Hardcore Mardi Gras ballers have already got their itinerary sorted for this year's party. Clock's-a-tickin', but there's still time to make a plan. Welcome to our online special Mardi Gras 2015 series!
Fat Tuesday is a floating holiday. It's the day before Ash Wednesday, and like Easter, it's on a different day year-to-year. (Easter is set by the moon, btw.) The Mardi Gras season stretches from 12th Night to Fat Tuesday.
Attempts to grow an Austin carnival season beyond the default Sixth Street stumble and bead-beg beer brawl have taken flight… then landed like so many beads in a tree. The spirit here is certainly alive, and we do get to reclaim our dignity with the most excellent Carnaval Brasilero, but that event usually occurs way after Fat Tuesday (this year, Carnaval is February 28).
Let's be honest, our town couldn't handle another wild, multi-weekend fest so close to SXSW. Most folks either find some theme night at a bar or just stay in for Mardi Gras and maybe have a few friends over to celebrate the season with some King Cake, and Austin's got some great options to get you in the mood. However, with Mardi Gras meccas within reach, last-minute road trips are not out of the question.
For those with regular lifelines to Louisiana, plans for lodging, transpo, and other essentials are likely set by now. Current attempts to find rooms close to the action in New Orleans have been yielding $250-and-up per-night rates for the first weekend and $300-400 per night for a standard room, to $600 and up for nicer digs like Hotel Monteleone, the Saint, or the Roosevelt for the weekend before Fat Tuesday (if you can even score one this late in the game). Cajun Country Mardi Gras or the weekend parades in Lake Charles are also great events, and accommodations, while going fast, are still available with some research (we'll be posting more about this in the series).
We highly recommend tossing the Texas Coast some love. While it's always fun and well worth the trip, over the last few years, Mardi Gras! Galveston has blossomed into a world-class carnival destination. The folks behind iconic Nineties surf clothing brand Yaga (et tu, Gadzooks?!) have worked with the city since 2011 and has expanded the scope of the island's traditional two-weekend fest. "Before we were involved, there were just Krewe parades," says Erin McEldowney, Yaga's Entertainment Marketing Coordinator. Galveston's Mardi Gras history is rich and deep, and many krewes have been around for many decades; the annual festival draws more than 250,000. The big shift in recent years is that Yaga's input has helped foster more participation from folks who perhaps can afford the commitment it takes to be in a social club or Mardi Gras krewe. "We've added 13 parades," says McEldowney, including a number of participant parades.
Galveston's participant parades range from golf cart roll outs and the Guinness World record-breaking Funky Uptown Umbrella Parade and a very successful program called Ticket to Ride: Build Your Own Krewe. Ticket to Ride came into being after many a brainstorming session about ways to include businesses that wanted to participate but, in the spirit of Mardi Gras, "not to have their name all over it," says McEldowney. Build Your Own Krewe was born, and the invitation extends to any group. "Any group of friends, family co-workers… really, any group of people can come together, and for $150 per person we cover the float, the beads, the driver, the insurance, and a balcony party." And for anyone who's researched getting onto Mardi Gras floats (guilty as charged), you know that is one helluva deal.
"You get a package deal that is more or less unobtainable [in other cities that celebrate Mardi Gras] without joining a Krewe, paying your dues, or jumping through all the hoops. We make it easy for the everyday person to participate in Mardi Gras." To learn more about the program, email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, what's stopping you? You think it's too late to find a place to stay on the island with out selling your firstborn to some pirate-ghost-zombies? Not so, says Jackie Hasan, the retired concierge from the island's iconic Hotel Galvez, who now operates her own travel agency. "During Mardi Gras everybody will fill to the max," and while the main hotels may be booked up, she recommends, "bed & breakfasts, condominiums, and beach properties on the East and West Ends" as great places to check into. So we did. And we have an entire post about all that coming up this week, along with more in our 2015 Mardi Gras series.
Until then, click through some links to get the good times rolling in your brain:
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