Mardi Gras. Just the name conjures up excitement as images of Carnival chaos, big floats, and beads buzz through your head. As the official Mardi Gras headquarters of Southeast Texas, Beaumont has a lot going on during the festival season. Officially kicking off February 20-23, the long weekend has a whole host of events in anticipation of Fat Tuesday. Here’s a handy guide to the best festivities and parties, and as they say, laissez les bon temps rouler.
Attend: The Balloon Glow
Friday and Saturday nights after the parades, the Balloon Glow and candlestick lighting will bathe the sky in color and sound at 9 pm. The balloons are timed to music which dance in a syncopated rhyme you can see from the Great Lawn at the Event Centre. Tethered rides are offered on Saturday (weather permitting), which will lift 15 passengers at a time to a fixed height to take in the sights from above. There will be a designated area to purchase and board the balloons on site. Children must be a minimum of 48" tall to ride.
Attend: The Parades
The highlight of any Mardi Gras is the impressive Krewe floats with parades every day of the week sponsored by different groups. The two-mile parade route begins and ends at the Beaumont Civic Center with floats heading down Main Street and Crockett Street towards the Event Centre before continuing down Laurel Avenue. Snag a spot anywhere to watch the show and catch beads or apply to be in the parades by February 14th via the forms on the app section of http://www.mardigrastx.com/.
There are walking parades, motorcycle parades, 4-wheelers and golf carts, and even a munchkin parade, most free, a few paid to participate. Two not to miss are the Courir de Mardi Gras on Thursday night, which includes horseback riders, covered wagons, a chicken and greased pig chase, the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, and the umbrella brigade on Sunday.
Attend: Taste of the Triangle
Unlimited small bites and pours from local area restaurants, Taste of the Triangle insanely fun and tasty culinary feast. Take small with a grain of salt since these are Texas-sized portions that’ll have you rolling out of there on official Fat Tuesday. You’ll sample Cajun and Creole favorites from gumbo and jambalaya to muffulettas and bread pudding and indulge in the open bar atmosphere with proceeds benefiting local educational scholarships and charities.
Play: The Carnival
Running Thursday and Friday night and Saturday and Sunday day, the carnival will have 30+ rides with something for everyone from family-friendly attractions for the little ones to stomach-dropping extreme thrill rides for the teens. There will be an 88-foot Ferris Wheel (the second tallest in Texas), a Freak Out pendulum swing, a 90-foot drop tower, the Ring of Fire circular roller coaster, the Sizzler, Alien Abduction, and classic boardwalk fun like a carousel and slides. You can either purchase individual tickets for $1 with each ride costing between 2-6 tickets or snag an unlimited wristband for the day ($20 in advance, $25 at the door).
Thursday through Sunday nights, performers across all genres will be set up on stages around town, taking turns riling up the crowd for a boot-stomping good time. From country to Cajun, rappers and pop-rockers will bring down the house, the headliner being Vanilla Ice on Saturday. See the full line up here and note that all concerts are included in the price of admission. There will also be a Jazz Gospel Brunch on Sunday from 11-2 pm.
Eat: A King Cake from Rao’s
A New Orleans tradition for decades, Rao’s is the King Cake headquarters of Beaumont, producing more than 8,000 cakes a year. Colorful round treats that come in a variety of tasty flavors, traditionally king cakes are a cinnamon coffee cake, but Rao’s diversifies with combinations like strawberry cream cheese and voodoo. Each one has a plastic baby hidden inside and as the story goes, whoever finds the surprise is set to host next year’s festivities.
Eat: Celebrate Crawfish Season
Another Southern traditional, crawfish season unofficially kicks off around Mardi Gras time. Order the delicious delicacies by the pound at any of our local watering holes or host your own backyard crawfish boil. Crazy Cajun is Beaumont’s unofficial crawfish headquarters, who’s been known to go through forty 30-pound sacks a day. Other restaurants specializing in mudbugs include Reel Cajun, Juju’s Cajun Crawfish Shack, Sweet Basil Noodle House, Creole Frijole Crawfish Company, Crawfishin’, and Red Tailz Crawfish (where you can dine at a live crawfish farm).
The Need to Know:
It’s free to watch the parade from anywhere along the two-mile route. For other entertainment and attractions, there is a fee to enter the gated area. You can buy either single-day admission tickets for $10-20 or a four-day pass to attend all the events for $40. Children under 11 are free with a parent or guardian.