Maybe when you think of Mardi Gras you think of faraway destinations like New Orleans, Brazil or Venice. But there is plenty of that Big Easy spirit right here in LA—in fact, LA is a hub of Creole culture and history. While booze and beads are no longer on your (main) agenda, there is still family fun, mayhem and FOOD to be had. Here are the best places for the whole family to get into the spirit of Carnival.
photo: The Original Farmers Market
Celebrate the Day at an LA Original
The Original Farmers Market is back with the 28th annual Mardi Gras Celebration on February 25, 26 and 28. Make your way to the market for fabulous New Orleans and Zydeco music, strolling jesters, shakers for joy & 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 Saturday February 25. 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 two hours free parking with validation. Check their website for the festival details.
6333 W. 3rd St.
Mid City LA
photo: Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau via Flickr
It’s Not Carnival Without a Parade
What better way to join the festivities than to see a parade? You don’t have to go to Canal Street for a big one. 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 3 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. Bring a stroller for little non-walkers! Parade and activities are free and take place on Saturday, February 25.
Pine Avenue & Shoreline Drive
photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith
Enjoy a Mini Celebration at the Zimmer Museum
If you’re not in the mood to contend with parade sized crowds, you can still celebrate at a mini-Mardi Gras festival at the Zimmer Museum. Bring your little carnival lovers to the museum 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 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.
6505 Wilshire Blvd.
photo: Walter K. via Yelp
Amoeba Music’s Mardi Gras Parade
Beads, King Cake, Po’ Boys, masks: sure, all of that says Mardi Gras. But one other integral part is the music. Take the kids to Amoeba Music in Hollywood on Fat Tuesday itself (February 28) at 4 p.m. and you can join in the parade, hear the DJs spin some NOLA music and go home with some fabulous CDs (or even records!) that you can play while you chow down on some seriously fabulous food. What fabulous food? Keep reading. Our faves are listed below. And don’t forget to bring your own horns, drums and noisemakers so you can join the parade.
6400 Sunset Blvd.
It’s Fat Tuesday, Ya’ll. 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 & 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.
Other great local N.O. eats can be found at:
- The Original Farmers Market’s Gumbo Pot at the Original Farmers Market
- The Little Jewel of New Orleans in Chinatown
- Uncle Darrow’s New Orleans Grill’s new location in Carson, which is pick up, delivery and catering only, but perfect for hosting your own Mardi Gras dinner at home.
How do you celebrate Mardi Gras avec les petites? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments.