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5 Mardi Gras celebrations around Texas that let the good times roll
All eyes are on New Orleans when it comes to Mardi Gras, and rightly so. The Crescent City is known for its elaborate parades and masquerade balls in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday (which falls on February 13 this year).
But Texas has its share of Mardi Gras events, too, with themes ranging from coastal to cowboy. (Mardi Gras bull riding is a thing in Bandera.) Here are five Mardi Gras celebrations worth visiting, near and far, across the Lone Star State – from a first-ever pub crawl to a two-week party that’s more than a century old.
Cowboy Mardi Gras in Bandera
Touted as “the biggest party this side of the Pecos,” the 19th annual celebration combines New Orleans vibes with cowboy life. The three-day event runs February 1-3, with live music taking place nightly at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. Nine bands include headliners Thomas Michael Riley, Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners, and Two Tons of Steel. Concert admission ranges from $15 - $35 for general admission daily, or $75 for a three-day pass.
Saturday is the main day for family-friendly festivities, including an art show and gumbo cook-off on the courthouse lawn, a Mardi Gras parade, and Cowboy Mardi Gras Bull Riding at Mansfield Park. Rodeo tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids 6-17. Stay at an authentic dude ranch at Rancho Cortez or let Bandera’s A Place to Stay Reservations help find a nearby guesthouse or cabin.
Mardi Gras Near Southside in Fort Worth
Fort Worth has never had a Fat Tuesday "scene," but a collective in the historic Near Southside district is trying to change that. The group Mardi Gras Near Southside encourages revelers to "imbibe their way through Mardi Gras soirees." Their goal, they say, is "to bring Mardi Gras and New Orleans culture, joy, and education to the neighborhood, and do it in our own Fort Worthy way." They're doing just that with the inaugural South Main Mardi Gras Pub Crawl, happening 4-8 pm Saturday, February 10.
It is a self-guided crawl. The first stop is Tarantula Tiki Lounge (117 S. Main St.) at 4 pm, followed by stops at Southside Cellar (125 S. Main St.), Soma Winery (201 S. Main St.), then Hop Fusion Ale Works (200 E. Broadway Ave.). It'll finish with a dance party finale at The Holly (305 W. Daggett Ave. #101) at 8 pm.
All bars will feature Mardi Gras-themed specials, and dressing up is encouraged. Participation is free.
Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras Parade in McKinney
Unlike many Mardi Gras events, which are adults-only, McKinney's Krewe of Barkus Parade is for the whole family, including dogs. The 22nd annual parade, taking place Sunday, February 4, in Historic Downtown McKinney, brings out crowds to see pups strut their stuff.
Spectators can expect themed floats, costume contests, and lots of beads. This year’s theme is “Barkus Salutes the Lone Star State,” which means boots, cowboy hats, and Texan décor is encouraged. The registration fee is $5 per dog or float and entries may be submitted until Saturday.
Mardi Gras Galveston
This year marks the 113th celebration of Mardi Gras! Galveston, but some say the tradition dates back as far as 1867, about 10 years after the first Mardi Gras parade took place in New Orleans. From February 2-13, the entire island will come to life with beads, costumes, floats, and fun. There are more than 20 parades over two weeks here, many just as lively and elaborate as any in the Crescent City.
Parades range from the Umbrella Brigade, Jeep Parades, and the Firefighter Children’s Parade, to the Krewe of Momus Grand Night Parade on February 10. All parades take place in the The Strand historic district. Tickets are required for entry into the parade route area, with exceptions on February 11, and Fat Tuesday, February 13. Balcony tickets are also an option, with just a few left for February 2-3.
Mardi Gras in Galveston also draws big-name musical acts, including the Gin Blossoms (February 3), Duelo (February 4), and the Eli Young Band (February 9). Mardi Gras tickets include access to concert viewing.
Numerous Galveston restaurants, bars, and hotels will also participate in the Mardi Gras action with live music and food and drink specials – one of the newest of which is Hotel Lucine. Other options include the recently renovated Grand Galvez, the sprawling San Luis Resort, and many more that are offering shuttle rides and free Mardi Gras tickets as part of hotel packages.
Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas in Beaumont
As the “Cajun Capital of Texas,” Beaumont takes Mardi Gras very seriously. The 33rd annual family-friendly festival features nine parades February 8-11, ranging from a motorcycle showcase to grand promenades with enormous New Orleans-inspired floats. More than 100,000 attendees are expected over the four-day fête. All parades start at Beaumont’s Civic Center and viewing spots are first-come, first-served.
Other festivities include a free kids zone, a carnival with more than 30 rides and attractions, Cajun food vendors, and nightly concerts on the main stage. This year’s headliners include the Marshall Tucker Band and rapper Chingy. Concert admission ranges from $10-$25 depending on the day, and kids 11 and under are free.
There’s also a jazz brunch on February 10, catered by Beaumont’s Rao’s Bakery, that comes with a mimosa and bloody Mary bar for $35 per person.