The iconic Tournament of Roses in Pasadena is the city’s annual one-two punch: a parade and a football game. It’s California’s way of celebrating the New Year with a twin display of flower power and physical prowess. “Pasadena is proud to be at the heart of America’s New Year’s celebration with the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game at its center,” says Michael Ross, chief executive officer of the Pasadena Center Operating Company.
The parade, which first started in 1890, features a rotating trio of spectacles—some of the world’s best marching bands interspersed with equestrian pageants and, of course, those colorful flowered floats, handmade by pasting millions of petals to create patterns and designs. The ultra-popular parade draws huge crowds, with people often camping out the night before to secure prime viewing spots along the parade route. If you’re not into sidewalk sitting (and camping), consider purchasing one of the 70,000 grandstand seats.
Insider tip: There’s no charge (and no crowd) to watch many of the giant floats being constructed, petal by petal, at various locations around Pasadena. Depending on the location, you can even volunteer to help decorate a float a few days before the parade. Check the website for details.
The Rose Bowl and Rose Stadium
For many people, of course, the biggest part of the Tournament of Roses is the Rose Bowl, which debuted in 1902, a dozen years after the parade began. For years, it has mostly been a showdown between teams from the college football conferences now known as Pac-12 and Big 10.
Game tickets usually go on sale in early December—and often sell out fast—but if you’re a serious fan, you can buy a spot on the annual waitlist for seats (and it’s a refundable fee, if you end up without seats). Year-round, you can tour Rose Bowl Stadium for peeks at the press box and the original locker room, which dates back to 1922.
Live On Green
As of 2016, the pre-game and pre-parade festivities include a family-friendly festival, Live On Green, at the Pasadena Convention Center, from December 29 through December 31. To celebrate California’s native flora and fauna, the festival will include exhibits marking the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial.