The 122-year-old Tournament of Roses, which comprises the Rose Parade (Jan. 1, 8 am) and the Rose Bowl football game (Jan. 1, 1:30 pm), are two of the best Los Angeles things to do on New Years day. They shouldn’t be missed. However, know that up to 1 million of your closest friends will descend upon Pasadena at the same time, so plan accordingly. We spoke to Susan Brambila, chef concierge of the Club Lounge at the Langham, Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, for tips on navigating the events.
There are a variety of options for viewing the parade, but Brambila usually recommends that her guests purchase grandstand tickets to guarantee a spot and avoid a long wait. “You can go as late as 7 o’clock [am]” before the 8 am parade, she says. Tickets start at $42 and go up to $88 (see tip No. 6) for the coveted seating at Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards. At this desirable intersection, TV crews line up to capture the floats’ spinning and whirling mechanized parts and marching bands showing off their formations.
Go rogue. Feeling adventurous? You can snag a prime parade-viewing spot for free if you’re ballsy enough to spend the night curbside. And crashing on the curb is an unforgettable experience, says Brambila. “It’s one big party throughout the night.” Spots are first-come, first-served, and can be staked out as early as noon the day before the parade. Bring pillows and blankets if you plan to sleep overnight; tents are not permitted. If you’re feeling very lucky, you can also try going around 5 am the day of to stake out spots on the side streets, which aren’t closed off until shortly before the parade begins. Call the Pasadena Police Department (626.744.4598) to find out more about curbside viewing regulations.
Brambila advises against taking a cab to the parade on the big day. “Taxis will drop you off as close as possible, but by that time pretty much all the roads are closed, so you have to walk to your destination,” she says. That might entail walking as far as one mile, she cautions. If you’re driving, you can purchase advance parking passes online or by telephone. (See tip No. 6.) Lots are located at various sites along the parade route, and passes begin at $30. For the game, there is limited parking at Rose Bowl Stadium (Orange Grove Boulevard, Lida Street and Fair Oaks and Linda Vista avenues) for $30. Cars are stack-parked, so departure is time-consuming. You’ll be able to make a quicker exit by paying $30–$35 to park at Parsons Corp. (100 W. Walnut St., 626.440.2000, parpark.com/rosebowl) and take the free Vizio shuttle to the game.
There’s more than one way around navigating your way through the heinous traffic to and from the main events. And for inexpensive and hassle-free travel options to the game and parade, there’s no better bet than public transportation. The Metro Gold Line light rail goes through Pasadena, as do the MTA buses (800.266.6883). From the Santa Monica area, try the eco-friendly
Big Blue Bus (310.451.5444).
There’s a lot of action leading up to the parade and the game as well as afterward, and these events are significantly less crowded. Dec. 28–31, watch float teams applying natural materials, including seeds and more than half a million fresh rose blooms, to the floats. You can even sign up to help build them. Contact float building companies such as Fiesta Parade Floats (626.610.0974). Brambila enjoys the Equestfest on Dec. 29, which allows you to meet the parade’s four-legged stars, tour their stables and watch horses and riders perform drills and dances. Pasadena City College hosts Bandfest, Dec. 29–30, featuring performances by the parade’s top-notch bands. Post-parade float viewing goes until Jan. 2 on the streets adjacent to Victory Park (2575 Paloma St., 626.744.7500).
Ticketing vendor Sharp Seating Co. (626.795.4171, sharpseating.com), the official vendor of the tournament, offers tickets for all events and parking. If tickets sell out, try brokers Top Notch Ticket Service (888.944.8499, topnotchticketservice.com) or VIP Tickets (800.328.4253, viptickets.com) .
Make your hotel reservations for next year. If you plan on returning next year, book your hotel room as soon as possible. Brambila says it’s not uncommon for Tournament of Roses attendees staying at the Langham to book a room for the following year before they leave the hotel. After all, it’s never too early to initiate preparations for the year’s biggest blowout.