Everything’s Coming Up Roses – Touring the Tournament of Roses House

It’s been a long standing tradition in my family to watch The Rose Parade every New Year’s Day. Now we don’t sit around together and watch it from start to finish. Instead we just keep the TV on in the background as we go about our activities (i.e. laying around and doing nothing – it’s a holiday!). We can do this because in Southern California on good old KTLA The Rose Bowl is played on continuous loop ALL DAY LONG. Yup, it’s a big thing here.

So, why am I talking about New Year’s in the middle of August? Well, last week I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the Tournament of Roses House in good ole Pasadena. And guess what? You can do it, too!

Yup, you too can visit this manse every Thursday at 2 and 3 pm (Feb – Sept) for a guided tour. And guess what? You got it! It’s free!!!

Now, I have a confession to make. This blog post almost didn’t happen. That’s because somebody accidentally typed in North Orange Grove Blvd. when they were getting directions to the Tournament House. That someone ended up driving up and down North Orange Grove Blvd. wondering why she couldn’t see this incredibly large house. Luckily, that someone got it into her thick skull that if there is a North Orange Grove Blvd. there must also be a South Orange Grove Blvd. And finally, someone located the house just in time to make the 3pm tour. Hooray! There are happy endings!

Upon arrival we first had to wait on the porch before being allowed in for the tour. There were about 10 of us squeezed into the tiny space waiting until it started. Check it out.

Ok, so I’m totally joking. But seriously, my entire house could fit on that porch. Heck, my entire house could fit on a CORNER of that porch. Sigh.

Soon, the front door opened and we were led inside. We started in the Rose room where we watched a video about The Rose Parade. Not really much else to say about that. After it was over we were broken up into groups of 5. My group ended up with the best tour guide. She was super knowledgeable about the Tournament House, Bowl Game, Parade…pretty much each and every aspect of the organization.

So, what is the Tournament House anyway? Well, now it is the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses. But back in the day, it was one of the Wrigley Mansions. You know Doublemint gum, Juicy Fruit, and Big Red? Yup, those Wrigley’s. And yes, I said ONE of their mansions. I think there were six total.

The house was built in 1906 and is 18,500 square feet. Just a tidy bungalow, wouldn’t you say? In 1958 it was given to the city of Pasadena by the Wrigley’s so that it could be used for the Tournament of Roses (Mrs. Wrigley was a big fan and would watch the parade from her living room window).

Since it is the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses much of the rooms have been turned into meeting rooms and offices. But there are some that still retain hints of the old mansion.

Isn’t that wall paper exquisite? It dates back to the Wrigley time. See how it’s silver? In person it’s shiny. That’s because it’s made from aluminum. Get it? Aluminum? Like a certain gum wrapper? Man, those Wrigley’s were clever.

This was the library. It’s actually quite small and cozy. I’d like to curl up with a good book in here. There are also fireplaces all over the house as it was the only source of heat back then.

The phone booth, complete with soundproof walls. I love, love, love this wall paper. Across from the phone booth is a small bathroom. I figured you didn’t need to see photos of a john, but it does have a funny story. One day Dwight Eisenhower was visiting and accidentally got locked inside. He had to be rescued from the bathroom of the house. He forbid anyone from telling the story as he was so embarrassed. But since he’s long gone, they tell the story all the time now. Our guide said he must be continually rolling in his grave since that story gets told over and over again. But you gotta admit, it’s pretty funny. Not as funny as George Bush Sr. vomiting in Japan, but pretty funny.

Our tour guide is the lovely lady in the center
This is the living room where Mrs. Wrigley used to watch the parade. I know, I actually have a photo with people in it! And I did it on purpose! See the people sitting? This was one of my favorite parts of the tour. They not only allow sitting on the furniture; they welcome it! I thought that was so awesome as it’s so rare on a guided tour.


The stairwell was lined with historical photos of the house as well as this trophy that had been lost for several years until it was recovered in an antique store. The upstairs is markedly different from the downstairs. While the downstairs retains much of it’s historical element, the upstairs has been mostly converted to meeting rooms and display rooms. If you’re a football fan there is a ton of memorabilia from the Rose Bowl. There are also many photos of past parades and Rose Queens. This was my favorite –

Kermie!!!! Best Grand Marshal EVER!

Before we knew it, the tour was over. We were encouraged to visit again and given a poster of next’s years Rose Parade theme – Just Imagine… Before heading to my car, I did find one more photo op.

You can’t visit the Tournament House without seeing some roses!

Tournament House
391 S. Orange Grove Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91184
guides tours every Thursday at 2 & 3pm, February thru September
admission free!


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