Mardi Gras is right around the corner and this holiday, full of fun and merriment, is one every family can enjoy. Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” as it is also called is a celebration of life, laughter, food and revelry leading into the reflective Lenten season. And while Mardi Gras may make you think of far off places like New Orleans or Brazil, there is plenty of Carnaval spirit to soak up right here in our city. Scroll through to see where you can go to get out there and eat, drink (cocktails, mocktails, whatever your style) and be merry. It’s Mardi Gras, Baby!

photo: via Metro Art

Music is Key: Union Station Mardi Gras

The day simply wouldn’t be a celebration without good music and you’re in luck. Union Station will be transformed into a Mardi Gras station on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. This historic L.A. Landmark will host the Mudbug Brass Band as they lead the crowd in a musical procession from the East Portal to the Grand Waiting room. Bring your cameras and your dancing shoes and take in the amazing sounds and the breathtaking L.A. Noir scenery. Afterward, you can grab some down home Creole fare in Chinatown at The Little Jewel of New Orleans on Ord Street. Step into this former convenience store turned Creole Grocery and restaurant for beignets, po’ boys, jamabalya and everything in between. And don’t forget to wash it down with an Abita Root Beer or piping hot chicory coffee for the mamas and papas.

Union Station
800 N. Alameda St.
Online: unionstationla.com/happenings

The Little Jewel of New Orleans
207 Ord St.
213-620-0461
Online: littlejewel.la

photo: via Original Farmers Market

Celebrate the Season at an L.A. Classic

The Original Farmers Market is back with the 29th annual Mardi Gras Celebration on Feb. 10, 11 and 13. Make your way to the market for fabulous New Orleans and Zydeco music, strolling jesters, shakers for joy and peace and good old (and kid-friendly) bead throwing. If you have a furry friend (or a little pup lover) in the house bring them to the Mutti Gras Pet Parade and Costume Contest on Sat. Feb. 10. And there’s plenty of live music on all three days if you’d like to have a meal (at the Gumbo Pot, perhaps) and a listen. Don’t forget, you get 90 minutes free parking from most merchants, 2-hours from participating grocers. Check their website for more about the festive details.

Original Farmers Market
6333 W. 3rd St.
323-933-9211
Online: farmersmarketla.com/events

photo: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau via Flickr

Take Part in a Parade

There’s no better way to enjoy the festivities than by watching a parade. Long Beach hosts a parade and festival every year full of great music, food, art and celebration right in the middle of Rainbow Harbor (also the home of the Aquarium of the Pacific). The festivities start at noon and the parade begins at 2 p.m. winding from the Aquarium of the Pacific to Shoreline Village. And if you dress up or brush up on your stilt walking skills, the family can join in the parade. Don’t forget to bring a stroller for your youngest party-goers. The Parade and activities are free and take place on Sat. Feb. 17.

Rainbow Harbor
Pine Ave. and Shoreline Dr.
Long Beach
Online: facebook.com/events/156976238279256

photo: via Zimmer Museum

Prep at the Zimmer Museum

If you want to have a kid-centric celebration over the weekend bring your little carnival lovers to the Zimmer Museum on Sun., Feb. 11 for a celebration where they can learn about the importance of the Mardi Gras colors and symbols and create lovely masks to wear. And to really get you in the mood, there will be jazz music that is sure to make everyone happy. Let it serve as inspiration and perhaps have a Mardi Gras celebration at home or on the town with your new Mardi Gras gear and know-how. Drop by between 2 and 4 p.m. Mask making is included with the $7.50 entry fee.

The Zimmer Museum
6505 Wilshire Blvd.
323-761-8984
Online: zimmermuseum.org

photo: via Pretend City

Pint Sized Festival at Pretend City

If you’re not feeling the large crowds and want to keep your Mardi Gras festivities strictly family-centered, head out to Pretend City in Irvine where they will be hosting activities all day on Feb. 13 from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. The day will include art activities where kids can explore the meaning behind Mardi Gras colors and make their own paper bag parade floats, a family fitness class to Mardi Gras tunes and a visit to the cafe where they can learn about the story behind the classic King Cake. The day will conclude with a kid-centric Carnival where your littles can dance, sing and parade their little hearts out.

Pretend City
29 Hubble
Irvine
949-428-3900
Online: pretendcity.org/event

Carnaval Family Festival at MOLAA

Mardi Gras or Carnaval (which translates to “farewell to meat”) is celebrated all around the world and the season can stretch throughout the winter season. If you miss “Fat Tuesday” you can still catch a Carnaval celebration at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. There will be art workships for the family, live performances by Novala and the Tropicaleiza Dance Company to name a couple. There will also be food and drink vendors at the museum so you can truly make a day of it.

MOLAA
628 Alamitos Ave.
Long Beach
online: molaa.org

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

DIY Celebration

If you’re looking to stock up on Mardi Gras Day supplies, you don’t have to go far. Vine American Party Store on Melrose is a one stop shop for all your needs including masks and beads. And you definitely need masks and beads! If you’re feeling crafty, make your way downtown to Moskatel’s. This craft store giant has been around for decades and you can find balloons, beads, and all the supplies you need to make amazing home-made masks. Don’t fret, they also have parking that is validated in store.  While you’re in the neighborhood, peruse the fashion district’s many fabric spots and you may find the perfect something for some extra Mardi Gras flair. Another perfect spot for an easy Mardi Gras fix is Dollar King in Glendale where you can find all your party needs at a price that won’t break the bank.

Vine American Party Store
5969 Melrose Ave.
323-467-2415
Online: vineamericanparty.com

Moskatel’s
738 Wall St.
213-689-4590

Dollar King
1222 E. Colorado St.
818-662-8884

photo: via Harold and Belle’s

Ya’ll it’s Fat Tuesday! Eat!

The holiday is called Fat Tuesday for a reason. Enjoy all the delicious food of the season before a presumed period of austerity begins. We loved Harold and Belle’s — one of the original restaurants serving up Creole food in LA for over 40 years. Plus, the family recently opened up their newly renovated space, which is beautiful and worth a visit for the holiday or anytime. Enjoy favorites like gumbo, jambalaya and Po’ Boys of every variety. Gulf Oysters, anyone? There is plenty of street parking around but Harold and Belle’s also provides the convenience of valet.

Harold and Belle’s
2920 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Crenshaw
323-735-9023
Online: haroldandbellesrestaurant.com

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Other great local N.O. eats can be found at:

How do you celebrate Mardi Gras avec les petites?  We’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

—LeTania Kirkland Smith

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