An Epic New Year at Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses

Looking for a way to spend New Year’s Day that is both a challenge to be vanquished and a genteel celebration? Surprisingly, there is one place that has it all. And whether you’d like to spend the day with your son or daughter, there is something here for everyone. So pick and choose your poison and prepare for an elaborate day.

Step into the storied celebration of old money royalty in Pasadena at the Tournament of Roses, a tapestry of flowers, athletics, and music that only a task force of rich, suburban Californians could invent. Enjoy with aplomb.

Ride out the Traffic

Getting to Pasadena on a day when a million spectators are vying for position could prove tricky. Save yourself some traffic and take the Metro Gold Line from Union Station or anywhere in Northeast Los Angeles. Most stations have parking lots and ample street parking surrounding the station stop.

Once you get to Pasadena (exit Filmore, Memorial Park, Lake Avenue, or Sierra Madre Villa), you’ll only have to walk a few blocks to find yourself along the parade route. And, when you’re ready to leave, relief from the car is still just a few blocks away.

Camp out for a View

The Tournament’s first event is the Rose Parade, a festive celebration along the main street of Pasadena. Large floats comprised entirely of flowers stroll along the boulevard as hundreds of thousands of people huddle at the sidelines. Following the parade, the Showcase of Floats allows visitors to get up close and personal with these exotic creations at a viewing location.

For you, the parade starts long before 8am when the floats start moving. Starting around noon on December 31, eager parade-goers start lining Colorado Boulevard, where some will camp out all night to reserve a plot of space.

Crazy as it may sound, this could be you! If you bring your child, plan for a winter camping adventure. Sleeping bags, a tent, layers of jackets and warm clothes, thermoses of hot water, and snacks – it’s all part of the Rose Parade’s personal test of strength and endurance.

There are a couple of more sane options of course, but they’ll cost you a pretty penny: reserve seating on the grandstand bleachers by purchasing a ticket in February for the following year’s parade. Tickets range from $40 - $80, which might be a small price to pay for a night of sleep in a warm bed.

You can also buy tickets to Victory Park’s Showcase of Floats, which aren’t sold in advance, by storming the park in the morning and waiting it out until the floats get there. Of course, if all of this sounds a bit outrageous, remember that public access television in California as well as national broadcasters provide a pretty close-up, bird’s eye view of the parade from the comfort of your living room.

Take It to the Next Level

Another significantly more time-consuming way to see the parade is convincing your teenage daughter to apply for the Royal Court, an elite group of teenage girls from Pasadena high schools and colleges who represent the city atop a float of their own and in a variety of other public speaking appearances.

Every year, nearly 1,000 Pasadena youth compete for the title of Rose Queen. A volunteer selection committee pairs them down through several rounds and eventually, a Royal Court of seven is selected to make media appearances all over Southern California in the weeks leading up to the Tournament of Roses. Selection to the court guarantees parents a good seat and teenage girls a view from the float.

Sit This One out in the Stadium

After the parade winds down, Pasadenians make their way to the hallowed bowl carved out on the west side of the city. The Rose Bowl, the first ever post-season collegiate tournament series, has been delighting college football audiences since 1902.

Although football was briefly replaced as the Bowl’s main event by Roman-style chariot races (a la Ben Hur), organizers quickly came to their senses and reinstated the quintessential American game. Tickets here are rather pricey, but if you want to complete the Pasadena New Year experience, you’ll just have to make the investment in this January tradition.

Pomp, Circumstance, and Pasadena

Maybe it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for you, or perhaps you’re a diehard Tournament of Roses traditionalist. Whatever the circumstance, you and your child will never see the sleepy, suburban community of Pasadena in quite the same way after your big day of roses.

Whether your daughter aspires for the Rose Court or your son wants to make the college team, the quaint, turn-of-the-last-century atmosphere of proper elitism proves that pockets of America still love their old-timey traditions.

 Does your city host special events on New Year’s Day/Eve? Share with us!

Cover image by Lowe Llaguno/

Tags : holidays   new year's   

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