{ DAY TRIP }

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

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Spend a day shopping, spectating, strolling and sightseeing in Pasadena’s idyllic SoCal setting

BY Christina Orlovsky Page

On New Year’s Day, everything literally comes up roses in Pasadena, the Los Angeles suburb made famous by its Tournament of Roses and the Rose Parade. Inaugurated in 1890 to promote the city as the “Mediterranean of the West,” the Tournament of Roses invited East Coast friends of the prestigious Valley Hunt Club to enjoy California’s eternal sunshine—even in the 19th century Southern Californians were rubbing our perfect weather in the faces of faraway friends—and mid-winter sporting events, like chariot racing, jousting, foot races and tug-o-war. To top it off, the fact that the city was still in bloom, despite being the dead of winter, encouraged a showcase of flowers on parade. Today, football has replaced foot racing in the Rose Bowl Game—known as “The Granddaddy of Them All”—the oldest bowl game in history, and hundreds of rose blooms on horse-drawn carriages have multiplied to more than 18 million blooms on professionally crafted parade floats that trek a five-plus-mile journey that is broadcast throughout the world.

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On New Year’s Day, everything literally comes up roses in Pasadena, the Los Angeles suburb made famous by its Tournament of Roses and the Rose Parade. Inaugurated in 1890 to promote the city as the “Mediterranean of the West,” the Tournament of Roses invited East Coast friends of the prestigious Valley Hunt Club to enjoy California’s eternal sunshine—even in the 19th century Southern Californians were rubbing our perfect weather in the faces of faraway friends—and mid-winter sporting events, like chariot racing, jousting, foot races and tug-o-war. To top it off, the fact that the city was still in bloom, despite being the dead of winter, encouraged a showcase of flowers on parade. Today, football has replaced foot racing in the Rose Bowl Game—known as “The Granddaddy of Them All”—the oldest bowl game in history, and hundreds of rose blooms on horse-drawn carriages have multiplied to more than 18 million blooms on professionally crafted parade floats that trek a five-plus-mile journey that is broadcast throughout the world.

While the Tournament of Roses put Pasadena on the map, there’s much more to the city than just two early January days have to offer. A roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Diego, Pasadena makes a perfect day trip for those looking for history, shopping and simply strolling through a suburb with a splendorous past and architecturally striking present.

If shopping is what you’re looking for, it’s worth waiting until the second Sunday of each month to head to the historic Rose Bowl Stadium—not for football, but rather for the monstrous Rose Bowl Flea Market. What the Rose Bowl Game is to football, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is to swap meets—a colossal marketplace for anything and everything you might have ever (or never!) wanted or needed. Established in 1957, this is a vintage shopper’s dream. With just a $9 entry fee, this is a destination you’ll want to devote at least a few hours to exploring.

When your feet need a rest, it’s worth it to take a scenic drive through the city’s neighborhoods and tree-lined streets and past the striking City Hall. Inevitably, all roads will lead to Old Town Pasadena, the city’s main shopping, dining and nightlife district. Occupying 22 city blocks, just 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles, Old Town is to Pasadena what the Gaslamp District is to San Diego: a bustling center where tourists and locals alike peruse art galleries and museums; dine at popular restaurants like La Grande Orange Café, a busy brunch spot located in the historic Santa Fe Railway Depot; shop at more than 200 independent and big-name retailers; and discover something new down historic alleys filled with eclectic finds. 

Five Fun Facts about The Rose Parade

1. It has a “Never on Sunday” tradition, dating back to 1893, when the Tournament wanted to avoid scaring horses hitched outside of churches. To this day, if January 1 falls on a Sunday, as it did this year, the Rose Parade is held on January 2.

2. The Tournament of Roses Association is 955 volunteers strong, all known as White Suiters for their unique white uniforms.

3. The Rose Parade features more than 40 floats each year. Once mostly flower-covered horse carriages, today’s floats are professional endeavors, often promoting cultural trends. Recent float themes have included Downton Abbey, Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, The Bachelor and Frozen.

4. More than 700,000 spectators lined Colorado Avenue for the 2016 parade; 2,000 spectators watched the first parade in 1890.

5. The only year since its founding that the parade wasn’t held was 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.