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.

farmers-marketphoto: 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
323-933-9211
Online: farmersmarketla.com/events

mardigrasbandphoto: 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
Long Beach
Online: shorelinevillage.com/long-beach-mardi-gras

mardi-gras-maskphoto: 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.
Mid-City LA
323-761-8984
Online: zimmermuseum.org

ophoto: 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.
Hollywood
323-245-6400
Online: amoeba.com

For the past 13 years, thousands of music and food loving festivalgoers gather annually at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park to celebrate the Oyster Crawfish Festival. For the 14th installment on Saturday, March 4, 2017, Park Tavern will once again serve up approximately ten thousand pounds of fresh Louisiana crawfish that are brought in the night before - making it Atlanta's biggest crawfish festival. Conveniently located on the Atlanta BeltLine, Park Tavern will also serve fresh, regional fried, raw, and steamed oysters, delicious fried oyster, shrimp and chicken baskets, Samuel Adams brews, Angry Orchard Hard Cider, cocktails and more. Electrifying audiences everywhere with their own provocative blend of pop, funk and soul, live music will begin at 3 p.m. with Atlanta’s own Gurufish. Then, Atlanta Brass Connection, an authentic New Orleans style "second line" band bringing the funky street jazz sound to old school classics, traditional jazz and originals, will get the crowd going before the one-only Cowboy Mouth takes the stage. The hard-hitting band out of New Orleans will once again fill the headliner spot for the annual spring festival, serving up fans their unique style of ‘rock and roll gumbo’ and an unparalleled high energy performance that promises to be unforgettable. The festival begins at 2 p.m. Ages 21 and under are allowed to attend the event when accompanied by a parent. Children 12 and under will not be charged admission. General admission and VIP tickets are available for purchase now. Tickets start at $15 at www.parktavern.com and www.xorbia.com/e/parktavern/oyster-crawfish-festival-with-cowboy-mouth. VIP admission grants revelers access to an exclusive entrance, a private bar, special seating, private restrooms, and a meet-and-greet with Cowboy Mouth. The event is rain or shine.

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.
Crenshaw
323-735-9023
Online: haroldandbellesrestaurant.com

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