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Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose Is a Parade

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pasadena certainly loves a parade. Every New Year's Day (or Jan. 2 if the holiday falls on a Sunday) since 1890, the California town 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles has thrown the Tournament of Roses, also known as the Rose Parade. The event began as a modest booster event to showcase the city's spectacular weather but has since morphed into a technicolor extravaganza with more than 40 floats. An estimated 1 million people catch the spectacle in person, while 40 million more watch it on TV every year. The Rose Bowl football game that follows -- this year, University of Southern California vs. University of Illinois -- is nearly as old as the parade. (It began in 1902.) Yet no Hail Mary touchdown can top a float covered in lacquered kumquats. -- Laura Randall

THE ROUTE: The parade begins at 8 a.m. on Orange Grove Avenue and follows a 5 1/2 -mile route along Colorado Boulevard east to Sierra Madre Boulevard, then heads north to Victory Park. Total running time is about 2 1/2 hours.

COST: Elevated grandstand seats on Orange Grove Avenue and West Colorado Boulevard cost $75 to $85; mid-parade seats between Fair Oaks Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard are $42 to $63. Elbowing your way to a sidewalk opening is free.

TIPS: The best and most expensive seats are near Orange Grove and Colorado, also known as the "TV corner," where cameras broadcast the parade to the world; they usually are snapped up soon after tickets go on sale Feb. 1. Near the end of the parade route, the baton twirlers and horses may not step quite as high, but the seats are cheaper and the portable toilets are easier to find. These spots often are available right up until New Year's Eve. Info: Sharp Seating, 626-795-4171, http://www.sharpseating.com.

If you don't mind the cold -- and SoCal does get frosty at 3 a.m. in winter -- join thousands of curbside campers who set up lounge chairs and hibachis along Colorado Boulevard beginning at noon Dec. 31 (no tents allowed).

Most streets surrounding Colorado are inaccessible starting the night before. If you're driving to the parade, arrive no later than 7:30 a.m. Save time and buy a parking ticket in advance ($15 to $30) through Sharp Seating or Easy Parking Service (626-286-7576); you'll cherish that reserved spot in a garage or lot near the parade. Or have a cab drop you off a few blocks from Colorado and walk the rest of the way. For public transportation, the Gold subway line waives its fares from 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve through New Year's Day. The Memorial Park and Del Mar stations are within two blocks of the route. Info: 800-266-6883, http://www.metro.net.

HIGHLIGHTS: China's first Rose Parade entry is set to roll this year, despite protests over the country's human rights record. The 45-foot-tall float will celebrate the 2008 Beijing Olympics and be accompanied by acrobats, dancers and about 100 street performers. Another first: the Los Angeles Dodgers float. The only entry by a Major League Baseball team will feature a giant player fashioned out of crushed coconut, scissored blue statice and red carnation petals. Wave at Dodger legends Tommy Lasorda, Carl Erskine and Fernando Valenzuela, among others. Also look for grand marshal Emeril Lagasse leading the way in a 1910 open-coach Pierce Arrow.

RELATED EVENTS: On Dec. 29-31, stop by the Rosemont (700 Seco St.), Brookside (1001 Rose Bowl Dr.) or Buena Vista (2144 Buena Vista St., Duarte) pavilions, which house the floats pre-parade, and watch the workers decorate them with flowers, birdseed, etc.; $5. Or visit the parade horses during Equestfest (Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 480 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank, 818-973-1042; $8), a four-hour event of roping demos and riding drills on Dec. 29. At Bandfest, see this year's bands run through dress rehearsals at Pasadena City College (Dec. 29-30; $10). Post-parade, join the throngs at Victory Park (2575 Paloma St.; $7) for a ritual viewing of the floats. Several nearby towns, such as Sierra Madre and La Canada Flintridge, later display their entries and sometimes sell freshly plucked flowers to raise money for next year's float.

FUELING UP: Many on-the-route businesses close Jan. 1, but a few welcome hungry paradegoers. Euro Pane (950 E. Colorado Blvd., 626-577-1828), a bakery known for its flaky croissants and strong coffee, opens around 7 a.m. Holly Street Bar & Grill (175 E. Holly St., 626-440-1421) serves brunch on New Year's Day; entrees include eggs Benedict ($12) and a smoked salmon club sandwich ($14.50). Barney's Beanery (99 E. Colorado Blvd., 626-405-9777) is a scuffed-up roadhouse with an enormous menu, including nine types of french fries (from $3.50).

SLEEPING: Pasadena's better hotels often require three- or four-night minimums for New Year's Eve stays and are booked months in advance, but cancellations aren't unusual. At press time, rooms were still available at the Saga Motor Hotel (1633 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626-795-0431, http://www.sagamotorhotel.com; $225 to $300 a night with a two-night minimum) and Courtyard by Marriott (700 W. Huntington Dr., Monrovia, 626-357-5211, http://www.marriott.com; $199 to $219 with a two-night minimum), about seven miles from Pasadena. To avoid the jacked-up rates and traffic, stay at a downtown L.A. hotel. At Miyako (328 E. First St., Los Angeles, 213-617-2000, http://www.miyakoinn.com), for example, rooms go for $169 a night on New Year's Eve.

INFO: Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-307-7977, http://www.pasadenacal.com; Tournament of Roses, 626-449-7673, http://www.tournamentofroses.com.

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