How to Watch Pasadena's Rose Parade - in Person

Guide to Pasadena's Tournament of Roses

Watching the Rose Parade in Pasadena
••• Watching the Rose Parade. Adapted from Prayitno/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

A million people or more turn out every New Year's Day along Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard to watch dozens of flower-filled floats, bands, and equestrian groups in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.

Don't let that scare you away. Not only is the event well organized, but there are plenty of strategies to help you enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed.

What You Need to Know About the Rose Parade

  • The parade happens on January 1. When January 1 is a Sunday, it's held on January 2.
  • It starts at at Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard at 8:00 a.m.
  • The 5.5-mile route through Pasadena turns from Orange Grove onto Colorado Boulevard and then north on Sierra Madre. You can see the route on this map.
  • It travels at about 2.5 miles per hour.
  • If you need to know anything else, check the Rose Parade website.

A few tips that will help you be more comfortable:

  • Dress warmly. Even in typically warm Southern California, mornings will be chilly. Wear layers so you can remove them as the day warms up.
  • Watch from the south side of Colorado Boulevard, so the sun won't be in your face.
  • You'll find portable toilets along the parade route, but visitors often complain that they get dirty and stinky. It's probably best to "go" before you go.
  • Bring a selfie stick, but not to take pictures of yourself. Use it instead to get your camera above the heads of the people in front of you.

Ways to Watch the Rose Parade in Person

Grandstand Viewing is the easiest and most comfortable way to see the goings-on.

It's also the most expensive. You can reserve one of 70,000 elevated Rose parade grandstand seat tickets through Sharp Seating. Tickets go on sale in early February for the following year. Everybody, regardless of age, must have a ticket. They cost less near the route's end than at the beginning. If Sharp Seating is sold out, try ticket reseller StubHub.

You and any items you bring into the Rose Parade Grandstands will be searched. Backpacks, coolers, and large bags are not allowed.

Curbside Viewing to from the sidewalk is free on a first come, first-served basis. The City of Pasadena lets people claim sidewalk viewing space along the parade route starting at noon the day before the parade. The best spots are taken soon after that.

Overnight camping on the sidewalk is permitted, and fires (in fire-safe containers that are off the ground) are allowed if it's not windy.

Watch the Rose Parade the Cheap Way

You can see the parade without camping out overnight, getting up at dawn, or spending a lot of money. Just use the handy guide to watching the Rose Parade the cheap way. It's also good if you decide to go at the last minute.

See the Rose Parade Floats Up Close

Few people know that watching the Rose Parade itself is not the best way to see those astonishing floats up close. On Rose Parade morning, sleep late while everyone else fights the crowds and watch on television. You'll be comfortable, and you can hear all the commentary. To see the floats up close: 

  • See the Floats Being Made: As the finishing touches go on, some floats-in-progress are on view. You'll can see them under construction, up to about midday the day before the parade. Tickets are required. Find out how you can see the decorators in action.
  • Get a Look the Night Before the Parade: Go to Orange Grove Boulevard late on the night before the parade, when the floats move into position. Giant spotlights make the scene almost as bright as day.
  • Go to the Post-Parade Float Display: The afternoon after the Rose Parade and all day for the next two days, you can see the beautiful creations close-up. Allow about two hours to see them all. Tickets are required. Use the guide to post-parade float Viewing to get all the best tips and strategies.

More Rose Parade Events

Modest admission fees are charged for each of these Rose Parade events. Buy tickets for any of them through Sharp Seating.

  • Equestfest: Horses and their riders strut their stuff at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 Riverside Drive, Burbank. Visitors can tour the stables, talk to riders, take pictures, and watch trick riding and roping demonstrations, drills, and dances.  Find out more about the Equestfest.
  • Bandfest: Two days before the Rose Parade, the all-star bands that will march in the parade perform in a field show at Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd.  Get all the details for Bandfest.

Where to Stay to See to the Rose Bowl Parade

Get some ideas for where to stay in Pasadena. Pasadena hotels near the parade route sell out many months before the parade. If you tried too late but are determined and organized, you can check each hotel's last day for cancellations and try again then. You can also look for a hotel in East Pasadena along East Colorado Boulevard and within walking distance of the Metro Gold Line.

Downtown Los Angeles is also another good location, especially in Little Tokyo. You can catch the Metro Gold Line to Pasadena from there, and walk from the station to the parade route. However, downtown hotels are super expensive on New Year's Eve.

Staying anywhere else is a balance between expense and sleep. Choose a hotel that's close to a Metro line and use it instead of driving to Pasadena.

Driving to the Rose Bowl Parade

Directions to the Rose Parade are on the Rose Parade Website.

Paid parking near the Rose Bowl Parade route is available on a first come, first-served basis. You can reserve a parking spot through Sharp Seating.

Overnight parking on Pasadena streets is allowed beginning at noon the day before the parade, for that evening only. No Parking areas and red curb zones remain off-limits and you can't park on the parade route itself.

Public Transportation to the Rose Bowl Parade

Metro Rail's Gold line makes it easy to get to the Rose Bowl Parade, but you may have to change trains to get there if you start from somewhere other than downtown Los Angeles. Exit at the Del Mar, Memorial Park, Lake or Allen stations; all are a short walk from the Rose Bowl Parade route.

If you have grandstand seats, check your seat location address to see which stop is closest:

  • 400 West Colorado through 300 E. Colorado: Del Mar or Memorial
  • 300 East Colorado through 1200 E. Colorado: Lake
  • 1200 East Colorado through Sierra Madre: Allen

Rose Bowl Parade in Your RV

Parking a motorhome or RV along the Rose Bowl Parade route may be the least expensive, most comfortable and convenient way to go.

However, you'll need to make your reservation nearly a year in advance. You can find a list of places to park at the City of Pasadena website. If want frontline parking along the parade route, reserve it through Sharp Seating.