Mobile Alabama considers itself the birthplace of the American Mardi Gras celebration. With a history of celebration reaching as far back as the 1830s, Mobile certainly has the right to claim a piece of Mardi Gras history. Family friendly fun abounds in the coastal city, and it’s easy to find a parade or two just about every weekend of the month leading up to Fat Tuesday. Find out why Twins Traveling Mom, Sarah, prefers the Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras to any other celebration.
Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras
My first experience with Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama came when I was a young newlywed. My husband’s family is from the area, and I was told I had to experience “the original” for myself. I’ll admit I was a little timid at first. I’m not one to shout and scream to get the things I want in life, but that’s exactly what one needs to do at a Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras parade.
I got out of my comfort zone that first year, and now I think nothing of screaming my head off like a rabid sports fan to get those “throws.” My favorite part of the whole experience is how fun it can be for the entire family.
History of Carnival
Did you know there was a difference between Carnival and Mardi Gras? Neither did I until I did my research! Apparently, the appropriate term for the period of time between “the twelfth night,” or January 6th, and Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is Carnival.
Mardi Gras is actually French for “Fat Tuesday” and is the last day of the Carnival celebration before Lent. This difference is subtle but important.
Whenever my family celebrates “Mardi Gras,” we are actually celebrating Carnival because we don’t usually wait until the last day to have our fun.
What to Expect at a Parade in Mobile, Alabama during Mardi Gras
Once you have decided to attend a parade, there are a few ways to prepare your party for a great time. Here’s what you need to know before you go:
- Arrive early. If the parade starts at 6:30pm, plan to secure your place on the route by at least 6pm. Popular parade routes fill up fast!
- Bring a sturdy bag. If you have young children, they often are the target of awesome “throws.” If you’re not careful, your hands will fill up quickly with fun prizes. A reusable tote bag with sturdy handles is best.
- Speaking of “throws,” be prepared for them. Throws are the prizes thrown off of floats for parade watchers to catch. While most throws are soft (think small beads, Moon Pies, and plush toys), some float attendants enjoy seeing how hard they can throw them at you!
- Expect a second pass. Parade routes often begin and end at the same spot, which means the floats must turn around at the end of the route to head back home. Waiting for the return pass could score your party even more throws than the first time around!
Why I Bring My Family
When my twins were small, I received several surprised looks when I told people I was taking them to a Mardi Gras parade. Thankfully, my previous experience in Mobile assured me that I would find safe, fun entertainment we all could enjoy.
Now that my girls are older, they start begging right after Christmas to attend a parade! From the Hickory Ridge Kids Krewe to the Maid of Jubilee to the Mystics of Time, there is a time, place, and age group that works for everyone. Be sure to check out the Mobile Mask website for all inclusive information about the weekly parade schedule.
Other Family Friendly Fun
What if parades just aren’t your thing? The history and culture of Mardi Gras can be experienced without attending even one parade. Families can enjoy a unique spin on the history of the city by visiting the Mobile Carnival Museum. Browse a gallery of historical photographs, discover the art and pageantry of costume design and float construction, or immerse little ones in the history by trying on costumes that are just their size! This museum is a more low key way to experience the Carnival atmosphere if an actual parade doesn’t sound appealing.
Attending a Mardi Gras Ball
One of the traditions still on my “adult” Mardi Gras list is to attend a ball. Balls are incredibly formal affairs put on by the local “krewes” that are, more often than not, invitation only. Women are expected to wear floor length formal gowns, and men are expected to wear black tails, a white pique (fabric with a waffle texture) shirt, white pique vest, and white pique tie, as well as white cuff links and studs. Proper attire must be followed to the letter, and attendees can be turned away at the door for improper dress. As a mom of young children, I’m typically very casually dressed, so a night of formal “dress up” sounds exciting to me!