Mardi Gras is one of the nation’s most notorious celebrations, full of great food, fun parades, colorful costumes, and partying. Known most famously for being a trademark New Orleans festival, cities around the United States throw celebrations of their own to capture the fun and excitement that Mardi Gras offers. For those living in and around Portland, there are family-friendly activities you can do to celebrate without booking a flight to Louisiana. If you’re ready to party with the entire family, then these Mardi Gras activities are for you! 

What Is Mardi Gras?

Celebrating Mardi Gras is the perfect time to teach your kids about its rich history. Thrown as a last chance to eat in excess before lent, people use it as a time to feast on local delicacies and “eat, drink, and be merry!” Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday as it directly translates to, dates back to 17th century Europe, although it now looks different than it did back then. Our modern version of this French celebration originates from two French explorers, Sieur de Bienville and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. To mark their arrival in New Orleans, the pair threw a massive party, which was so popular they decided to keep throwing them every year on the anniversary of their arrival. Soon it became a tradition and morphed into the celebration we now know today. 

Mardi Gras Traditions

As with most popular festivals, there are traditions associated with Mardi Gras that people hold dear. These are passed down from generation to generation, with each one learning from the last. 

Mardi Gras Krewe

Showing up with a “Krewe” dates back to 1857 and is a fun way to surround yourself with friends and family. Krewe’s participate in the parade, wear face paint, hold up banners, and dress in colorful costumes.

Bead Throwing

Bead throwing dates back to the 1800s when the carnival “Kings” would throw their subjects trinkets. 

Eating King Cakes

King Cakes are a fun Mardi Gras tradition and are served starting around January 8th. A baby figurine is baked into the cake, and the person who finds it has good luck and must host the celebrations the following year. 

Mardi Gras Colors

The traditional Mardi Gras colors each stand for a different value the French hold dear. They include purple (justice), green (faith), and yellow (gold). 

Ways To Celebrate Mardi Gras In Portland

There are fun ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in Portland that the whole family can enjoy together. Although many people think of Mardi Gras as an adult celebration, there are ways kids and teens can join in the festivities too! 

Portland Mardi Gras Parade

As life goes back to normal, Portlanders can begin participating in activities like the Portland Mardi Gras Parade. Held on March 1st, the Portland Mardi Gras parade promises to be fun for the whole family. This free event is the perfect chance to dress up in exciting costumes and dance in the street. Beginning at Humboldt Avenue and making its way along Mississippi Avenue until it reaches its final destination on Cook Street, this festive parade is sure to be a great time for every member of the family. Local vendors will line the streets, providing delicious food and drinks, while Krewe members decorate mini umbrella “throws” to hand out to luck recipients. For a day full of singing, dancing, and fun, don’t miss this year’s Portland Mardi Gras Parade! 

Food Tour Of New Orleans

Take a trip around Portland, tasting authentic New Orleans cuisine on your own food tour. Visit the local restaurants serving traditional Louisiana dishes, giving your family an authentic taste of the bayou. For a true Mardi Gras experience, make sure you try Beignets, King Cakes, a crawfish boil, and delicious Louisiana specialty drinks. Plan a day to drive around Portland and try out all these delicious foods; you’ll be glad you did! Here is a list of some local restaurants serving Mardi Gras favorites:

Chelsea Cakes

Doe Donuts

Mumbo Gumbo

My Brother’s Crawfish

Mardi Gras Themed Arts And Crafts

Creating art as a family is a special way to create memories and bonds, plus it’s just plain fun! Kids and adults of all ages can enjoy making traditional Mardi Gras crafts. You can decorate your house or bring some of them along with you as you attend the Mardi Gras parade. 

Mardi Gras Box

Using an old shoebox, your kids can decorate a “Mardi Gras box” they can use to store all the fun trinkets they collect from the parade. It’s a great way to let their creativity shine through, and it allows them to have a memento they can display in their room for years to come! 

Umbrella Decorating

Carrying a brightly decorated umbrella is a traditional part of the Mardi Gras celebration. It protects you from the sun and gives you another way to express your personality and style. Having everyone in your family create their own uniquely styled umbrella is the perfect way to let their personalities and creativity shine through. 

Decorate The House

Decorating the house is a great way to continue the fun of Mardi Gras even after the parade is over. Hanging beads, displaying your decorated umbrellas, and baking traditional foods bring the excitement of Mardi Gras home! 

For hundreds of years, those living in the New Orleans area have celebrated Mardi Gras, but now people all over the country can participate in the exciting festivities. From fun parades, delicious cuisine, or decorating the house, there are many ways Portlanders experience everything Mardi gras has to offer without ever stepping foot in the south!