The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

California Bucket List

Here’s your daily travel guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State. Each of these essential California adventures has been tried and tested by a Travel section staffer or contributor.

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Family-friendlyL.A. County

Start the New Year right with a visit to Pasadena's Rose Parade

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Why: Like the Grand Canyon or the northern lights, the majestic Rose Parade needs to be seen in person to be really appreciated. On a bright SoCal morning, the colors, detail and craftsmanship come alive. And throughout December, there are some intriguing pre-parade opportunities for volunteers.

What: One of L.A.’s finest freebies, the Rose Parade steps off at 8 a.m. every New Year’s morning (unless the holiday falls on a Sunday, in which case it is bumped to Monday). We won’t even bother describing it, since like the “Wizard of Oz” or a Super Bowl, everyone has probably seen it on TV.

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

In person, though, the parade’s splendor, precision and pageantry make an early wake-up call worth it. It’s almost a rite of passage for Southern Californians, some of whom spend the night along the parade route.

The parade has more rules than the Vatican.

  • Do not pass the blue “Honor Line” painted on the street.
  • No tents, sofas or boxes.
  • Unoccupied chairs are not allowed.
  • No roping off public areas.

And that’s pretty much just the main stuff. Here’s a full list

But don’t let them ruin your fun. The parade, after all, is one the best family-friendly events in the area, and they’re just protecting that.

To be a part of it all, join in on the float building in the days and weeks before the parade, when the flowers are being supplied and volunteer help is needed. 

On parade day, get there before sunup to be sure of a place along the route.

Tickets in the grandstands are another option. 

Be sure to dress in layers, because the temperatures will range from frosty to blistering as the day progresses.

Here’s a little insider’s trick that you won’t believe until you see it. 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 parking 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.

It’s a wonderful experience, hassle-free, and a great way to kick off a New Year.

Where: Pasadena, about 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

How much: Free

Info: Rose Parade

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