How to do the Rose Parade without stressing out
by Laura Berthold Monteros
There’s nothing quite like watching the Tournament of Roses Parade in person, seeing the colors and textures on the floats as they skim along before your eyes, hearing the best high school bands in the country, and seeing the pageantry of costumed equestrians as they ride past. The excitement of the crowd and the joy of parade participants are best experienced first-hand. But…how? This brief guide has tips that will help you plan ahead and have a glorious time at an event that has been going since 1890.
“America’s New Year Celebration” is not limited to one day. It goes on for nearly a week to provide visitors with more than enough to do, see, and eat. In addition to the Rose Parade, visitors can view the floats in the days before the parade as they are being decorated and at the post-parade Showcase of Floats. The weekend before the parade is filled with Bandfest and Equestfest, opportunities to see the musical groups and equestrians display their skills.
We’ve posted a complete calendar of events with dates, times, venues, ticketing, and costs on this site. The Insider’s Guide will give you the nuts and bolts on how to take it all in. All events are family-friendly.
Where to get personalized information
The Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau operates a Tournament of Roses Hotline at (877) 793-9911 from a few days before the Rose Parade until the last event closes down. If you’re lucky, one of the members of the Royal Court might pick up the phone! The website posts maps and a smart phone app to download that gives you access to information about Pasadena dining and attractions. For access issues, contact Robert Gorski, Accessibility Issues Coordinator, City of Pasadena at (626)744-4785 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Official Digital Rose Parade Program app includes photos, videos, and trivia. It can be downloaded to phones and tablets from the app stores.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR MODERN TIMES
Drones are prohibited at both the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game. Umbrellas and selfie sticks also are not allowed inside the stadium or within the secured grandstand area of the parade at TV Corner at the intersection of Orange Grove Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard.
PLAN AHEAD FOR A PERFECT DAY—OR WEEK
These tips will help you get the most out of your Tournament of Roses experience. There are some specific how-tos for various events, which are noted for each one.
How to get to around
Both the 134 and 210 Freeways go through Pasadena and can get drivers to all events. Parking is available at all venues (though it can be tight at Rosemont Pavilion on S. Raymond), some free and some paid. Public transportation options include Pasadena Transit and Metro buses the Gold Line. Purchase and fill TAP cards at the vending machines in the stations. Extra trains are put on for the Rose Parade. Shuttles are available for pre-parade float viewing from Live on Green, and for post-parade float viewing from Pasadena City College and the Rose Bowl. Many hotels offer free shuttle service to various events. There are also several cab companies available in Pasadena.
What to wear
While days can be warm, sometimes into the mid-80s, temperatures drop pretty quickly just before sunset and stay chilly until mid-morning. Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes, because there will be lots of walking and standing. Casual wear is fine for all events. For the parade, you might want to bring a warm jacket and blanket.
What to bring, what not to bring
Warm days and dry air can be dehydrating, so bring a water bottle that can be refilled. Other items you will want to have handy are a camera, money (small bills), sunblock, and a tote bag to stash your belongings. Don’t bring weapons or alcoholic beverages, and in most cases, leave behind bicycles, skateboards, skates, Segways, and animals other than service animals.
Most events and shopping areas have accommodations for handicapped and limited-mobility visitors. There are designated parking areas and special times for post-parade viewing. Pre-parade float viewing has very limited access for those with difficulty walking, with only Brookside Pavilion in the Rose Bowl area being easily accessible. A free audio tour of the floats can be downloaded from the podcast area to iTunes or to a cell phone by calling (626) 321-4768. A special version of the Rose Parade program guide is available in Braille and on a 4-track cassette at the audio description viewing section on Colorado Boulevard or by calling (800) BRAILLE.
Rose Parade floats are moving sculptures covered with flowers; every square inch must be decorated with some sort of botanical material. Visitors can see the floats in the final stages of decoration in the float barns in the days before the parade.
The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and Tournament of Roses volunteers put together Expo Village in the Rose Bowl area with exhibits, activities, entertainment, souvenirs, and a food court that runs concurrently with Decorating Places.
Live on Green
The Pasadena Convention Center on Green Street is a spacious venue for this extravaganza of entertainment, games, interactive exhibits that bring the Rose Parade theme to life, and plenty of food and drink at affordable prices. If you’re looking for a pet, you might just catch the Pasadena Humane Society Mobile Outreach Unit that takes adoptable pets out into the community for folks to meet.
For the horse lovers, the equestrian entries in the Rose Parade put on a show that features trick riding and shooting, historical reenactment, and spectacular costumes. Fans can see the horses and barns before and after the show, and there are food and souvenir vendors.
With three shows over two days, each band in the Rose Parade get a chance to perform a field show that presents what they can do when they don’t have to march in a straight line. Remo sponsors and opens the events with their huge World Drums.
It’s easier to do the Rose Parade than you might think, but it’s good to be well-informed ahead of time. Here are some of the things we’ve learned over the years.
Driving: Bring a map or GPS device, as some streets and freeway ramps will be closed. Try to stay a half mile or more above or below the parade route for as long as possible. Allow plenty of time; a good rule of thumb is to allow around three times as much time travel as you normally would. As you get closer to the route, the time increases exponentially.
Parking: Reserved parking is available from Sharp Seating (626) 795-4171, the City of Pasadena (626) 744-6470, Easy Parking Service (626) 286-7576, and some churches and businesses close to the route. Overnight parking is also available at some sites. If you haven’t reserved a space before getting to the parade, you’ll be able to find one, it just might take bit of driving. Park on the same side of the route that you are coming from, to avoid having to cross Colorado Blvd. Street parking is available for free if you don’t mind walking three-quarters or a mile or more, and the no-overnight-parking rule in Pasadena is suspended within a certain distance of the parade.
Public transportation: The Metro Gold Line has several stops within walking distance of the parade. West to east, these stations are Del Mar, Memorial Park, Lake Avenue, and Allen Avenue. Purchase and fill TAP cards at the vending machines in the station. Metro runs additional trains and more frequent Gold Line service from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on parade day.
When to get there
The parade starts at Orange Grove just south of Colorado Blvd. promptly at 8 a.m. It takes about two hours for the parade to get to the end of the route on Sierra Madre Blvd. If you get to your spot on the street an hour or two before the parade does, you should be able to find a place to stand; the closer to the beginning of the route, the earlier you should arrive. If you have grandstand tickets, the vendor will let you know what time you need to be there. Remember to allow time to walk from your parking spot or train stop.
Take a tote bag to stash snacks, beverages and the layers you shed. Keep money or your wallet in a front pocket and limit valuables to cash, ID, car keys, and tissues. Food, beverages and souvenirs are sold along the parade route.
Grandstands or street?
Parade-goers can usually find a good spot up to an hour or so before the parade arrives, especially further along in the route. Viewing is best from the south, or “camera side” of the Colorado Blvd. Grandstands provide the assurance of a reserved seat and a place to sit.
There are three designated viewing areas for people with disabilities along the parade route, coordinated by the City of Pasadena and volunteers. Space is usually filled by early December. One of the three areas includes audio description for the visually impaired and another has sign interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing. Tickets are free and are available by leaving a voice mail at (626) 744-4782 or emailing Robert Gorski, City Accessibility Issues Coordinator, email@example.com. Each person with a disability may bring up to four guests; no seats are provided but visitors may bring their own chairs. Sharp Seating sells a limited number of wheelchair accessible spots at grandstand locations.
You don’t have to spend the night to get a good view of the Rose Parade, but for those hardy souls who enjoy camping on concrete sidewalks in freezing weather to watch the most beautiful parade in the world, it can be a lot of fun.
Who: Adults and children with adults. No one under the age of 18 may stay overnight on the street without a parent or guardian. Curfew is in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
What to bring: Try not to bring more than can be carried in one trip, but enough to keep warm, including a sleeping bag. Temperatures can drop to around freezing on winter nights. Chairs, as long as they are occupied, and small professionally made barbeques (such as hibachis) that stand at least one foot off the ground are allowed. Tents, couches, ladders, scaffolding, boxes, alcoholic beverages, and bonfires or open fires are prohibited.
When & Where: Chairs and bags can be placed beginning at noon the day before the parade. No one is allowed to stand, sit, or have gear in the street until 11 p.m.
Don’t rope off any public area, including the sidewalk, curb, gutter, and street; sell items without a permit; throw anything onto the parade route at any time, including tortillas, marshmallows, and spray string; walk in the street; or block the sidewalk so people cannot easily pass.
When the parade is over
Getting home from the Rose Parade can take even longer than getting there. Some people grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant or pack a lunch to eat in their cars while they wait for the traffic to disperse or the lines at the train station to go down. When you gather up your belongings, please remember to stash your trash in the receptacles provided.
POST-PARADE SHOWCASE OF FLOATS
The Showcase of Floats is an opportunity to see all the floats in one place and admire their beauty, grandeur, and scale while noticing the tiniest seeds used for decorating. White-suited Tournament of Roses volunteers are assigned to give information on the flowering and building. Self-built floats, such as local cities and Cal Poly Universities, have folks on hand who worked on the float and enjoy chatting about process and pride. Lucky viewers may catch the animated floats in action or see performances by talented float riders and outwalkers.
Be sure to pick up a free brochure on the way in, which includes a map of float locations, vendors, free water refill stations, restrooms and ATMs. There are plenty of food and souvenir vendors on hand, live music, and a family activity center from Miracle-Gro. The walk through the floats is about 2.5 miles round trip, with additional walking from the parking or shuttle area.
ROSE BOWL GAME PUBLIC TAILGATE
The Rose Bowl Game is a contractual sellout and related events sell out quickly. There is one event that is free and open to the public, the Public Tailgate on parade day. Activities begin at 8 a.m. in Lot H at the stadium. People can bring their own food or purchase from vendors. There are also displays and entertainment.