Los Angeles, situated in Southern California, is the second-largest city
(after New York City) in the United States. Los Angeles is known for
its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, sprawling metropolis, and as a
major center of the American entertainment industry. Although we
have lived in Northern California for more than 20 years, Los Angeles was not on
our list of frequent travel destinations in the past. Because Saratoga High
School marching band and color guard (Iris plays trumpet in the band) was
invited to participate in the 2016 New Year Rose Parade, we decided to join the
shadow tour to cheer them on.
Getting there ...
After dropping off Iris at Saratoga High for her bus ride at ~9AM, we started
our own long drive at ~10AM. Although we left about 30 min later than
their buses, we actually caught up with them not long after we got on highway
I-5 (they had a stop at Coalinga/Avenal rest area). The traffic got pretty
bad when we started to ascend at Grapevine on I-5, and it started to rain (and
some fresh snow on the ground) when we entered the high elevation areas.
It took us almost 7 hours (with a short lunch/gas break) to get to our first
stop in LA: Griffith Park.
First Day (11/28) ...
- Griffith Park
We headed to Griffith Observatory at the peak of
Griffith Park. Although we missed sunset (4:55PM) due to the traffic
(and some detours...), the view at twilight was still amazing and it was
much more crowded than I expected (I thought there would be fewer people
because the Observatory is closed on Mondays).
Second Day (12/29) ...
It would not have been a complete LA trip if we did not go
to the Disneyland :-) The last time we were in
Disneyland is back in 2002
with my extended family when they were all little kids. When we got to
the Disneyland, it was already ~ 10AM and was extremely crowded. The
wait time for the some popular rides (like Hyperspace Mountain) was already
longer than 2 hours (and their FastPass return time was after 5PM...).
Our day schedule was: got the FassPass for Star Tours (return time
@ 3:15PM); waited for Big Thunder
Mountain (~ 45min); waited for
Haunted Mansion (~ 60min);
rushed to Main Street to see
Saratoga High and Redwood Middle School parade at 12:45PM; had lunch
while watching the rest of Disney
parade; gave up Indiana Jones and waited for
Jungle (or Jingle?) Cruise
(~40min); checked out the Main Street Railroad Station and
decided not to wait for the train; ran into Linus (he was reading alone...);
used Star Tours FassPass with
Linus; got the FastPass for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (return time 7PM);
went to California Adventure for
Saorin' Over California (~60min); went out to have
dinner at Disney Downtown
(outdoors @ Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria); back to
Buzz Lightyear to use FassPass;
waited for Big Thunder Mountain (~45min); took some pictures of
Disney Castle at night; walked
toward Main Street and
waited for fireworks; and finally went back to bus and back to hotel....
Third Day (12/30) ...
- Rose Parade Float Decoration
During the final stages of preparation
a variety of seeds, bark, fruits and vegetables, grasses and of course,
flowers are being applied to the floats by experienced professionals as well
as hard working volunteers. We could get close to the floats to experience
the magic of the floats before they make their debut in the Rose Parade on
the New Year Day.
- Bandfest at Pasadena City College
Bandfest features the prize-winning
bands of the 127th Rose Parade performing the field shows that made them
famous. I thought it was still early when we finished lunch to head
toward the stadium (1.5 hour before the first performance began), but it
turned out most seats in the central grand stands were already taken.
All the bands were excellent in their performances. However, we found
the show and parade from Toho High School (Nagoya, Japan) to be the most
Fourth Day (12/31) ...
- Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center houses
European paintings, drawings, sculptures, manuscripts, decorative arts and
photography, gathered internationally. The Museum continues to build
its collection through purchase and gifts, and develops programs of
exhibitions, publications, research, public education, and the performing
arts, etc. We had just visited the Getty Museum 2 years ago when we
returned from our Mexican Cruise trip in 2013. It was still good to
take a casual walk around the Museum especially with its beautiful gardens
- Santa Monica
We went to a reserved place at the Santa Monica beach
for lunch (and the band also came to
lunch after their last practice for the parade). We played some
football catch after lunch before we headed toward beach. After taking
a few pictures on the beach, Woanyu and I continued to walk to the pier, and
Linus went back to hang out with his friends. Woanyu and I found
a place at the Third Street Promenade to take a coffee break, and it was
actually the same place that we took a picture of
Linus in 2002!
- New Year Eve
||We had a New Year Eve dinner party with the band at
the hotel (Marriott Burbank). Since we all needed to get up
early next morning for the big parade, we started the New Year
countdown together with the New York Time Square using Eastern Time.
Everyone was excited and making a lot of noise with party whistles
and horns to celebrate the coming of the New Year (although there
were still a couple of more hours at our local time...).
Fifth Day (1/1) ...
- Rose Parade
We had to get up early at 4:30AM, get on the bus at 5AM,
and arrive at the parking at 6AM (before the traffic control). All of
us decided to stay on bus to sleep a little more until 7AM before walking to
our seats on the grand stand around the "TV corner".
Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 by members of Pasadena's Valley Hunt
Club to highlight their new home's mild winter weather in California.
"In New York, people are buried in snow," announced Professor Charles F.
Holder at a Club meeting. "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are
about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."
During the next few years, the festival expanded to include marching bands
and motorized floats. In 2016, the parade features 44 floats, 19 equestrian
units, and 20 marching bands. The Rose Parade is watched in person by
hundreds of thousands of spectators on the parade route, and is seen by tens
of millions more on television worldwide in more than 100 international
territories and countries.
The highlight of this parade was of course
Saratoga High School Marching
Band and Color Guard. The crowd (parents/friends like us) went
crazy when they appeared around the corner and marched. The
NBC coverage can be found here
(check out 1:35 for Iris!).
- Rose Bowl
Our another big event was to go to the Rose Bowl Game:
Stanford vs. Iowa.
Originally titled the "Tournament East–West football
game", the first Rose Bowl was played on January 1, 1902, starting the
tradition of New Year's Day bowl games. The Rose Bowl Game has
traditionally hosted the conference champions from the Big
Ten and Pac-12 conferences. Beginning in 2015, the Rose Bowl has been
part of the College Football Playoff system and hosts one of its semi-final
games every three years. During non-Playoff years, the Rose Bowl reverts to
a Pac-12/Big Ten matchup.
There were more Iowa fans than Stanford fans
in the stadium (about 2/3 vs. 1/3), and our seats were just right on the
boundary of yellow (Iowa) and red (Stanford). Luckily, it was a good
game for Stanford to have a dominant position from the beginning (final
- New Year Party at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
After a long
wait for the shuttle bus back to Pasadena city center, we decided to use
Uber (our first try and we had a good experience!) to go to the Natural
History Museum to meet with other band members and parents for the New Year
banquet. The museum was closed to the public and was reserved for this
special event. We had our dining tables and deserts (and dance floor)
set up in the Grand Foyer and two of the exhibition halls.
The Last Day (1/2) ...
We decided to use this opportunity to take Iris to visit a couple of colleges
in the Southern California: USC and UCLA.
- University of Southern California (USC)
The University of Southern
California (USC) is a private research university founded in 1880 with its
main campus in the city area of Los Angeles, California. As California's
oldest private research university, USC has historically educated a large
number of the region's business leaders and professionals. For the
2015-2016 academic year, there were 18,740 students enrolled in four-year
undergraduate programs. USC is also home to 23,729 graduate and professional
students in a number of different programs, including business, law,
engineering, social work, and medicine.
- University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
The University of
California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public research university located in
the Westwood district of Los Angeles, California. It became the Southern
Branch of the University of California in 1919, making it the second-oldest
undergraduate campus of the ten-campus system after the original University
of California campus in Berkeley (1873). UCLA has an approximate
enrollment of 30,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students, and has
112,000 applicants for Fall 2015, the most applicants for any American
Going Home ...
On our way back, we met with my old friend Jimmy (my
roommate at Stanford...) and his son to have lunch together. It was
good to see an old friend after so many years (we actually met once last
year, but we did not have many other chances since he moved down to LA
area ~ 10 years ago).
It was a long drive home, so we all took
turns to drive: Linus (405 --> I-5 @ intersection with 58);
Iris (I-5 --> 46 @ Paso Robles close to 101, this was a new route to
avoid traffic on I-5 and it turned out to be a quite
interesting/challenging route for Iris...); me (101 to Salinas with
dinner break); Woanyu (101 --> 85 --> home).
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