South Louisiana is home to the greatest free party on earth, a colorful celebration known as Mardi Gras. In Lafayette, LA residents celebrate in many ways including the traditional Courir de Mardi Gras; parades with marching bands, beads and doubloons; Mardi Gras Indians with elaborate dancing and costumes; various styles of king cakes; as well as extravagant Mardi Gras balls complete with a king and queen. See below for some tips on how to navigate Mardi Gras in the Happiest City in America and be sure to check out all the Mardi Gras events in Lafayette, LA and surrounding areas.

When is Mardi Gras?

Ash Wednesday is always 47 days before Easter, and Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday. Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25, with the exact date to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon following a spring equinox.

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Where do the parades roll in Lafayette?

All parades will begin at the corner of Simcoe, Jefferson and Surrey streets and end at Cajun Field, except for the Children's Parade which is abbreviated. You can view a parade route here.

When do the parades roll in Lafayette?

Parades will be rolling through the streets of Lafayette the weekend before Mardi Gras on Saturday with the Krewe of Rio parade. The weekend preceding Mardi Gras there are parades the Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. There are more parades rolling throughout Acadiana in the rural cities throughout the Mardi Gras season. Click here for a list of parades and other Mardi Gras events throughout Acadiana.

What's up with the barricades?

The Lafayette Police Department places barricades along the parade route for the public's safety. Please remain behind the barricades when the parades are rolling.

Will streets be closed?

The Lafayette Police Department will close all streets on and around the parade route one hour before the event begins. The intersection of University Avenue and Johnston Street, along with the intersection of St. Mary Boulevard and Johnston Street, will remain open as crossover intersections until the parade is only several blocks from the location. Click here for more information.

I'm worried about my children. Are they safe?

Lafayette offers a family friendly Mardi Gras and you should not encounter any problems. But like any event involving crowds, you might want to place a note in the pocket of each child with the child's name, address and contact telephone number.

If there is an emergency during a parade, or a lost child, what do we do?

Police will be available along the parade routes but command posts are established at Fire Station No. 1 at Vermilion and Lee streets, Fire Station No. 5 at Johnston and St. Julien streets, Lafayette Police Command Bus at Johnston Street and S. College and at Cajun Field. Medical assistance is available at ambulance units stationed on the parade route. Click here for more information.

I have a handicapped person in my party. Where do we go?

The 500 block of Jefferson Boulevard (between South Orange and South Sterling streets) and at Vermilion and Lee Street and St. Julien and Johnston Street, in front of the police command post, are viewing areas for the handicapped.

Are there Carnival costume contests?

The Mardi Gras Show at Clark Field offers costume contests, in addition to Mardi Gras Indians, food and live music.

What about festivals in addition to the parades?

Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette offers a carnival midway, live music, food and, best of all, the parades end here! It all happens nightly during Mardi Gras at Cajun Field.

What are the official Mardi Gras colors and what do they mean?

The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green and gold. Purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.

What is a King Cake?

A King Cake is an oblong pastry that contains a tiny plastic baby who represents the Christ child. Whoever gets the baby hidden within the king cake must buy the next one. And so the tradition continues on to Mardi Gras Day. There are different styles of King Cake from traditional to modern, all of them delicious.

Why are beads and doubloons thrown during a parade?

The tradition of throwing doubloons, beads and trinkets started in New Orleans in the early 1870s when the city’s Twelfth Night Revelers flung trinkets to the crowds while they made their way through New Orleans streets. The idea was so popular with their audience that the tradition continues to this day, although modern throws involve mostly beads and cups.

What is Courir de Mardi Gras?

In the rural areas of Lafayette, LA residents celebrate Mardi Gras with the unique “Courir de Mardi Gras” or Mardi Gras runs where masked men on horseback would travel the countryside knocking on doors, singings songs, dancing and begging for ingredients to make a gumbo. Many times homeowners would throw a chicken to the begging krewe and maskers would attempt to catch the bird for gumbo meat. Musicians sometimes followed the krewes, providing more merriment. When the courirs returned to town, they produced a communal gumbo for all to enjoy.

Are the Lafayette parades family friendly?

Lafayette, LA's Mardi Gras celebration is absolutely geared towards families. From staking out a spot along the barricaded parade route to the Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette at Cajun Field with carnival rides and live music you can be sure your family will be safe and have a great time.

Where should I park?

You may park along a side street free of charge, avoiding driveways and private property. Don't be surprised to see "entrepreneurs" along the way to park in a private parking lot near the parade route. If you want to watch the parades from the the Le Festival de Mardi Gras, you may park for a fee at Cajun Field. Admission to the festival is free.

What is the weather like?

Weather in Lafayette, LA during Mardi Gras is as unpredictable as the revelers you'll encounter. It's always best to check the weather ahead of time and be prepared for anything. An umbrella, poncho or rain jacket is always a good idea even if rain is not expected. The temperature can change depending on the time of day. It could be very warm during the day and drop to colder temperatures in the evening. Dress for warm and cold weather by layering your clothes, adding to and taking off as the temperature changes. Blankets are also a good idea not only for warmth but to sit on while waiting on the parades.

What other safety tips should I keep in mind?

While the parades are in progress you should stay behind the barricades. Definitely have fun and let loose, but realize that lewd behavior and/or drunkenness can get you arrested. Don't throw things at the float riders. It’s not only disrespectful, but you could seriously hurt someone. If you have children make sure to keep them close and come up with a meeting area in case you get separated from each other. There are several items are prohibited along the parade route including weapons, fireworks, bicycles, glass containers, and pets.