“Children’s Dreams The World’s Potential”, the Kiwanis International float at the 2017 Rose Parade in Pasadena, California (photo by Prayitno, Wikimedia Commons)
I grew up watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and the Rose Parade in Pasadena on TV. Although this is an enjoyable experience, attending the parades in person provides an entirely different perspective and an appreciation for the hours of labor devoted to these holiday traditions.
The Rose Parade starts at 8 a.m. Pacific time on New Year’s Day, but there’s a lot you can do earlier. Aside from the typical southern California tourist activities, you can watch the float builders and volunteers assemble the floats and attach the flower petals. If you want to volunteer, here’s more information. Help is always needed through New Year’s Eve.
The Downey Rose Float Association’s 2017 Rose Parade float, “The Gold Rush”, depicting the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. The float features a water wheel and fully functioning roller coaster. (photo by Prayitno, Wikimedia Commons)
If you decide to go to the parade, there are a few options.
Buy a grandstand ticket to get a guaranteed seat.
Or go early to find a good viewing spot if you don’t want to buy tickets—as in arriving before sunrise. Wear layers, because often temperatures are chilly early but warm toward parade’s end.
Or if you’re not a before-the-crack-of-dawn riser, Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Erskine suggests this:
“If you wait till the 8 a.m. start time, the crowd will be in place on the route and there is virtually no traffic. Pay the $20 packing fee at a random gas station along Walnut and join the fun. You won’t be in the first row, or maybe even the first 10. But the floats are so high, you’ll be able to see them well. About an hour into the two-hour parade, the crowds will begin to relax and spots open up for even better viewing.”
Mice crash this tea party on the City of Sierra Madre’s 2017 Rose Parade float, “The Cat’s Away”. (photo by Prayitno, Wikimedia Commons)
If you don’t want to drive at all, several tour companies from Los Angeles and one from San Diego provide Rose Parade tour packages. Prices vary, depending on the options you choose. Pay for a ride to and from the parade or select from assorted packages:
- Transportation to and from the parade, including a grandstand ticket
- Pre-parade tours, where you visit the floats and learn how the floats are designed and built
- Multi-day packages, where you visit the floats and see the parade. This option includes a grandstand ticket.
These companies offer tour packages. All, except Five Star Tours, offer multi-day packages only. Five Star Tours offers transportation to and from the parade, pre-parade tours, and multi-day packages.
- Five Star Tours, San Diego, (619) 232-5040
- YMT Vacations, El Segundo, (877) 332-6185
- Al Brooks Rose Bowl Tours, Los Angeles, (800) 228-4849
- LA Insider Tours (private tours only), Los Angeles, (800) 549-6625
- A la Carte Tours, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, (800) 749-9342 or (918) 451-0107
Post-Rose Parade failures
As the Rose Parade grew in popularity in the early 1900s, event organizers tried different events to keep visitors in Pasadena after the parade. The first was a Rose Bowl game in 1902, where Stanford conceded eight minutes early to Michigan after a 49-0 loss. After that, organizers tried ostrich and chariot races, both of which failed. So did races pitting camels against elephants.
Eventually football emerged as the annual tradition.
“Books Bring Us Together”, the UPS Store’s float in the 2017 Rose Parade. It was the tallest float this year with a 42-foot-tall giraffe. (photo by Prayitno, Wikimedia Commons)