Your Insider's Guide To Going To The Rose Parade, From Tips On Viewing To Pandemic Precautions
I’ve been going to the Rose Parade on and off since my 20s. To me, it’s an annual rite of Southern California togetherness to stand in a crowd yelling "Happy New Year!" to people we don’t know. At the same time, the people in the parade have each spent time, tears and money (lots of money!) to come here just to be in our local shindig.
If there were ever a year to go see the parade in person, this is it.
It's back after the pandemic canceled the 2021 New Year's Day tradition, and its theme, "Dream, Believe, Achieve" celebrates educators, health professionals and others in public service who have endured very tough times.
Conversely, if there were ever a year to skip the parade and watch it on TV from home, this is it.
It's happening as the exceptionally contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus is surging in Southern California, so it's a risky time to be part of a crowd.
Whichever option you choose — hibernate away from the sniffling hordes or brave the great outdoors with thousands — let this be your guide to maximizing your personal safety and enjoyment as 2022 begins.
Happy pandemic new year. Okay, let's get on with it.
The biggest change in this year's parade and bowl game are the new pandemic requirements for thousands of spectators and participants.
Every band member, football player, parade volunteer, float driver, horse rider and Rose Parade princess has to show proof of having been vaccinated or received a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event they are attending.
Spectators headed to three ticketed events drawing 10,000 or more participants, which the Tournament of Roses considers "mega-events," will have to meet the same requirements. Those events are:
- The Rose Bowl game
- Floatfest post-parade float viewing
- The Rose Parade grandstands in the security area at TV Corner from Green Street and Orange Grove past the big turn at Colorado Boulevard east to Fair Oaks.
- The city and Tournament of Roses Association defines "full vaccination" as the two-shot series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Be prepared to show an official vaccine card or phone app that proves you got your shots, plus a photo ID.
- For the proof of a negative test, you’ll need a paper or digital proof from the test provider, plus a photo ID. Self-attestation — where you verbally assure them you're vaxxed — is not accepted.
- There’s a booth at the Rose Bowl where you can get the test done up to 72 hours in advance and get a wristband that will be accepted at the mega-events.
- To speed entry into events requiring proof, the Rose Bowl is encouraging attendees to upload your vax or negative test information to the Clear Health Pass phone app. It takes about 10 minutes to register, and you'll need to have your ID and other info handy to complete that step.
- As of this writing, the proof of vaccination or negative test is NOT being required of spectators in grandstands east of the secured TV corner area or those attending Bandfest or Equestfest, because they won't attract more than 10,000 people.
- But even though it’s currently not required, because things are still in flux, the Tournament of Roses website is cautioning attendees to "be prepared" to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.
- Masks are strongly recommended for all events where you'll come into contact with others. Children over age 2 must wear masks at the events.
The giant float barns that are normally open for ticketed tours of the decorating during the last week of the year are not allowing visitors inside this year due to the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
Getting To The Parade
In 2018, this very publication titled its guide, "How To Survive The Migraine That Is Getting To The Rose Parade." This was unfair. It doesn't have to be a headache.
If there IS traffic, then YOU are the traffic. Nobody else is leaving their home in Pasadena at 6 a.m. in the morning. So plan in advance. Here’s the Tournament of Roses survival guide for getting to the parade and finding parking.
On New Year's Day, in Pasadena, the city adjusts its signal timing and posts hundreds of traffic control people to help move the vehicles along.
Just take the most convenient freeway to Pasadena and follow directions. Best bets are the 210, 134 and 110. The parade route will close to traffic at 10 p.m. with limited major street crossings of the parade route kept open north and south until 6 a.m.
Parking on side streets near the parade route within walking distance of the parade is free. Pasadena lifts its restrictions on overnight parking during the New Year's holiday. The big exceptions are the no-parking signs on streets designated for use by emergency vehicles.
Paid parking spaces for cars and RVs can be reserved at:
- Sharp Seating Company (626) 795-4171
- Colorado Boulevard Parking (858) 692-0868 or (949) 295-6537
- City of Pasadena (626) 744-6470
- LAZ Parking (626) 578-1705
- Easy Parking Service (626) 286-7576
- AP Parking (858) 692-0868.
You can also take the Metro L Line (the Gold Line) to Pasadena and get off at any stop between Del Mar and Allen, and walk to Colorado Blvd. Just remember the crowds will be thickest at the intersections closest to the Metro stops, so be prepared to walk a bit farther.
Bringing your bike is another option, although it will be crowded on the Metro, and you may find it a challenge to safely lock your bike in a place that doesn't interfere with parade crowds.
Very soon after the last parade unit passes, the street opens up to street sweepers, and the water-filled barriers that block some streets are emptied.
The parade takes about 2.5 hours to pass, and it moves at 2.5 miles per hour, but by about noon most parade route traffic is back to normal.
That’s when the traffic control focus shifts to getting many thousands of cars parked and people shuttled on buses from Old Town Pasadena to the Rose Bowl game. (More on that below.)
Parade Grandstand Tickets
The very best seats — if still available — cost $100 to $110 at the grandstands at TV Corner, which are the areas from the start of the parade at Orange Grove and Green Street to Orange Grove and Colorado Blvd. But if you're sitting in those seats, you have to arrive to pass through security by 6.30 a.m.
This is the area where the bands are still very fresh and precise for the cameras (despite any New Year’s Eve partying). Floats and bands make the 110-degree turn here.
This year, at this portion of Orange Grove, you’ll be able to see a made-for-TV performance by country singer LeAnn Rimes and a dance troupe, which opens the parade.
Beyond Fair Oaks, going west along Colorado Boulevard, grandstand seats cost $60 to $80. Tickets for all grandstands are sold by Sharp Seating.
Accessible Parade Viewing
Three places are set aside where people with physical or vision disabilities can each sit with three guests in accessible (and super-primo) parade viewing areas. The tickets are free, but are in high demand and must be requested in advance, so take this as advice for the 2023 parade.
You can request tickets to accessible viewing places here, or call (626) 449-4100, or email email@example.com.
Sidewalk Parade Viewing
This is what I do most years, and it works out just fine. I wake up around 8 a.m., turn on the TV broadcast, fix myself a plate of party leftovers and a cup of coffee, and run outside at 8:30 a.m., when the parade starts, to see the Stealth Bomber, or some other costly government aircraft, buzz the parade route. My neighbors do this too, and we all say "Happy New Year" to each other.
After that, I go back indoors and watch the first few bands and floats on TV. Then I put on my running shoes and jog 1.8 miles to the parade, arriving just as the first motorcycle police arrive to lead the parade. (You don’t have to do that. I like to run. But it’s a good way to clear the webs from the night before).
When I get there, I'm usually standing about eight people back from the blue "honor line" painted on the asphalt, behind which people can sit or stand. But sightlines are not an issue. Typically about the first four rows of people are sitting in chairs, then standing behind them are kids, then short people, then taller people. And everybody gets a great view of the parade.
My point being, you don't have to live in Pasadena or stay overnight to see all the spectacle the parade has to offer.
Everything you need or want to see is right there in front of you, even if you are standing toward the back of a crowd. The floats are ginormous. The bands have hundreds of people in them and play very loud, and the horses are quite tall.
And since the parade is 5.5 miles long, you WILL find street parking and a place to stand. If you arrive after the parade has started, that’s fine too. The farther along the parade route you go, the later the parade arrives.
Pro-tip: to see the parade for free, drive your car or get dropped off within about a half-mile of Colorado Boulevard, someplace east of, say, Lake Avenue to Sierra Madre Villa. You can arrive early (like around 7 a.m.) and have a picnic breakfast in your car and walk over to the parade route, or you can get there later and be assured of a place.
The People’s Grandstand
Here’s how some people make it work. Below is what I call “The People’s Grandstand,” and it’s kind of a locals-only institution. Fans create their own little wooden seats that fit nicely into the notches in the stones lining the sloped wall of the 210 Freeway overpass over Sierra Madre Blvd. In the rare rainy year, they have shelter, and in the more typical warm years, they have shade. And they get to view the spectacle of the taller floats folding themselves down to fit under the overpass and opening back up on the other side.
Camping Overnight: How Not To Do It
Camping overnight on New Year's Eve on the Rose Parade route is a venerable local tradition. When I was a kid in the sixties, turning on the TV early New Year's Day, the local news reporter would interview people who were just waking up in their sleeping bags. Seemed pretty glamorous. But I tried it once, years later — and I can tell you, it's not.
I didn't dress warmly enough. I didn't bring a blanket to wrap up in. I didn't bring enough money for food. I was in my old Army overcoat, jeans and tennis shoes and a wool cap and the temperature must have been in the 30s. I ended up melting the soles of my shoes trying to get my feet warm on somebody's hibachi fire. At midnight, there were wonderful battles of Silly String and tortillas and marshmallows that left the street littered with a gummy mess. Around 1 a.m., somebody handed out trash bags, and that's what I ended up sleeping in until sun-up when a horrible woman woke me up claiming that she had reserved the very ground upon which I was sleeping for her church group.
Things have changed somewhat since then. Pasadena now has a long list of do's and don'ts for campers that are meant to correct mishaps and misbehavior from prior years. So tortilla fights and running into the street to bomb cars with marshmallows and Silly String are no longer allowed. (But it still happens.)
Plus, ever since the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, there's been an extra level of security along the parade route that informs the rules.
Camping Overnight: What’s Allowed
- Arriving early: You can show up on the sidewalk at noon Dec. 31,. and at 11 p.m you can move yourself and overnight essentials out to the blue-painted honor line in the street.
- Fires: You can cook or stay warm with a fire, but only if it's a manufactured barbecue that sits one foot off the ground, and is at least 25 feet away from any building. You should have a fire extinguisher handy.
- Pets: However, the city advises against bringing pets to overnight camping because it gets cold, and they might be frightened by loud noises.
Camping Overnight: What's Not Allowed
- Reserving space: You cannot reserve space on the sidewalk or in the street by leaving an unattended bunch of chairs or sawhorses or boxes or trash cans or whatever. The city will confiscate them and you'll lose your place on the parade route as well as your furniture.
- Heavy furniture: Pasadena Police Department does not want bulky items on the parade route, so no sofas, mattresses or Barcaloungers, partly because they can conceal dangerous items but also because they get left behind and the city has to haul them away. Step stools and ladders are also not allowed.
- Creative firepits: No fires other than those in manufactured barbecues that sit a foot off the ground. A particular problem are the perforated drums of washing machines that have been used as firepits in past years. Those tend to spread sparks and fire, so they won't be allowed.
- Disturbances: No fireworks, no drugs, no alcohol, no loud horns, no drones. Pasadena has a law against smoking at public events, including the Rose Parade, and that includes tobacco, cannabis or vaping products. The city also bans people selling any items or seating space along the parade route.
Everybody knows about the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game, but there are some fun holiday side shows you can take family and visitors to see that will cement your status as a true Tournament of Roses insider.
The bands that march in the Rose Parade are fantastic, but they go by pretty fast, and seeing them on TV strips away the big sound and details that make them so much fun to see and hear in person.
But you can get your full-on fix of marching bands at Bandfest, which happens a few days before the parade.
It's at Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 30.
The 18 bands that will march in the parade get divided into three different shows, each opened by the 180-member Pasadena City College Honor Band (50 members of the band are current PCC Lancer Band members and the rest are high school students who audition to play in the band).
Each band performs its field show on the PCC football field before grandstands of family, friends and band fans. Tickets to each performance are $20 and parking is free.
The horses in the Rose Parade do a lot more than just trot along leaving horse droppings for the volunteers in white suits to sweep up. On Dec. 29, Equestfest shows off the horses and riders doing drills and dances, trick riding and roping.
Admission gets you the performance in the arena, plus access to walk through the stables to chat with the riders. It's at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. There are two shows, at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 and free for kids ages 5 and under. VIP tickets are $45.
Rose Bowl Game
The Rose Bowl Game, a.k.a. “The Granddaddy of Them All”, is traditionally the afternoon of New Year’s Day, a few hours after the parade ends. Getting to this 108th Rose Bowl game and Fanfest tailgating is easy because you're not allowed to drive there or be dropped off.
Everybody has to take the free shuttle bus from Old Town Pasadena. The good news is that every big game at the Rose Bowl has the same drill, so the shuttles run like a well-oiled machine.
Grab a shuttle on Corson Ave. between Walnut Street and Fair Oaks Ave. anytime from 10 a.m. to two hours after the game is over. Parking is in the Parsons lot for $45 on Union Street between Fair Oaks and Pasadena avenues. The shuttle is two blocks' walk from the Memorial Line L (Gold Line) Metro station.
It's a crowd scene, waiting for the bus, riding it and at the Rose Bowl, so wear your mask and be ready with your vaccine or negative COVID-19 test results once you’re there..
The most specific information for getting to the game and the Fanfest pre-game festivities is on the Rose Bowl Game website.