It’s time to start preparing for the spring season – it’s right around the corner! This month we’re sharing 5 places to celebrate Mardi Gras in Orange County. Some are kid friendly and others you may want to bring your best buddy along. We had to do some deep digging as this holiday is most popular in the New Orleans area of our nation. Don’t fret though, there are a handful of establishments that honor this day.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a celebration most celebrated by Catholics. For example, those who celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birth will start preparing for the next big religious event – the crucifixion of Jesus that falls on Easter Sunday. This is a very special time for Catholics because Lent Season commences and it lasts 40 days. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (February 14th this year) and ends on April 1 (Easter Sunday).
The time of Lent is usually a time of fasting for many and it is common among Latinos to give up eating meat during this time. Because Lent is considered a pretty serious time to prepare for the crucifixion of Christ, there is a day right before Lent where people party their butts off as a way to get it all out of their system before they start the period of Lent. This day is usually referred to as “Fat Tuesday” or Mardi Gras, or even Carnaval (which is a whole week of partying that ends on Fat Tuesday). This year, Mardi Gras falls on February 13.
I have never been to New Orleans or Brazil to celebrate this popular holiday as these two locations are the biggest celebrations advertised. However, I have visited a few local places to celebrate the holiday which I suggest you visit and I have researched a few more that I think will be enjoyable to you and your family.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen at Downtown Disney
1590 South Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
Date: February 13
I went to this location to celebrate Mardi Gras because they had a special menu that day and they also had live jazz music. My friend and I sat at the bar with our masks on and beads around our neck. Bar seating was open and to sit at a table they recommended that you make reservations ahead of time. We sat at the bar which was very close to the live jazz music. Live music is available nightly at this establishment and will be available on Mardi Gras as well. Some of the food featured was creole jambalaya, mini king’s cake for dessert and an alcoholic drink named the Hurricane.The Hurricane drink is from New Orleans and is made with rum, fruit juice and syrup or grenadine. King’s cake is a bread that is also native to New Orleans and it is usually stuffed with a small plastic baby. Whoever cuts the slice with the baby in it gets to host the next party.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen is a lot of fun and family friendly as well. In 2015, the restaurant was handing out beads to the children. If you are looking for a place that specializes in New Orleans’ cuisine then you can expect to try out some delicious food. The Mardi Gras party usually lasts all day, but expect it to get busier in the evening hours.
Pretend City Children’s Museum
Irvine, CA 92618
Date: February 13; 11:00AM-5:PM
If you would like to attend a kid friendly event during the day, then head over to the children’s museum in Irvine. Your children will be able to sing, dance, bake and end the day with a parade where your child will be able to decorate their own float. There is a set schedule for the entire day and the festival is free and included with your museum admission. The schedule is as follows:
- Smart Art (Art Studio): Join us in the art studio as we explore the meaning of symbolic Mardi Gras colors and make icon pieces to complete your very own costume.
- Art Studio Sessions: Today in the Art Studio children will be able to decorate their very own paper bag float to use in our going home Parade later in the day.
- Family Fitness Fun (11:00am): Join us in Orange Plaza as we dance to some festive Mardi Gras music with our families!
- Café Creations (3:30pm): Visit the Real Café to learn about the traditional Kings Cake and the meaning behind it.
- Carnival for Kids (4:30pm): From the floats to the beads your children will enjoy participating in their very own carnival which will include a dance party. Children will be designing their floats in the art studio throughout the day and donning them during our going home parade!
The Phoenix Club
1340 S. Sanderson Ave
Anaheim, CA 92806
Dates: 1/13, 1/20, 2/10 and 2/11
My sister loves going to this place because they always offer family friendly events that support the German culture year round. My two nieces are part German so she wants them to have some exposure to their German ancestry. I’ve never been to this place but my sister speaks highly of it and says it can get quite busy. For “Karneval” they will have four major events all held throughout January and the beginning of February. A few of the events are geared towards adults while a few are geared towards children. You may want to call to make sure there is still room since you need to make reservations for some of the events as they sell out fast!
Karneval – Prunksitzung and Tanzabend (German satire and Karneval comedy)
Date: 1/13, 7PM, Free admission
Performances by the AKG Smilies, Damen Revue and Prinzengarde. Costume prizes, party music with DJ Kirsten. Snack and cocktail bar. Beer on tap.
Karneval – Piratenball
Date: 1/20, 7PM, $5 Cover charge
The Anaheim Karnevalsgesellschaft is celebrating PIRATENBALL!
Calling all Pirate guilds and brigands. We invite you to enjoy the pleasures and treasures of pirate life!
Embrace your inner pirate and come dressed to set sail for Costume contests, German beers on Tap, Rum drink specials, cocktail bar, German food, Dancing to German Music and a Floor Show in the style of traditional Rheinischer Karneval.
Karneval – Auf der Reeperbahn with Edmonton Blauen Funken
Date: 2/10, 7PM, $5 cover charge
Their classic adult themed Karneval event is back again! Part of their guest list includes their Mardi Gras cousins from the frozen North. The Blauen Funken KG of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, will be in the house, 50 man strong. The Reeperbahn in the St Pauli district has a long history. They pay a silly tribute to it and dress like a sailor or the more risque, sexy or over-the-top “working girl”.
Win prizes for the best costumes! Enjoy dancing to German music and of course the German food , beer on tap and cocktail bar. Floor Show in the tradition of Rheinischer Karneval including the Blauen Funken. Music by DJ Kirsten.
Date: 2/11, 1:11PM
The Youth Dance Group and their Prinzenpaar invite you to Kinderkarneval! Enjoy a an exciting afternoon of fun: In the spirit of Rheinischer Karneval there will be dancing, games, and lots of Candy. The Youth Dance group and guests will perform!
Children of all ages are welcome. Wear a costume and win prizes
Bourbon Street at Downtown Fullerton
110 E. Commonwealth
Fullerton, CA 92832
Dates: February 13 and April 7
Bourbon Street will be celebrating Mardi Gras twice this year as is usually customary for them. Their first event is geared towards adults and the second is geared towards families.
Mardi Gras on February 13th
They will begin by celebrating Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday which falls on February 13. The restaurant will open early that day at 11am and will close at 2am. They will have live music from 5pm-8pm and a DJ from 9pm-close. They will also have specials on food items that include their jambalaya and gumbo. There will also be beer specials that day. They will also hand out beads and other festive items.
Mardi Gras for Autism 2017 on April 7
This is an annual event that the owner of Bourbon Street started a few years ago in response to the diagnosis of his son who is autistic. It takes place every year in the same location where Bourbon Street is located and encompasses a larger area that is the Fullerton Train Depot Center. It usually draws a large crowd. The event will take place from 11am-4pm. It will include family friendly, sensory oriented attractions and a resource fair.
Carnaval Festivities in Ensenada
Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
Downtown Ensenada (Calle Ruiz, Bulevar Costero, Playa Hermosa)
Dates: February 8-13
I know this celebration is a bit far from Orange County, but I guarantee it will be worth it! I attended this event many years ago when I was in my mid-20’s with a best friend of mine and her family. I know many people in Orange County who travel to Ensenada as a quick getaway and I can’t imagine a better time to go than during “Carnaval.” You can expect to see parades, coronations, music, dancing and vintage cars. This is a weeklong celebration that ends on Fat Tuesday. When I went, I stayed at a family’s condo, but there are plenty of hotels you can stay at close to downtown. They sell out fast so the sooner you book them, the better. When I went, we were able to see the parades that take place during the day and in the evening they had stages set up with music and the people danced on the closed streets. All the local bars were open as well such as the world famous Papas & Beer and they offer great drink specials. When we went to Papas & Beer, a bartender was walking around giving tequila shots to the crowd. They were complimentary and intended to get the people in a party mode. Don’t worry though, if you plan on going with children, there is plenty to do that is kid friendly. I would advise that you go during the day and stay away at night because it can get rowdy in the streets.
After we had lunch at one of the local restaurants, we encountered a grupo which is a band of 3-4 men who play mariachi type music to you in the street for tips. We danced in the streets and sang along with the grupo while we recommended songs for them to play for us. It was so much fun and unforgettable. I guarantee that you will love it. I plan on going again in the future because I loved it so much.
I hope you enjoy celebrating Mardi Gras with your family and friends. There is something in it for everyone and we can all appreciate learning some new cultural traditions.