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10 Hacks for the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade

How to see floats up close and make the most of the New Year’s Day classic

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Posted 2 years agoby Katrina Hunt

To its many fans, the annual Tournament of Roses in Pasadena—featuring the 130th Rose Parade and the 105th Rose Bowl—still feels like it’s from another era. Traditional marching bands. A classic football stadium and showdown between the Pac 12 and Big 10 (this year, University of Washington and Ohio State). Equestrian units with trick riders, channeling California’s cowboy past. And thanks to the parade’s long-standing rule about using flowers and all-natural materials, longtime fans even love how the event literally exudes a beautiful aroma. 

And while the L.A. County city of Pasadena still boasts its own small-town charm, the abundance of events around New Year’s Day can almost overwhelming. Here are 9 ways to make the most of your time.

If you don’t want to book a seat for the parade, be flexible.

You can still buy grandstand tickets for a regular seat—or, you could try for a first-come, first-served spot along the parade route. Spectators are allowed to camp out starting at noon on Dec. 31. You can bring folding chair and sleeping bags, but no tents.

If you’d rather be spontaneous, wander toward the end of the route on Sierra Madre Boulevard.

Veterans know that it’s best to stand on the south side of the street—less sun in your eyes—and that one prime stretch of the parade route is around the corner of South Orange Grove and Colorado, near the grandstands and where the TV crews tend to be stationed.


Come a few days early—or stay a day after.

The parade and football game (get tickets here) are just two of events of many. Consider one or more of these (where admission starts at just $15):

Bandfest (Dec. 29–30) features all of the bands that will march in the parade—but here you get to see their field show, the elaborate act that helped them get invited to march in the parade in the first place.

Equestfest (Dec. 29) takes place at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in nearby Burbank. Watch the equestrian units from this year’s parade performing drills and dances or demonstrating trick riding and roping. Or, just stroll the stables and talk horses and tack with riders.

Live on Green (Dec. 29–31), based at the Convention Center, offers five pavilions of live music, chef demos, and crafts-and-activities for kids.

The Rose Bowl Bash (Dec. 30–31), a college football fanfest, convenes in the Bloc Plaza in downtown  L.A., while the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony happens at the Rose Bowl on Dec. 31; this year’s inductees include Chicago Bears founder George Halas and former Stanford head coach Pop Warner.

New this year: Sip & Savor (Dec. 28–30), a tasting event at the Rosemont Pavilion, features foods from local restaurants (like fried-chicken-fueled Crack Shack and deli-and-bakery Lavender & Honey) paired with wine and craft beer. Your admission to the tasting area also gets you access to the float decorating area.

Be strategic about driving and parking.

There is game day parking at the stadium, but you can also use a variety of satellite lots and shuttles. The road closures due to the parade may upset your GPS, so check out the official Game Day Directions.

Take advantage of the Metro Line.

L.A.’s mass transit serves Pasadena well. The Metro Gold Line runs from Downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, and will run every 7 minutes during the peak hours from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1. There are four stops along the parade route: Memorial Park (good for the game too), Del Mar (a few blocks from Live on Green), Lake, and Allen.

Want to see floats up close? Offer to help.

You can often just walk into one of the seven decorating locations and offer to help. You just need to be at least 13 years old and be ready to volunteer at least four hours. Or you can just stroll and look at the floats being made.

Bringing the kids? Take them for some NYE fun.

Let the kids ring in the New Year early at Pasadena’s KidSpace Museum where its Noon Year’s Eve features sparkling cider and a fabulous balloon drop at noon on Dec. 31.

Plan your meals around some Pasadena legends.

Cheeseburgers we invented in Pasadena (at the now-gone Rite Spot), and several joints embrace the town’s history. Pie ‘N’ Burger is lauded as an old-school classic burger (it dates back to 1963), and cheeseburgers experts also love La Grande Orange, with variations like Sandy's Green Chile Burger. Marston's, meanwhile, is ideal if you love both big breakfasts and the Craftsman-style cottage homes that Pasadena is famous for. For another kind of float, check out the frosty desserts at Float, which uses beloved Alhambra-based cream Fosselman’s.

See the floats after the parade is over.

At The Post Parade, on Jan. 1 and 2, you can walk pretty close to the floats, parked by then along Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards and hear about them from tournament volunteers known as “White Suiters.”

When in doubt, call the hotline.

Dial (877) 793-9911 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. most days of the holiday week, and one of the 60 volunteers should be able to answer your question about the parade, game, or other events. Or, check the events’ official updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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