Arguably the most storied stadium in all of college football, the Rose Bowl is an iconic structure to any college football fan. The Rose Bowl has been the site of as many classic college football moments as any venue in the country, from Wallace Wade’s Alabama team winning their first National Championship 20-19 over Washington, to Wisconsin’s near 28 point comeback in 1963 against Southern Cal, to Vince Young’s classic National Championship performance for Texas in 2006. The stadium has also hosted a World Cup final, five Super Bowls, Summer Olympics events, every iconic band that you can think of and many, many more events.
The Rose Bowl itself opened its doors on October 8, 1922 originally in a horseshoe design. By 1928 the south end was closed in to complete the iconic bowl design that it is known for today. It has been the home to many sports over the years, but always home to the annual Rose Bowl played every year on January 1 between the Big Ten champion and the Pac 12 champion (most years at least). In 1982, the UCLA football team officially moved into the Rose Bowl from the Los Angeles Coliseum, despite the fact that the stadium is 26 miles from campus. Today, capacity at the stadium is over 92,000 with a record attendance of over 106,000. The Rose Bowl is even marked as a National Historic Landmark, a testament to its long and storied history.
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The concourse is basically ringed by concessions, making it easy to navigate through the wide variety of food to whatever menu item catches your eye. Concessions are marked by extraordinarily large signs advertising whatever is available at that particular stand, something that makes it very easy to choose from the options as you walk. Every stand is different, meaning there's food options for just about any palette. The normal selection of hot dogs, burgers, nachos and popcorn are joined by the more unique options of chicharones, churros, kettle corn, wings, beer brats, teriyaki chicken bowls, tacos, bacon wrapped hot dogs, and even catfish or shrimp & Cajun fries. Prices are very reasonable, with food options ranging from $4 to $10 and only a few items going up to $12. For Los Angeles, that's very reasonable.
Beverage options are just as plentiful if not more so. Alongside the Coke products, you can get all kinds of lemonades and juices, iced coffee, hot chocolate and even Horchata (a Mexican drink made from almonds). For those that need the boost to cheer on the Bruins, you can purchase a Rockstar Energy Drink. Prices again are very reasonable, with no drink costing over $7. Although alcohol is sold at the Rose Bowl, there isn't any alcohol sold at UCLA games.
As soon as you turn the corner into the valley and see the classic sign, you'll know you're in for a good experience. The fact that it's the Rose Bowl alone makes this worth the trip. The lots around the stadium will be packed with Bruins tailgating for the game, creating a very traditional college football pre-game atmosphere. Perhaps the coolest part of the whole experience is the spectacular view of the San Gabriel Mountains surrounding the stadium, visible from inside and outside the stadium. As you pass the roses and through the ticket gate below the classic Rose Bowl sign, take in the experience. If you don't already know you're somewhere full of history, the Court of Champions will remind you. The score from every Rose Bowl game adorns plaques on the south end of the stadium below the famous Rose Bowl sign. It's heaven for any college football lover.
Around the stadium, the stone fixtures and roses make you feel like you've gone back an era in college football history while still enjoying all of the modern amenities of today's stadiums. As you walk down the tunnels and glimpse the field, linger for a moment and soak in the view of one of the most classic fields in football.
The UCLA fans do a pretty solid job of filling the stadium, but they still generally fail to reach capacity. While passionate, they are definitely a notch below the elite fan bases in the country in terms of numbers and noise. The stadium itself is beautiful and full of new fixtures from a recent renovation, but the spread out bowl design doesn't hold sound well. The raucous crowd can sound a bit far away and the bands at halftime can be difficult to hear when you're not seated right down on the field. That being said, the traditions are all there. From the UCLA 8-Clap to the walk to the field behind the UCLA flag bearers, it's a great college football experience through and through.
There's no disputing the quality of the area around the Rose Bowl, as there aren't many more picturesque settings in the country. The Rose Bowl is at the bottom of a valley at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, whose peaks rise above the stadium and are visible from anywhere inside or outside. Beautiful sunsets over the mountains behind the press box are not uncommon sights here, and they tend to be more than impressive. Mansions rest atop these mountains overlooking the stadium, just in case you've forgotten that you're in the Los Angeles area.
The neighborhood immediately around the stadium is unique in its relation to the Rose Bowl. You won't see the iconic stadium as you're winding through traffic. Instead, you'll be in quaint neighborhoods with streets lined with palm trees and beautiful homes. Suddenly the expanse of the Rose Bowl parking lot opens up in front of you on the valley floor with the celebrated Rose Bowl sign visible on the front of the bowl. It almost seems a hidden gem that is a part of the beautiful surrounding landscape.
In terms of finding some good food options, Pasadena has plenty and is only a quick jump across the highway to the south. Barney's LTD, Bar Celona or Buca di Beppo are popular food options to try, although there will be no shortage around that Pasadena area. Just down the road in Glendale there are countless more food options, but my favorite in the area is here as well. Slater's 50/50 is a restaurant with a huge selection of local beers, but the specialty here is the bacon theme. Almost everything has bacon in it, and the 50% bacon burgers are absolutely spectacular.
As you can imagine, hotels are plentiful in the area as well. I prefer to stay in the Santa Anita area near the racetrack because the rates there tend to be below that of most of the surrounding area. But if you're making a trip out of it, you've got all of Los Angeles to choose from.
The hardcore UCLA fans are as loud and engaged as any fans in the country. Signs, cheers, light blue pom-poms and passion are all a part of the experience. Tailgate is raucous and large and the student section is huge and wild. These are all great things that make for a quintessential college football experience. However, UCLA may actually be a victim of the older and larger Rose Bowl, no matter how classic of a venue it is. The stadium rarely sells out, and typical of any team in the Los Angeles market, there are a lot of fans there more for the spectacle than for the team. The wide bowl shape means that the loud areas can seem far away and more muted than they deserve to be. Basically, to be truly elite in 92,000 seat stadium, there need to be 92,000 seats filled with passionate fans. Instead you'll see a lot of fans leaving early to beat the horror of the traffic jam postgame.
As beautiful as the drive in to the area is, expect to have plenty of time to take it all in. Getting into the area on 110 or 210 is fairly easy (as easy as it can be in general Los Angeles traffic), but the fact that the stadium lies in the heart of a residential area with no major roads cutting through means going will be slow. Basically expect to be confronted with the option of parking far away and hiking to the stadium or waiting in endless traffic to reach the tailgate area. Choose wisely, because the narrow roads and direction of traffic make it impossible to change your mind. I'd strongly recommend the hike if you can't arrive early enough to beat the masses out.
Once you arrive at the stadium, the gates are fairly easy to move through although security can be a bit of a choke point. The concourse is easily walkable and there are more than enough restrooms and concessions to make it easy to get to and from your seat quickly. I'd strongly advise you to show your ticket to the usher once you reach the bowl, because the seat numbering seems as if there is no rhyme or reason whatsoever. This will be a constant point of confusion as the masses filling the stadium will constantly ascend and descend the long, narrow stairways to try and find their seats. Also noticeable, once you begin your ascent you won't see many signs labeling the section you're in. Moral of the story, seating is confusing here. But that's not all, it's also relatively narrow and the incline is so gradual that you'll often be staring into the back of someone's head.
At any cost, you have to go once. It's the Rose Bowl. Ticket prices are generally about average, ranging from $30-$40 all the way up to $100 or so. Parking is the same with the ability to park for anywhere from $20 to $100 (yes, there was a $100 area using private residences for those desperate to escape traffic). Food is surprisingly affordable for such a historic venue, especially one in Southern California. Overall, a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl can be quite a deal, and one you shouldn't pass up.
I could go on and on about the nuances that make the Rose Bowl so worthy of a visit. If you have the luxury of attending the annual rivalry with Southern Cal for the Victory Bell in its bi-annual trip to the Rose Bowl, that's a must do. How often do you get to cross off the Rose Bowl from your bucket list while attending one of the better rivalries in college football?
The view from the Rose Bowl is absolutely worth mentioning again. I'll dub it myself as the "Best Sunset in College Football." That alone is just about worth the price of admission. Be sure not to skip the Court of Champions as you enter the gates. As a passionate college football fan, I could have spent an hour here reading through the Rose Bowl plaques and soaking in the tradition. While you're at it, look up. The lit up "Rose Bowl" sign with the giant rose is one of the most recognizable logos of any stadium anywhere in the world. All of this lets you know that you're entering a site of sports legends that transcends just football.
In the mold of Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Lambeau Field in Green Bay and so many other historic locations, you can almost feel the ghosts of heroes past in the Rose Bowl. Despite its age and flaws, the Rose Bowl is and will continue to be one of the legendary sports venues in any sport. For that reason alone, you should plan a visit.
A rose by itself means little or nothing to the average college football fan. Sure, it may score some points with a significant other, but the rose eventually dies and you turn your attention to something else. Now if you put the word "bowl" in behind that rose, suddenly fans who have experienced the venue reminisce about memories that will last a lifetime, and those who haven't yearn to be there one day.
Wait, this stadium was built in 1922 and should be in the retirement community of stadiums, so why is there so much hoopla surrounding it? Well, it is a National Historic Landmark, so you can take your family and rationalize it as a study of American history. It has a capacity of nearly 92,000, so it gives you ample opportunity to meet new friends.
The Rose Bowl's current tenant has been causing a stir since 1982, when the UCLA Bruins broke up with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and moved to (literally) greener pastures. This split couldn't have been any more welcomed because the Coliseum is located in the heart of the campus of the Bruins' most renowned rival, the USC Trojans. Ironically, a team hailing colors of "true blue" and gold would be playing at a stadium that evokes thoughts of a shade of red.
The only thing that makes the Rose Bowl not a great place to go is the old splintery wood benches, single level tunnels to access seating, and a total lack of antiquate numbers of restroom facilities for a 100K plus stadium. Getting to and from the restrooms and concession stands can be an ordeal during halftime especially. The tailgating is excellent either on the golf course or in the grass parking lots, though restrooms are scarce there are plenty of places to get food and drink if you don't do your own. The Arroyo Seco is gorgeous and the weather is hard to beat. Overall a nice place if you're there on a game that's not near a sellout.
I had the opportunity to go and see my alma mater Michigan play in the Rose Bowl in 1998. It is an experience that I will never forget. While I don't remember as many of the specifics of the food, etc. I do remember the stadium being such an awesome and interesting place to see the game. Maybe because it was the rose bowl there was bit more mystique with the experience, but I really enjoyed my time at the Rose Bowl stadium and am lucky I had the chance to go there.
The Rose Bowl is a venue every college football fan yearns to see and it could be argued that no NCAA venue has more name recognition than the one in Pasadena.
While the venue is often thought of during college football’s postseason, it is the everyday home of the UCLA Bruins. The Blue and Gold have called the Rose Bowl home since 1982, after the team left the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The stadium was built in 1922 and is currently one of college football’s eldest; even recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Despite its age, renovations began in 2011 to ready the stadium for its next 100 years of events. With a budget of $152 million, the renovations aimed to include a premium seating pavilion, larger tunnels, and new scoreboards. Fans will appreciate additional concession stands and restrooms, and a decrease in the amount of time to exit the stadium.
It has the history, tailgating on the golf course is awesome, but the place is a dump.
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