My first time visiting the Rose Parade, half the family slept in the car while the rest of us camped out on the sidewalk along the route. Later my dad set up a plank bench between two ladders for us to watch from above the crowd, but I most remember the smell of roses and a tunnel of flowers as you looked down the street at the approaching floats.
As the saying goes: You can’t go home again and I learned that you can’t see the same parade twice. I hope you’ll benefit from some of the tips and blunders I made in visiting the Rose Parade many years later.
My next visit was decades later with my teenage son. This Rose Parade was a two hour extravaganza with international bands and no-expense-spared displays. I’d elected to to watch above the street from bleachers along the route. We used the ‘official’ parade seating company (see below) to reserve our places and even secured assigned parking all in advance of the big day. People still camp out along the parade route and nearby lots resembled tailgate parties more than parking spaces. Luckily we’d decided to spend the night at a hotel nearby.
Most hotels were booked and extremely expensive by the time I got serious about finding lodging. We did find a room for two nights and arrived late at the Quality Inn on Huntington Drive, about seven the miles from the parade route. The modest space worked and a model car club, with their vintage buggies, were there too, getting ready for their place in the parade.
According to a hundred year old truce between local pastors and cowboys, who tied up their horses outside the churches, the parade is never held on a Sunday. If it applies, take that into account when booking lodging. Having an extra day can make your New Years trip into a real vacation with so much to see in the Pasadena area from galleries, gardens, museums and the race track.
If you’re on a budget: Roll into town pre-dawn on the day of the parade but be prepared for tight crowds along the central corridor of the route. The outer end of the parade will still give you opportunities. You can also sleep along the street and join the party the night before.
Links for Visiting the Rose Parade 2016:
- Follow the hashtags: #RoseParade #InspiringStories for the latest updates.
- Tournament of Roses Official Site
- View the floats in the days before the Parade and immediately after the parade.
- Volunteers are always needed to create the complex floats in the week before the parade. For complete instructions visit the Rose Parade Volunteer Site from AES Creative.
- Sharp Seating Company has been providing seats for over 75 years and have the official site for seating in the bleachers and parking.
Tips to get the most from visiting the Rose Parade:
- Choose to arrive early, camp on the route or in your car. I saw many families with RV’s or camping on the sidewalks along the route in order to save front row seats for the parade. It’s a question of what works for you.
- Stay in a hotel: Book 3 – 6 months in advance and be prepared for premium rates and two night minimums.
If you buy seats, know the difference in the various viewing areas:
- If you’re closer to the beginning, the bands and horses will be fresher.
- If you watch closer to the end of the parade, the bands will be sweaty and tired, the animals more likely tired and some of the floats may be breaking down.
- Try to sit on the south side of the street (even numbers) to get the best morning light for pictures and see the sides of the floats that cater to the TV cameras.
If you get bleacher seats on the odd numbered side of the street come prepared:
- It is winter in Southern California but dress in layers to be comfy in the morning chill that usually warms up. There can be a 20 degree difference.
- Bring sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
- Bring water and snacks: it’s hard to maneuver out of the seating to the Porta Potties and to get water.
- Buy your program at the site and save about $10 from what is charged online. The programs are great for information about the floats, performers and the history of the event.
Find out when the parade will approximately arrive at your area
The parade starts at 8 am and lasts about 2 hours. We sat in the 1305 Colorado block and the first floats didn’t reach us until about 9 am. Sitting in the bleachers for nearly 2 hours before anything happens can make anyone cranky!
Best strategy for comfort and economy:
Make friends with a company that has a storefront along the parade route and arrange to sit on their roof. Ask for access to bathrooms while visiting the Rose Parade.
Happy New Year!
Sharing is caring: I hope you’ll share the post with friends and here’s a pair of images to pin.
My hometown! I love how festive Pasadena gets around New Year’s for the Rose Parade, and, although I’ll be in Cuba for the parade, I’m excited to be home in the days leading up to Christmas to see all of the excitement leading up to it!
Cool, Kirstie. Perhaps you could visit the warehouses where they are building the floats as a preview of the parade.
My husband says the hassle of going there is not worth it. But I can imagine the fragrance of the flowers and the spectacle of the colors. Thanks for describing it to me in greater detail.
There’s some truth to what your husband says. Definitely purchasing advanced seating helps. Staying near the parade route would make getting there and out of the crowds easier too. Still seeing the parade is so much fun. A once in a lifetime event perhaps?
Anyone planning this adventure should read your post about the Rose Parade. Excellent advice and brilliant photos!!
A very happy new year to you Elaine! I hadn’t even heard of the Rose parade, but it looks like quite the spectacle!
Happy New Year to you too! Across the US many cities mark special dates with parades. The Rose Parade has been going strong for over 125 years. Hopefully you’ll see it for yourself one year.
A very useful post for planning a visit to see the parade! The floats look so colourful, I can imagine it must be a very festive and colourful occasion!
Thanks & yes, it’s quite the spectacle. Perhaps you & your family will attend one day.
I hope all those people at the parade today read your post before making their trip arrangements! 🙂
If this year’s Rose Parade revelers didn’t get these tips perhaps they’ll put them to good use next year. Thanks for the note.
I’ve never heard of the Rose Parade, but then again, I live on the other coast. Thanks for sharing all the photos and tips! Very useful. Maybe our family will get to see it again. Some floats look quite spectacular!
If you ever make it to California to thaw out for the holidays this could be a fun part of the itinerary. The floats are more elaborate every year.
I went to several Rose Parades with my grandparents when I was growing up and I have terrific memories of camping out on the sidewalk in the dark waiting for morning. I’d love to see the parade in person again and I found your tip about volunteering to work on one of the floats to be an attention grabber. That might be fun to see what goes into putting those magnificent works of art together!
I’m with on wanting to help build the floats. If I lived closer to Pasadena it’d be an annual event. Cool that you had a chance to camp out on the parade route once. Definitely a lot more fun as a kid!
Your photos are spectacular! I, too, trudged to this parade–when I was a kid, and we camped out from the night before to secure a good spot. Then I considered it fun, and the adults worried about the logistics. 🙂 However, I think I’m good for never doing it again. It might interest you that I once saw a similar parade in Holland in mid-April, which has to do with the many tulip events. Called the Flower Parade of the Dutch Bulb District, you can read about it in my article http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Way-Beyond/Travel-Articles/Abroad/Tulip-Time/tulip-time.html
Sounds like we had similar Rose Parade experiences as kids! It was fun bringing my son along many years later but I think a visit to the Flower Parade of the Dutch Bulb district should be my next parade. Thanks.
Fab tips. I have never been but aim to get there and watch the Rose Bowl football game, too. California dreaming in New Jersey. — JR
Hope you make it out to the Rose Parade one New Years. It’ll be a lot warmer for you too!
Wow, it has been 20+ years for me, but it is a good parade. You have offered some great tips. Thanks
Cool that you saw the parade a couple of decades ago. I think they’re using fewer actual flowers and more other natural decorations like seeds and barks. Still it’s pretty amazing with all the work that goes into the floats. Bands, dancers and celebrities too!
This is lovely! I have seen the parade on TV before, but never thought to venture there in person. What is it about parades that makes them so much fun? I wouldn’t really enjoy watching people make slow progress down a street in a long line on normal occasions, but in a parade I love it! 🙂
Thanks, Mikaela, Yes parades are so exciting especially with the spectacle of big floats and the thunder of bands. I hope you get to see this one some New Years Day.
I’ll be about 3,000 miles away during the Rose Parade—at the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. Your post is a must read for anyone contemplating attending the Rose Parade — lots of valuable tips that can make or break the experience.
PS: Did it used to be called the Rose Bowl Parade?
The Mummers Parade sounds wonderful and very cold! Thanks for the kind words. I had done a lot of research before attending and found so much was left out about the real experience. Yes, it did used to be called the Rose Bowl Parade and the Tournament of Roses is still being used. The Bowl is more associated with the big football game in town the same day.
I was fortunate to see the parade twice when I was in college. Both times we found spots on the sidewalk, near the end of the parade route. Another fantastic thing to do is to view the floats after the parade. At least I hope they still let people do that.
That’s great luck that you were able to see the parade near the beginning and from the sidewalk. Yes, you can still view the floats after the parade and the day after. Some are a bit worn out by then but it’s great fun to get up close.
The Rose Parade has always been on my bucket list. Thank you for all of the tips!
I hope you get to attend at least once. It’s a lovely and fun event as long as you’re prepared. Like so many things in travel!
Smart tip about making friends with the local storefronts
I saw several groups across the street from us on rooftops and thought that would be the best way to go. Let me know if you can make it happen!
What very practical tips for first-timers! Sounds daunting without insider advice like this!
It wasn’t daunting but I realized how much information about attending was left out of the research I’d done. Hope it helps make the parade more fun for others. Happy New Year.
I admire the people who go to great lengths to get a seat for this parade. I’ve never been. Even when I lived in L.A. we watched it on TV. Lucky you!
I knew a return trip was in my future and planned this for months. Think I’ll watch it on TV this year with you though. It takes some doing to get there and back.
Our favorite holiday parade by far! I am a little biased though, being born in Pasadena.
I knew you were from Pasadena. What a lovely hometown! Hope I did you proud.
This is the second post I’ve read today about the Rose Bowl parade. I’ve seen bits of it on TV years ago, but being from Canada and not a football fan, I didn’t realize what a big deal it was. I hadn’t considered that there would be a strong smell of roses until you mentioned it. I think I’d like to see this parade in person some day.
Thanks, Donna, I hope you can see the parade one day. The smell is a sense memory from my childhood. Today they make the floats from many natural products and fewer flowers!
I love parades, and this one looks very colorful. The tips you’ve given are great. Not sure I’d do the all night sidewalk adventure, but you never know! 🙂
Thanks, Nancie. I know the all-night, sidewalk party isn’t on my radar especially as it might rain this year. Thanks for writing.