The Rose Parade is held in Pasadena, California every year on New Year’s Day. The parade was established on January 1st 1890 and has evolved into one of the most watched events of the year. Approximately 1 million people line the 5.5 mile parade route to watch the parade in person and millions of others watch on television from all over the world.

The parade is made up of flower-covered floats, marching bands and equestrian units and is followed by the Rose Bowl college football game. The parade in 2018 featured 44 floats, 21 marching bands and 20 equestrian groups with approximately 400 horses.

Every year for as long as I can remember, I watched the parade and thought that it would be nice to actually see it in person. A few years ago I made the trip to California and watched the parade from the streets and not from the sofa.

Watching the parade in person is much different than watching it on television. Probably the most notable thing for me was being able to see the creativity in the types of float, the different styles of bands and even the diversities of the equestrian groups. I have chosen my photos in this post to highlight this special feature of the parade.


The highlight of the parade is without a doubt the grand floats that are completely covered in flowers. Each year the Rose Parade selects a theme and all of the floats use the theme as the inspiration in the design of their floats. The two things about the floats that made the most impact on me were:

1. The floats amazingly designed and decorated with all natural products. Each float had incredible details that showed true creativity and everything on each float played a role in telling the story of the float.

2. The floats are sponsored from many different companies and locations and many of the floats are a reflection of the culture of that company or location. The year that I went to the parade some of the sponsors were Bollywood, China Airlines, New Mexico, City of Huntington Beach and Alaska. It is obvious in the photos below which floats were sponsored by these groups.


The marching bands that are invited come from all over the United States and some international bands. Just as the floats reflect the culture of the location where they are sponsored the bands also highlight the style of the location or the style of the organization. The bands include high school bands, university bands and military bands. The size of the bands range from medium to massive with bands that exceed 300 members.

New bands are invited every year, some of the bands that were in the parade when I went are shown below and the photos really so the diversity of styles from band to band.

Football Teams

The Tournament of Roses is made up of several events but the two most famous events are the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game. Each team in the Rose Bowl Game are represented in the Rose Parade with a float that is staffed by the cheer leading squad from each university. The year that I went to the parade the teams were Penn State from the Big 10 and University of Southern California from the Pac 12.

Equestrian Groups

Once again the Rose Parade has managed to provide an entertaining group of diversity even in the equestrian groups riding in the parade. The equestrian groups that I watched included an old west stage coach, a donkey pulled cart, the Budweiser Clydesdales, Mexican Charros, medieval knights and a group of patriotic riders carrying the United States flag.

Watching it live

The parade is free but it might require that you camp out overnight to get a free spot in a designated area or you can purchase tickets to sit in bleachers. Grandstand tickets go on sale starting February 1st and can range between $55 and $100 depending on the location.

One of the strangest things about my experience of going to the Rose Parade was that we watched the parade from near the beginning of the 5.5 mile route. After the last participate passed us by we left and went to have brunch at a nearby restaurant. When we sat down they had the parade on the television. I though, we just watched this but it was being broadcast live. The broadcast was from the end of the route. The entire parade take approximately 2 hours to pass by so I was actually watching an event live on television that I had already seen live in person. It gave me the feeling that I had just experience “time travel”.

Happy New Year and have fun watching the Rose Parade!

I will!