A Rose Parade Survivor's Guide

So you’re going to the Rose Parade.

Many choices lie ahead.

Buy a seat near the heart of the television spectacle at Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards, or rough it on free sidewalk space further down the parade route? Take a chance with street parking, or reserve a spot in advance?

Brave the freeways? Better know which ramps are closed.

The Rose Parade is expected to draw approximately 800,000 people to the streets of Pasadena on Jan. 2, some camping overnight to reserve a sidewalk spot. Tens of thousands more flock to the Rose Bowl Game. Crowds, traffic — it’s all part of the pageantry, and not much to worry about once you know the ropes.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL: For the past 28 years, the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau’s special Visitor Hotline — (877) 793-9911 — has been the go-to resource for instant answers to almost any parade-related question. More than five dozen volunteers man phone lines from Dec. 30 to Jan. 3, advising on everything from disability accommodations to where to find fresh pan dulce and hot chocolate the morning of the parade (it’s Doña Rosa, at 577 S. Arroyo Pkwy.). The line is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on parade day and Jan. 3. Prefer to plan ahead? Download the volunteers’ 82-page reference guide at www.visitpasadena.com.

‘GO PASADENA!’ APP: Those who’d rather stream than dial can download the bureau’s free “Go Pasadena!” smart phone application and its special Rose Parade widgets from the iTunes Store or Android Marketplace. The app features GPS maps that can pinpoint a user’s location and guide the way. There’s also a free Pasadena Chamber of Commerce iPhone app for finding out where to grab lunch.

GETTING THERE: Access to and from the 210 and 134 freeways is closed until noon on parade day at Orange Grove Boulevard, California Avenue and Del Mar Boulevard, and at Sierra Madre Boulevard until 6 p.m. Metro Gold Line light rail trains will run every eight minutes to and from Pasadena stations from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on parade day. Trains also run all night before the parade for those hearty souls who wish to camp out overnight to reserve sidewalk space.

WHERE TO WATCH: The parade route extends 5.5 miles from Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard all the way to Sierra Madre Boulevard and Villa Street on Pasadena’s east end. To buy grandstand seats along Orange Grove or Colorado, call Sharp Seating Company at (626) 795-4171 or visit www.sharpseating.com, which features an interactive map that includes prices. Those on tighter budgets will find more and more free sidewalk space the farther east they travel. Floats only travel about 2.5 miles-per-hour, so late sleepers who head east after the parade’s 8 a.m. start still have a chance to catch it all.

WHERE TO PARK: Pay lots cost plenty and parking restrictions abound, but some free street parking remains for those who don’t mind a walk. Locals know the hotspots:

For grandstand ticket holders heading to the west end of the route, one of the best-kept neighborhood secrets is to park for free on North San Rafael Avenue, adjacent to Annandale Golf Club just north of the 134 Freeway. A ticketholder entrance is a short walk across the freeway and the Colorado Street Bridge.

La Cañada Tournament of Roses Association volunteer Peggy Hotaling suggests parking for $20 at Scott United Methodist Church, 444 N. Orange Grove Blvd., where for a few bucks more, church volunteers serve a charity pancake breakfast.

Parking tends to be more plentiful north of Colorado, but community activist Christle Balvin says the Social Security office at Mentor and Union, south of the middle of the parade route, usually is open without restrictions on parade day.

At the east end of the route, park for only $10 at Norma Coombs Alternative School, 2600 Paloma Street, just east of Sierra Madre, suggests school board member Tom Selinske. Proceeds benefit classroom activities.

But remember, “The closer you park to the parade, the harder it is to get [back] out,” warns radio food personality and parade veteran Peter Dills, son of the late restaurant critic Elmer Dills.

WHAT ABOUT THE GAME: Parking is not especially tricky, but is incredibly time-consuming. Rather than spend hours stuck in traffic on tiny winding streets, park for $40 at the Parsons building on the corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Holly Street and enjoy shuttle service to and from the Rose Bowl, advises Pasadena Chamber president Paul Little. To park at the Rose Bowl (also $40) and still avoid traffic, try to arrive before 9 a.m., and set up a tailgate party. “It’s part of the experience,” says local Leslie Carmell.

COFFEE: This year there are plenty of spots to grab some joe. In densely packed Old Town, look for Tede’s Café, Le Pain Quitidien, Crème de la Crepe and Aux Delices to open before 7 a.m.; or, to duck crowds, try Jones Coffee Roasters on Raymond Avenue south of California Boulevard. Just plan ahead and keep an eye out for portable restrooms behind grandstands and elsewhere along the route.

KNOW THE RULES: Grandstand ticket holders must leave backpacks and coolers at home. Overnight sidewalk camping is allowed on most of Colorado and Sierra Madre boulevards and on a small stretch of Orange Grove. Heed signs. On the sidewalk it’s folding chairs only, no alcohol, and stay put or you lose the spot. Check www.tournamentofroses.com for more.

A CLOSER LOOK: Get close enough to touch the floats (but don’t) from 1 to 5 p.m. at the end of the parade route. Tickets are $10. Parking is almost nonexistent, so take a $3 round-trip shuttle from the Rose Bowl or Pasadena City College. Or, for a free sneak peak, show up on Orange Grove the night before the parade (until 3 a.m.) to watch the floats fall into formation — a truly locals-only experience.

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