The Rose Parade takes place on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, CA. However, on years when January 1st is on a Sunday the parade will take place on Monday, January 2nd. Seeing this unique and beautiful parade is an amazing experience. While the Rose Parade in Pasadena takes place in the morning, there will still be opportunities for non parade goers to see the floats in person. In this guide, I am going to share with you different experiences that you can have with the Rose Parade.
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My Mom and I recorded an episode of the LA Dreaming Podcast discussing the Rose Parade. In part one we talk about the history of the parade, how you can volunteer to decorate a float, and how to attend.
Rose Parade Episode Part 1
For part two, we interview family friend Richard Burrows who has designed award-winning Rose Parade Floats. Richard designed the City of Burbank’s 2023 Rose Parade Float and even got to ride on it.
Rose Parade Episode Part 2
What Is The Rose Parade
The first Tournament of Roses Parade, which takes place in Pasadena, dates back to 1890. Members of Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club first staged the parade in 1890. Since then the parade has been held in Pasadena every New Year’s Day, except when January 1 falls on a Sunday. Whenever that happens the Rose Parade takes place on January 2nd. In that case, it is held on Monday, January 2nd. The parade has evolved from carriages decorated in flowers to the grand floats that we are used to these days.
The floats have to be decorated with items that were once living like flowers, seeds, nuts, and more. The colors have to be natural, they cannot be dyed. It is mind-blowing what can be created within the guidelines. The Rose Bowl college football game was added in 1902 to help pay for the cost of the parade.
In addition to the floats, there are marching bands and equestrian groups that help make this parade complete. There are some interesting-looking books on Amazon about the Rose Parade bands and a different book with behind the scene stories of the parade.
Rose Parade Tickets
After watching the parade on tv for many years I was excited to finally get to see it in person. If you want a guaranteed seat for the Rose Parade you can purchase a seat in the grandstands through sharpseating. If you will be visiting from out of town I would recommend buying the tickets instead of worrying about staying up late on New Year’s Eve or arriving really early in the morning to get a spot on the street. Save yourself the stress and get your tickets ahead of time.
When you purchase seats for the grandstands you have options of which section you would like to be in. The pricing varies depending on the section that you pick. Keep in mind that the parade route is over 5 miles long so there are a lot of different locations where you can choose to sit. Pricing typically runs from $70 to $120.
Tickets for the 2024 Rose Parade will go on sale on February 1st though I have bought tickets close to the end of the year so you do have plenty of time if you want to think about it. I will say the closer you are to the start of the parade route the easier time you will have when you leave.
Getting free tickets to the Rose Parade is a possibility as well. I won two free grandstand tickets and a parking pass from the Sharp Seating Instagram account for the 2022 parade. In 2023, they even gave out free VIP tickets to the first 15 fans who showed up at the Tournament of Roses mansion on New Year’s Day. Be sure to connect with Sharp Seating on Instagram and Facebook to be aware of any contests or giveaways that they might be having.
For Rose Parade 2023, I was fortunate to get to be in the VIP section. Unfortunately, you can only buy tickets for the VIP section if you know someone in or involved with the parade that can get you the tickets. However, if the opportunity opens up for you be sure to do it at least once. Being in the VIP section means you get to see all of the performances with the singers and dancers. Plus, you’re the very first section of the parade which made leaving such a breeze. VIP tickets also include a free program, a goodie bag (at least in 2023), coffee, juices, and donuts.
The parade starts at 8 am and lasts for roughly two hours. If you have a seat in one of the grandstands they do ask that you be in your seat two hours before the parade gets to your section. You will be given a time with your tickets.
If you want a seat cushion with a back I used this one from Amazon for the Rose Parade 2023 and it worked out great for me.
Watching the Rose Parade For Free
You can start claiming spots on a first-come, first-served basis as soon as 12 pm the day before the parade. At 11 pm the day before the parade you can move up to the blue honor line. The blue line is painted about six feet from the curb. They do offer limited complimentary wheelchair-accessible seating for those who submit a request with the Tournament of Roses. Each person whose request is approved can bring 4 individuals into the viewing area with them. There are no seats in this viewing area so you would need to bring your own.
You cannot leave your chair unattended to hold your spot, use a tent to camp, block off public areas, or use a ladder.
If you do decide to camp out and want the sun to be behind you during the parade you will want to be on the south side of Colorado Blvd.
The Rose Parade Route
The parade begins at the corner of Green Street and Orange Grove Blvd and ends approximately 5 ½ miles away near Sierra Madre Blvd and Villa St. The majority of the parade route is on Colorado Blvd.
Parking for the Rose Parade
You do have the option to pre-pay for parking which I would recommend only if you don’t want to deal with looking for cheaper parking on the day of the event. Pre-paying for parking can cost $50-$60. We paid $40 in person to park about 1 mile from our Grand Stand. You can find cheaper parking the further you are willing to walk so it is completely up to you. If you do decide to wait and buy your parking when you arrive be sure to have cash on you. The only thing that gets tricky on the day of the parade is navigating around street closures. If you are familiar with the Goldline you can park in a different city or area and take that in. There are options through MetroLink as well.
Rose Parade Float Viewing
There won’t be a float on a display at the Tournament of Roses Headquarters but they should have a photo op available for you to take pictures with. You can also go by to see their Rose Garden. The area is a bit hectic on parade day but is a cool thing to add to your day if you can. The address for the headquarters is 391 South Orange Grove Blvd.
FloatFest takes place in the afternoon of January 1st as well as on January 2nd (the dates will be different when New Year’s Day is on a Sunday) and gives you the chance to see the floats up close in person. The floats are lined up 2 miles deep so be sure to allow at least 90 minutes to see them. Tickets are $20. Children under 5 are free. There is a free scavenger hunt for kids to do at FloastFest. Be sure to ask about that upon arrival.
You can purchase tickets here.
Seeing this parade in person at least once should be on your Los Angeles bucket list. It is really hard to fully describe how incredible these floats are. However, if you are not able to make it to the parade that is not the only way to get to enjoy the floats.
EquestFest 2023 is scheduled to take place on 12/29 at 10 am. Admission is $20 per person. Children under the age of 5 are free. EquestFest lets you watch the beautiful horses and talented riders dance and showcase their drills and tricks. You can stroll through the stables and talk to the riders you would like.
BandFest takes palace over two days at Robinson Stadium at Pasadena City College. Each band gets to perform a field show. Tickets are $20 per person. Free parking is available in Structure 4 off Del Mar Avenue.
How to Decorate a Rose Parade Float
You can join one of the city floats, like Downey for example, and help put on the materials to bring the float to life. Most of the organizations really need volunteers during deco week which is the week from Christmas to New Year. You can find information about volunteering for Downey here. For information about volunteering with the Burbank float team click here. In addition to volunteering to decorate a float, you can volunteer to work the parade too. You can get more information about all of the volunteering opportunities here.
For the 2023 Parade, my Mom and I volunteered to help on the Downey float. My Mom went to help on two different days but I was only able to go one day. Volunteering for the Downey Rose Parade float is very easy. When you arrive you’ll need to check in with someone and they will find something for you to do. There are times when they have too many people though so you might have to wait a bit in those cases. I cut yellow roses. My Mom helped lay down greenery to cover the bed of the float on the first night that she went. We loved getting to see the model of the float and watching as it came together. They had pins for sale so we got one as a fun keepsake from this great experience.
It was extra exciting for us to see the Downey Float in the Rose Parade in Pasadena knowing that we played a part in getting it ready.
Did you know that anyone can submit a design for a float for the parade to cities like Sierra Madre and Burbank? Our family friend Richard Burrows talks about that in part 2 of our Rose Parade podcast episode!
Tour the Tournament of Roses Headquarters
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You can take a free tour of the Tournament of Roses Mansion on Thursdays at 2 pm from April to August 31st. Reservations are required. Request tickets here. I did the tour in June and really enjoyed my experience. The headquarters is at the Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena. Even when the tour is not taking place fans can stop by to see the Rose Garden. They even have an adorable Little Free Library that looks like a miniature version of the mansion where you can take a book if you leave one behind.
The Rose Parade always ties to the Rose Bowl with the teams appearing in the parade. You can tour the Rose Bowl Stadium which would be a fun thing to do. You can also go to the Rose Bowl for the popular flea market that takes place on the second Sunday of every month.