selves with food and drink before the somber
and reflective period of Lent that leads up
to Easter. The celebration starts quietly and
builds to a crescendo as it nears Fat Tuesday.
As a native New Orleanian, I can tell you the
city all but shuts down at carnival time, so
no one has to miss the parades.
With over a million people on the streets
of New Orleans alone, hotels are booked a
year in advance and homes are filled with
houseguests. Yet in many places along the
coast, there are marinas a few blocks from
the parade routes with empty transient slips.
And in several towns, the primary parades
are boat parades that welcome transient
cruisers to put on costumes, decorate their
boats, and participate as water-borne floats
for the revelers lining the piers.
With all the major
events scheduled for
the week leading up
to Fat Tuesday, it’s
impossible to tour the coast and catch all
of them; however, with careful planning it is
possible to enjoy several. Mardi Gras along
the coast holds a real magic not found anywhere else in North America, and the experience can be tailored to your interests and
expectations. Luckily, weather offshore in the
Gulf this time of year usually cooperates, too.
Biloxi is, hands down, the largest and most
extravagant Mardi Gras celebration on the
Mississippi Coast, with events taking place
primarily on Fat Tuesday. Located on the
shores of the Mississippi Sound, with direct
access to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
(ICW) and the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi has
become home to a large concentration of
casinos. The ideal location for transient slips
with access to the parades is the Small Craft
Harbor on the Mississippi Sound. With 124
slips servicing boats between 25 and 50 feet,
it’s located directly across the street from
the parade route and only a few blocks from
the Biloxi Yacht Club. Nearby Point Cadet
Marina and the private Biloxi Boardwalk
Marina are good second options, only slight-
ly further from the action.
Clockwise from top left: illustrated map of where some of the
boat parades take place. A Mardi Gras masquer. pirates roll in
pensacola. The Krewe of lafitte. Gilligan’s island rolls into Slidell.