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 big number scare you away, though. Not only is this 100-plus-year-old event extraordinarily 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
- It happens on January 1. When January 1 is a Sunday, it's held on January 2 instead
- Starts at 8:00 a.m.
- Takes about two hours to pass a single point
- The 5.5-mile route through Pasadena begins at Green Street and Orange Grove Blvd., and goes along Colorado Boulevard and then north on Sierra Madre Boulevard.
- The Rose Parade passes the last public viewing area near Sierra Madre Blvd. and Villa Street about 2.5 hours after it starts.
- If you need to know anything else, you may find it on the Rose Parade website.
A few tips that will help you have a more comfortable time:
- Dress warmly. Even in typically warm Southern California, mornings will be chilly. Wear layers so you can remove them as the day warms up.
- If you watch from the south side of Colorado Boulevard, 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 - if you know what I mean.
- Bring a selfie stick, but not to take pictures of yourself. Use it instead to get your camera above the heads of the people standing 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 online in advance from Sharp Seating, this happens early February.
Everybody, regardless of age, must have a ticket for the grandstands. Tickets 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 see the Rose Parade from the sidewalk is free. Spots are available 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
To find out how to see the parade without the overnight campout and without spending a lot of money, 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.
Watch the Rose Parade My Favorite Way
Few people know that the Rose Parade itself is the least fun way (and at the same time most expensive) to see those astonishing floats. If you have two to three days for your Rose Parade experience, here's what to do:
- Buy tickets to view the float decorating. You'll get a chance to see the floats under construction, up to about midday the day before the parade.
- Head for 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.
- On Rose Parade morning, sleep late while everyone else fights the crowds. Watch on the television from your home or hotel. You'll be comfortable, and you can hear all the commentary.
- If you still want to see more, find out how to see the floats up close in the Guide to Post-Parade Float Viewing
More Rose Parade Events
Modest admission fees are charged for each of these Rose Parade events. Buy tickets online in advance from Sharp Seating.
- Float Decorating: As the finishing touches go on, some floats-in-progress are on view. Find out how you can see them in action.
- 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 2 hours to see them all. Use the Guide to Post-Parade Float Viewing to get all the best tips and strategies.
- 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 the trick riding and roping demonstrations, drills, and dances.
- 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.
Where to Stay to See to the Rose Bowl Parade
If you're determined to see the parade in person, you're going to have to get up early. How early depends on where you stay. Which, in part, depends on how far ahead you plan your Rose Bowl Parade trip.
If you're coming to Pasadena from out of town, all the Pasadena hotels near the parade route are likely to be sold out by late November. If you're determined and organized, find out the last day people can cancel their reservations and try then. Get some ideas for where to stay in Pasadena. Your next best bet would be 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 from there, and it's a short walk from the parade route. However, downtown hotels are expensive on New Year's Eve. To find a hotel downtown, use this handy guide to finding a place to stay in Downtown LA.
Staying anywhere else is a balance between expense and sleep. Choosing a hotel that's close to a Metro line is a good idea, so you don't have to drive to Pasadena.
Driving to the Rose Bowl Parade
Directions to the Rose Parade from every direction are on the Rose Parade Website.
Paid parking for the Rose Bowl Parade is available on a first come, first-served basis at lots and parking structures near the Rose Bowl Parade route. You can reserve a spot through Sharp Seating.
Overnight parking on Pasadena streets is permitted beginning at noon the day before the parade, for that evening only. No Parking areas and red curb zones remain off-limits. The Pasadena Police Department can answer questions about Rose Bowl Parade parking at 626-744-6470.
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 the Gold Line 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
If you own a motorhome or RV, parking it along the Rose Bowl Parade route may be the least expensive, most comfortable and convenient way to go. However, you'll need to plan ahead and may 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. Frontline parking along the Rose Bowl Parade route can be reserved through Sharp Seating.