I've been to see the Rose Parade live and in all it's glory once in my life, it was 1984, I think. I remember getting down to Colorado Blvd at around 5 a.m. and freezing my butt off while waiting for the parade to start. It was an amazing experience to see if live, however, I think seeing them the day after is a definite must do. (If you plan to visit CA at this time of year, put this on your itinerary-the cost is $10 to get in and you take a shuttle bus which drops you off at the floats)
There was one float that featured waterboarding dogs and dogs that did "dock diving" where the trainer/owner threw a toy in the air and the dogs would jump to catch them, landing in a pool of filled with water (it was heated to 70 degrees for them). This float won the title of heaviest float which weighed in a 85,000 lbs.
I thought these books looked really interesting, as well: