Mardi Gras! Galveston returns with beads, bashes, masked balls, and more island merriment
The start of a new year in the Gulf Coast means the return of raucous revelry that dates back to more than a century. Mardi Gras! Galveston, known as the third-largest Mardi Gras bash in the U.S. (and only a four-hour drive from Austin if you plan carefully), returns to Galveston Island for its 112th annual celebration February 10 through February 21.
Galveston's massive, always popular event is expected to draw more than 350,000 attendees this year, many who'll pack the island during carnival season for concerts, parades, balcony parties, elegant balls, and of course, beads.
As always, Mardi Gras! Galveston offers up diverse, family fun — and some adult debauchery — along some of the island's most familiar destinations. Fans can look forward to:
With nearly all parades traveling through downtown, Galveston’s historic downtown entertainment district will be a fan fixture. Visitors can post up on the street or at a balcony party for ideal views — and bead tossing. The event's main concert stages are also downtown, a must-hit spot for the headlining shows. For some beachy fun, hang out on Seawall Boulevard to take in the parade and the waves.
While many choose to dress comfortably, stroll the area, and nab beads, others look forward to the upscale, masked merriment at the many black-tie, masked balls and soirees. The regal events feature lavish food and drink, live music and performances, dancing, and a bird's eye view of the parades below.
A true fiesta
In a showcase of the event's diversity, Fiesta Gras! blends a Louisiana get-down with a Gulf Coast, Texas-Mexican party on Sunday, February 12. The annual Hispanic heritage celebration features live entertainment performances from Grupo Secretto, Kazzabe, and more. Expect some dandy and entertaining mariachis, themed parades, vendors, and exclusive meet and greet balcony parties, per a press release.
Who says kids can't get in on the fun? FamilyGras allows the whole family to take part in the activities on Sunday, February 19. Expect live family entertainment, the fan-favorite and adorbale Krewe of Barkus & Meoux pet parade, the Mardi Gras Children’s Parade, and the Shriners Hospital Parade downtown.
Umbrellas, art, and more
One of the Gulf Coast's most picturesque celebrations returns with the Umbrella Brigade, where hundreds pack the streets showing off vivid, wildly decorated umbrellas. Fit types can run or walk in the Jolly Jester 5K Jaunt, while creatives can draw up some buzz in the official poster contest.
Mardi Gras' tradition of bead tossing takes a sustainable turn with the Beads for Needs initiative. Here, thoughtful visitors can return their beads to a local collection bin, where students at Galveston Ball High will work to repurpose them — all while building life and entrepreneurial skills.
Those who want to get a jump on planning and lodging can score tickets and more information online.