New Year’s in Pasadena: A Rose Parade guide

Longtime Tournament of Roses volunteer and U parent provides a "101" on the Rose Parade.

Shannon McConnell has been a Tournament of Roses volunteer since 1999, and she’s a parent of a recent University of Utah graduate. You can read more Rose Parade information and fun facts about the Rose Bowl and Pasadena on her blog, Corner of the Globe.

The University of Utah is headed to Pasadena for New Year’s. It’s the first-ever trip for Utah Football and you have questions. Where’s Pasadena? What else can I do in Pasadena while I’m there? What’s the weather like?

Besides having a Utah graduate I am also a Tournament of Roses Volunteer. In an effort to assist all the Utah fans searching for information about the parade and game, I thought I’d assemble some answers to questions I’ve been asked these past few days.

First, let’s get the ugly truth out of the way. Thanks to COVID restrictions, this year is a bit different from previous parades past. Please consult with the Tournament of Roses website and the Pasadena Department of Public Health to stay current with access requirements, event restrictions and other COVID-related issues.

Parade information: The basics

The Rose Parade—which is absolutely NOT called the Rose Bowl Parade—is a floral and musical parade like no other. Trust me. Back in 1988 when USC went to the Rose Bowl, we ended up with a couple of spare tickets. My husband sold them at a local ticket dealer (remember those places?) and came home with two parade tickets. We didn’t live in Pasadena and my first thought was, “Why? I’ve seen the parade on TV.” After a nice explanation that the parade is much different in person, we packed up layers of clothes to brave the 40° overnight lows and headed across town to Pasadena. He was right. The parade is a much different experience sitting on a street corner in the brisk morning air, immersed in the floral aromas and symphonic sounds.

This year’s Rose Parade is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day morning. The parade will last approximately two hours, with 47 floats, 18 marching bands (including the Ute Marching Band) and 18 equestrian units marching down the 5.5-mile route through Pasadena.

The parade begins at the corner of Orange Grove Blvd. and Green Street, turns East onto Colorado Blvd., proceeds down Colorado to Sierra Madre, makes a left onto Sierra Madre, and ends at Pasadena High School.

Please be aware that the City of Pasadena grows by 800,000 to 1 million people for this event. Moving (and parking) your car around town gets pretty tight this week. On New Year’s Day, I highly recommend using public transit, free shuttles and good old foot power to get around. The less you move your vehicle around town that day, the more fun you will have.

Be sure to consult the Tournament of Roses Parade Day Guide for information on street closures, access restrictions and general information about navigating in and around Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

2022 parade theme and grand marshal

Each year, the Rose Parade has a theme and this year’s is “Dream, Believe, Achieve.” The 2022 Tournament of Roses President, Bob Miller, has spent a career in higher education and he chose this inspirational theme celebrating education’s ability to open doors, open minds and change lives.

“Education paves the path to success with a world of opportunities achieved through knowledge, compassion and determination. Education is the great equalizer,” Miller shared. “As a community college educator, I have seen firsthand the life-changing miracle that education provides. As students visualize their future, education becomes the bridge to accomplish their aspirations and transform lives for generations to come.”

LeVar Burton is this year’s grand marshal. He is an actor, director, educator and lifelong children’s literacy advocate. He joins an amazing club of actors, diplomats, astronauts, supreme court judges, scientists and Kermit the Frog as grand marshal of the Rose Parade.

Important dates and times

Parade viewing

You can watch the parade anywhere along Colorado Blvd. east of St. Johns Street. There is also good viewing from the street along Sierra Madre. All seating west of St. Johns is restricted to paid grandstand seating.

Alternatively, you can purchase grandstand seats along the parade route through Sharp Seating. While there are grandstands scattered down the entire route and costs vary depending on location, if you plan on attending the Rose Bowl Game, I recommend parade seats closer to the west side of the parade route. That way you could walk to the Rose Bowl and not have the headache of moving your car.

Remember that the parade starts (and thus ends) later, the further east along the parade route you sit. Close to the parade end, the last unit will cross into the post-parade close to noon. The game starts at 2 p.m. at the Rose Bowl and unless you can walk seven miles in two hours, you will need to drive to the stadium. In traffic. Tons of traffic. All bearing Utah plates. So, if you are heading to the game in the afternoon, try to get as close to “TV corner” (the corner of Colorado and Orange Grove) as possible.

Other parade week events

Pasadena hosts several other events the week leading into the parade. Tickets for these events are available through Sharp Seating.

Equestfest | Dec. 29

Equestfest is a stadium showcase for all the equestrian units in the parade. The event takes place at the Equestrian Center in nearby Burbank. You’ll need a car to get there. Bonus for Disney fans. The Equestrian Center is just down the street from Walt Disney Studios. While you can’t get into the studio, you can snap some wicked fun selfies outside the gates.

Band Fest | Dec. 29 and 30

Band Fest is an opportunity for the different marching bands to perform their traditional half-time field shows. There are three shows over 2 days and each band performs once. I don’t know when the Utes will play if they perform at all as it’s optional for the 2 participating university bands. Each show is unique and a ton of fun.

Band Fest occurs at Pasadena City College right in the heart of town.

Float Fest | Jan. 1 and 2

What happens to all the beautiful floats after the parade? They are on display for 2 days at Float Fest. The event is scheduled for the afternoon of Jan. 1 and all day Jan. 2 at Pasadena High School. Free shuttles are available from Pasadena City College to Float Fest on both days and from the Rose Bowl on the 2nd. The stadium lots will be a bit busy the afternoon of the 1st.

Getting to the Rose Bowl

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