The closest Mardi Gras celebrations to St. Augustine, Florida, are approximately 40 minutes north in Jacksonville. The Mardi Gras Party held on Jacksonville Beach takes place around traditional Mardi Gras season. The Jacksonville Caribbean Mardi Gras Parade and Festival is a full-fledged annual carnival held in downtown Jacksonville's Metropolitan Park that takes place in the fall. Both are commissioned by the city of Jacksonville and offer an array of festivities in honor of the season.
Mardi Gras Party
The first Jacksonville Beach Mardi Gras Party (mardigrasjax.com) took place in 2011 and a pub crawl was its main highlight. The pub crawl included eight participating bars and clubs that offered party participants discounted alcoholic beverages, dancing and an array of food options. Guests also received colorful beads, souvenir glasses, prize giveaways and the opportunity to compete in a scavenger hunt and a costume contest.
The Jacksonville Caribbean Mardi Gras Parade and Festival is organized by the Carnival Organization of Jacksonville Incorporated (jacksonvillecarnival.com) and has been evolving since 2000. Before moving to downtown Jacksonville's Metropolitan Park, the parade was known as the Jacksonville Carnival On the Beach. Over the years, the carnival has expanded to include participation from several nationalities around the Caribbean for a rich cultural exchange of art, food, dance and music.
Carnival's characteristic round-the-clock dancing is impossible without energetic, live bands. Starting at Bay and Market streets, a parade of bands enliven the Jacksonville Caribbean Mardi Gras Parade and Festival. Among these have been the Zydeco band Jammin' Jambalaya, the reggae band Mystic NRG, the calypso and soca players, Chainreaction Band and the zouke, reggae and soca players Slice International. Pre-carnival parties are also held in the Jacksonville area in preparation for the day of partying.
The Jacksonville Caribbean Mardi Gras Parade and Festival is not only more than 30 minutes away from St. Augustine but it is an all-day event that extends well into the night. Visitors from St. Augustine may be interested in renting accommodations to rest up after dancing all day. Hotels that typically offer discounted rates for Mardis Gras celebrants include Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites (hiexjax.com), the Hampton Inn (hamptoninn.com), Four Points by Sheraton Jacksonville Baymeadows (fourpoints.com) and the Courtyard by Marriott (courtyard.com).
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images