Lian’s Guide to the Rose Season

Dec 27, 2011

Here Come the Ducks! Here Come the Badgers! Here Come the Bandies!

It’s that time of year again in Pasadena: Rose Bowl time. New Year’s weekend is right around the corner, and my in-box has been filled with a unusually high number of requests for advice, information and parking requests. Yes to advice and information; no to parking. The driveway is already filled!

In order to help as many folks as possible, I thought I’d  put it all in one handy-dandy blog post for those of you from U of O and Wisconsin and other points around the country headed to Pasadena.

Here is my advice for fully enjoying the festivities:

Go to the parade, people. This year, thanks to the Never on Sunday rule, you don’t even have the hangover reason as an excuse to sleep in—New Year’s Eve is Saturday night, but the parade’s not until Monday. So get up and get going! If this is a once-in-a-lifetime event for you, buy tickets. (The closer to Orange Grove and Colorado, aka “TV Corner,” the better. Worth every dollar. Bathrooms and coffee, need I say more?) The floats are spectacular, the bands are fab, the horses are beautiful, the weather is always great. J.R. Martinez of Dancing with the Stars is the Grand Marshall, and the theme is something vague called “Just Imagine.” What more could you want?

The 2012 Rose Court, with Queen Drew Washington holding the roses

Wear layers. The early start time means that the weather is often cold at the beginning of the parade. (Stop snickering, Badgers! To us, 47 degrees is cold!) Then it’s sunny and warm by the end of the parade. Wear layers is all I’m sayin’.

Call out “Happy New Year!” and “Queen Drew! Over here!” It’s a personable little parade for a million people. There’s lots of waving and good wishes, as riders in the parade call out to the crowd and the crowd calls back. You don’t have to be a local to acknowledge the Queen. And please thank the volunteers in the white suits (the White Suiters, as we call them). They put on the whole shebang as a community service, giving up literally years of their lives, not to mention their entire holiday!

Cheer for the bands. Love the bandies and their parents. These high school bands are hand-picked; they’ve been rehearsing, auditioning and fundraising for yours to make their appearance possible. And those kids are in for the longest march of their lives (over five miles), usually in inadequate footwear. (Why don’t the flag girls wear shoes with support? Why?) So when they go by, be generous. Better yet, see the bands perform before the parade. This year, Bandfest will be broadcast online for band geeks around the world! Click here for the schedule and all the details about Bandfest.

Wear your school colors at all times. We locals like knowing who is representing. More Badgers? More Ducks? We talk about you all year long when you’re gone. As in “Wow, those Oregon fans really spent a lot of money in the bars.” Or “Love those Badgers. So polite.” We’ll never know who you are if you don’t wear your sweatshirts.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. I know the landscaping may look lush, especially after the 13 inches of rain we recently received, but technically, Pasadena is a a desert. So, drink up, Shriner! And by that I mean water. It’s a long day if you take in the parade and the game. You’ll need extra H2O to walk back up the hill to your car after the game.

Rest easy. There is not a bad seat in the Rose Bowl. I’ve sat in the Rose Bowl for a World Cup final , multiple Rose Bowl games, a U2 concert and the Barcelona vs. Galaxy match — all with the stadium filled to capacity. (I’ve also  been there for AYSO soccer opening days where the stadium was not quite filled to capacity!)  And I can tell you that there is not a bad seat in the house. There are tight seats! But not bad seats. So whereever your tickets are, they will be great. But get there early to avoid security issues and enjoy the spectacular view of the San Gabriel Mountains once inside. Then imagine Keith Jackson’s voice saying, “The Granddaddy of them all.”

Read Helen of Pasadena before you show up to get the inside scoop. Yup, my novel starts at the Rose Parade and gives you the inside scoop on all things Pasadena. You’ll be in the know about so many local haunts if you read the book before you come. Here’s the Helen of Pasadena link to Or pick it up at one of our many fantastic bookstores while you are here: Vromans, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Apostrophe Books, Flintridge Bookstore and more. After you read the book, you’ll understand my caution, “Watch out for those parade floats!”

If you have extra time, visit the Norton Simonthe Pasadena Museum of History or the Huntington Library and Gardens. And get a load of how classy we are here in Pasadena. No theme parks in the Rose City! We’ve got taste, and it shows at these wonderful museums. If you can’t make it to the museums, rentFather of the Bride, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Rumor Has It or The Wedding Planner — all shot locally.

Eat, shop, and stay in Pasadena. Please. Thanks. We appreciate it. For recommendations, pick up the book Hometown Pasadena or go to

For more insider information check out these three fantastic websites:

Hometown Pasadena– Great recommendations for eating, shopping, special events, written by locals who are top-notch journalists and writers.

The Rose Magazine– A complete guide to events and profiles of the people who make it happen. Great resource.

The Tournament of Roses — The official site for all the official festivities.

Have fun!

Lian Dolan is the author of Helen of Pasadena and the blogger and podcaster at the Chaos Chronicles.

1 Response for “Lian’s Guide to the Rose Season”

  1. las artes says:

    Yes, parking was very convenient. And, we woke up to fresh coffee & pastries at my regular hangout, EuroPane Cafe.Sierra Madre’s float usually uses their float for fund raising right after the parade viewing is done. They will tow it to Baldwin/Sierra Madre and sell some of the flowers for a buck or two.



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