Goodall, 78, said she was startled when asked to be the grand marshal, noting that life with chimpanzees in Africa is "kind of different" than Pasadena.
As grand marshal, the British primatologist will ride in the 124th New Year's Day Rose Parade and attend the 99th Rose Bowl football game.
Next year's Rose Parade them is "Oh, the Places You'll Go."
"I was really happy to be asked to be grand marshal for an organization that is moving towards trying to become ever more environmentally friendly," she said at a speech Wednesday.
Goodall began groundbreaking studies on chimpanzees in 1960 and founded the Jane Goodall Institute to protect the Gombe chimpanzees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.