Parades, costumes, and king cake are just a few elements that mark the Mardi Gras season in Louisiana.
Though New Orleans typically comes to mind as the Mardi Gras capital, parishes all across the Louisiana Coast celebrate carnival season with an array of special events.
But what sets Mardi Gras in coastal Louisiana apart from the New Orleans version is that the coastal celebrations radiate a truly family-friendly atmosphere, ensuring that participants of all ages can enjoy this special time of year.
Lake Charles boasts the second largest Mardi Gras in the state, with more than 60 krewes and at least 20 family-friendly events. Featuring the largest Mardi Gras costume display in the world, the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu celebrates Southwest Louisiana traditions and showcases nearly 300 costumes from past seasons.
During the Mardi Gras Children's Day on Sunday, March 2, kids and families can learn about old-time Louisiana culture, participate in arts and crafts, and experience Mardi Gras music and magic.
The annual Iowa Chicken Run and Parade, scheduled for March 4, is a highlight of the Mardi Gras celebration in Calcasieu Parish, as participants go around the town of Iowa collecting ingredients for a Mardi Gras gumbo. At stops along the way, activities include dancing, Zydeco music and a live chicken release.
Jefferson Parish, next-door neighbor to New Orleans, hosts its annual Family Gras event February 21-23. A three-day celebration that includes parades, costumes and free concerts, the festival is centered around family festivities and entertainment including a kids' activity area, a rock climbing wall, face painting, an art market and a wide variety of food vendors.
Another parade that's well known for its family atmosphere is the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Parade in Iberia Parish. Held on Fat Tuesday, March 4 in the town of Jeanerette, the parade features floats, bands, dance groups, Mardi Gras royalty and – of course – beads. However, unlike most Mardi Gras parades, this celebration has no theme, so participants are encouraged to go with the flow. Beginning on Friday, February 28, intense costume competitions are held each night of the five-day Grand Marais Mardi Gras.
Two particularly unique Mardi Gras festivities in St. Tammany Parish, the northern neighbor of New Orleans, include a floating parade and a red carpet full of canines. The Krewe of Tchefuncte is a boats-only parade that cruises the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville. Held on Sunday, February 23 this year, the theme is "Celebrating Louisiana's Legends."
On Sunday, March 9, Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws celebrates its 20th year with the theme "Live from the Red CarPET." Dogs sashay in costume along Mandeville's lakefront in a fun parade that supports three of the Northshore's non-profits aimed at helping kids and dogs alike.
For a full list of Mardi Gras events taking place in Louisiana's coastal parishes, visit www.visitlouisianacoast.com/mardi-gras.
For more information about top events in Louisiana take a look at the Top Events USA selection of the major annual festivals and events in Louisiana-Baton Rouge, Louisiana-New Orleans and the Louisiana West region.