Galveston, Texas kicks up its heels during its annual Mardi Gras festival. One of the most popular events in Texas, the celebration includes masked balls, balcony parties, parades and concerts. Revelers throw beads, visit exhibits, eat authentic Gulf Coast cuisine and enjoy the vibrant nightlife, including live music that runs the gamut from Cajun to salsa to rock and roll.
The carnival season begins on January 6 (the feast of Epiphany), and ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday, the day before the beginning of the Lenten season. Mardi Gras can fall on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9 depending on the date of Easter. The Galveston Mardi Gras is held the two weekends prior to Fat Tuesday and continues past the second weekend through Fat Tuesday. Galveston's Mardi Gras Entertainment District is more than 15 square blocks, from 20th to 25th streets and Harborside Drive to Mechanic Streets in the Historic Strand District. Parades also take place on Seawall Boulevard between 14th and 59th streets. Tickets are required for entrance to the Uptown Entertainment District; the event is free for children younger than 12 accompanied by a parent or guardian. Seawell Boulevard parades and events are free of charge.
Book lodging well in advance if you are planning to visit Galveston for Mardi Gras. The city has numerous hotels and motels, as well as condominiums, bed and breakfasts and beach house rentals available. Lodging options can be researched and booked online through the official Galveston Mardi Gras website (mardigrasgalveston.com) or the Galveston Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau (galveston.com). Limited street parking is available on the streets surrounding the Historic Strand District. There are also paid parking garages available at 21st and Market Street and 25th and Harborside Drive.
Parades, during which participants and observers throw colorful beads, are a Mardi Gras tradition. Galveston hosts parades in both the Uptown Entertainment District and the Seawall area. As of 2011, Seawall parades are held twice per day on the Saturday of the first weekend of the event and twice per day on Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend. Parade schedules in the Uptown Entertainment District vary from year to year but there are generally between one and three parades per day both weekends of the event and on Fat Tuesday.
Concerts and live entertainment are a major draw for Mardi Gras revelers in Galveston. The main events take place on two stages in the Entertainment District. Concerts start in the evenings on the two Fridays of Mardi Gras and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. There is music to suit almost every imagineable taste.
Balcony party guests enjoy watching the parades and the revelers on the streets below and throw Mardi Gras beads to the crowd. Balcony party entrance fees typically cover admission to the Uptown Entertainment District, all-day access to the balcony and a cash bar. Some balcony parties provide meals. Most balcony parties require advance reservations and early booking is encouraged. A list of balcony parties, as well as contact and reservation information, can be found on the official Galveston Mardi Gras website.
Krewes are social clubs that organize Mardi Gras activities. You need to a member of a krewe to enter or ride on a float during Mardi Gras. Krewes also organize Mardi Gras balls and parties; some are open only to members, others are open to the public. The Galveston Mardi Gras has 15 krewes and membership criteria vary. Some allow out-of-towners while others require residency in the Galveston area. Many have minimum-age restrictions and most require the payment of annual dues. Contact information for the Galveston Mardi Gras krewes can be found on the official Galveston Mardi Gras website.
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