park (which is nearby). I recommend taking the time to see the floats up close here: The work that goes into them is really impressive. Come get a close up look at the millions of flowers, and listen to the float “artisans” talk about the creative process. It’s a nice memory to start off the New Year.

The floats stay in Victory Park for a couple of days after the parade, but there is a fee to get in and see them.

The Rose Bowl Game starts at around 2:00PM, Pacific Standard Time. This is a few hours after the parade ends, so there is time to go enjoy lunch with your family or group. Colorado Blvd. has many, many restaurants from which to choose, there surely will be at least one that everybody can agree on.

The Sharp Seating Company (626) 795-4171 sells tickets for the Tournament of Roses Parade. Tip: You can buy them starting February 1 of the preceding year! The most expensive grandstand seats come with the best views of the parade. These tickets sell out quickly. If you’re a victim of poor planning (or spontaneity), the Rose Bowl Parade seats may be all sold out. In this case, just watch the parade from the streets instead of the grandstands.

The Sharp Seating Company also provides reserved parade parking. Other parking services (this is worth it, it is a real mess trying to leave) are Ace Parking at (626) 577-8963, Easy Parking Service (626) 286-7576, and Southern California Tickets (626) 577-2557. Buy reserved parking tickets early.

Now, if you have the time or inclination to watch the floats get decorated before the parade, please do so. I recommend this; it’s surprising how much of an art form it is. It’s an all-volunteer cast of decorators, too; they get pride from their work, and knowing that its appreciated is a wonderful thing. The parade floats are arranged at four different locations:

  • Brookside Pavilion (west side of the Rose Bowl Stadium) at 1001 Rose Bowl Drive
  • Rose Palace at 835 S. Raymond Avenue
  • Rosemont Pavilion at 700 Seco Street
  • Buena Vista Pavilion (in Duarte, not Pasadena) at 2144 Buena Vist

Anyone can watch the Rose Bowl Parade on television. It’s a completely different experience to be there. Pasadena has shared this tradition with the world (or whoever watches TV anyway) for well over a hundred years. Being part of a happy group, seeing the amazing Tournament of Roses floats go by, and sharing the event with your friends and family is a great way to start off the New Year.

3 Responses to “Tournament of Roses – Tips for Watching the Rose Bowl Parade”

  1. 1

    […] Are you one of the lucky fans who will be attending the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California? There are plenty of things to see and do in Pasadena besides watching the Rose Bowl Football Game and the Rose Bowl Parade. […]

  2. 2

    […] Have you ridden a parade horse during a horseback riding vacation? I once rode my horse in our local Walnut Festival parade in the 1970’s and I remember it as being very special. If you’ll be attending the Tournament of Roses, here are some tips for watching the Rose Bowl Parade. […]

  3. 3
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