Head To This Destination In Florida For Family-Friendly Mardi Gras Celebrations

If you're hoping to unleash the carnival spirit this year, you're probably thinking about heading down to the Gulf Coast. Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the South, with the most famous celebrations happening in New Orleans. But New Orleans during Mardi Gras is pretty wild. While that might be fun for adults without kids in tow, New Orleans probably isn't the place to celebrate carnival with your family.

Luckily, there's a much more family-friendly place to enjoy Mardi Gras along the Gulf Coast in Florida. Pensacola's Mardi Gras is a unique blend of traditional revelry and family-oriented fun. The city began celebrating Fat Tuesday in 1874, and its parade now attracts around 100,000 spectators every year. You can get all of the regular Mardi Gras fun in Pensacola — king cake, krewes, and cascades of purple, gold and green beads — in a tamer atmosphere than you'll find in New Orleans.

The Mardi Gras Parades

One of the best celebrations to attend with kids is the spectacular Pensacola Mardi Gras Grand Parade, which will be happening on February 10, 2024. From around 2 to 6 p.m., the parade snakes through the historic streets, filled with colorful floats, masked revelers, and the contagious beat of lively music. The city offers a children's viewing area, where there'll be no alcohol or tobacco permitted, so families can revel away from the crowds.

Family-friendly celebrations kick off before that, though. The Krewe of Lafitte Illuminated Mardi Gras Parade takes place the day before, and Pensacola Mom Collective writes that kids love this one as many of the floats look like pirate ships. The same website recommends the Krewe of Wrecks Mardi Gras Parade at Pensacola Beach on Sunday, February 11th. Finally, on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) itself (February 13), there are events throughout the day, including the coronation of a new King and Queen Priscus, live music shows, and dancing.

Culinary and cultural adventures

No Mardi Gras experience is complete without indulging in the incredible cuisine, and Pensacola doesn't disappoint. Fat Tuesday will see Cajun food trucks roll into the city, a crawfish boil, and — perhaps the kids' favorites — king cake and beignets. During the parades, candy and moon pies (chocolate-dipped marshmallow pies) are thrown from the floats to the delight of kids and adults alike. Visit Pensacola has some advice for families: don't worry about pushing your way to the front of the barricades to receive these goodies. Their krewes are expert throwers and aim their treats at everyone in the crowd.

Beyond the parades and vibrant street festivities, Pensacola offers many family-friendly things to do. The number one thing is to hit one of Florida's best and most underrated beaches where kids can blow off steam on the powder-soft white sands. High temperatures in Pensacola in February reach around 64 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for running around outdoors. The National Naval Aviation Museum is another family favorite, where, according to one TripAdvisor reviewer, "kids can touch everything!" Best of all, the museum is free to visit. Finally, teach your kids some local history in an interesting way at Historic Pensacola. In this open-air museum, you can enter historic homes and talk with people in period dress.