Go or stay?
Lots of Southeastern Louisiana folks ask themselves this as Mardi Gras approaches. Lundi Gras can be a slow day at work between the weekend and Mardi Gras. So how about a five-day weekend at the beach?
The question is how far do you want to go? And do you want to dip into a bit of Carnival when you’re not dipping your toes into the Gulf of Mexico’s surf?
This year, Valentine’s Day is the Saturday of Mardi Gras weekend, so there’s a trifecta of enticements: the beach, a few Carnival events (or not) and romance.
Easiest — and busiest — is the hour-to-90-minute drive to the Mississippi Coast, which adds casinos to the mix. There are now 20 parades during Carnival season, and a big one at 1 p.m. in Biloxi on Mardi Gras, Feb. 17.
Check out other events and deals at gulfcoast.org, (888) 467-4853.
For those who want to get farther away from home and spend a few days, here are highlights of what’s going on in other popular beach destinations.
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama
Also next Saturday, The Wharf residential, retail and restaurant complex in Orange Beach will sponsor a walking Kid & Pet Parade at 4 p.m. and its Main Street Mardi Gras Float Parade at 6 p.m.
On Feb. 17, see two parades: The Mardi Gras parade in Gulf Shores at 10 a.m., and the Orange Beach event at 2 p.m.
Revelers still mobile can veer next to Gulf Shores to watch LuLu’s Mardi Gras Boat Parade, which begins at 4 p.m. on the Intracoastal Waterway. Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy Buffett, owns Lulu’s, an immense restaurant, where the vibe is usually hopping.
Those who want to imbibe while sitting — and dancing — can skip the regular parades and park themselves at Lulu’s all day; music begins at 11 a.m. Feb. 17.
Among accommodations promoting Mardi Gras packages in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are Liquid Life Vacation Rentals, Kaiser by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, The Beach Club and Turquoise Place.Promotion codes and event specials are atgulfshores.com, (800) 745-7263.
Perdido Key And Pensacola, Florida
Want to just relax and get away from it all? Periodo Key’s pace typically is slower than that of its Alabama neighbors, although a fireworks display is planned next Saturday evening (Feb. 14) over the Intracoastal Waterway there.
While Orange Beach, Ala., appears to flow directly into Perdido Key (the FloraBama bar claims to be on the state line, but truth is the entire bar is in Perdido Key), the fact they are in different states means Perdido’s tourist information is on the website for Pensacola, a 45-minute drive away.
Most area Mardi Gras parades and events are in downtown Pensacola, where maskers throw Moon Pies with the beads. Downtown Pensacola’s only nighttime parade — 12 floats, one canon and 250 pirates — is Friday (Feb. 13). There’s a daytime parade Saturday and a big street party on Mardi Gras.
The wonderfully named Krewe of Wrecks rolls at 1 p.m. (Sunday) Feb. 15 in Pensacola Beach.
Find more details atvisitpensacola.com, (800) 874-1234. Check out the Snowbirds Savings Card for discounts through March 15.
Destin, Fort Walton Beach And Okaloosa Island, Florida
While Destin claims to be “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” any visitor knows it’s far outgrown that label to become a beach resort city, complete with a regional airport.
Destin Commons’ Mardi Gras Masquerade, with 30 floats, music and face painting, is 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13. And there’s a Mardi Gras celebration 5-7 p.m. Feb. 17 at HarborWalk Village.
As usual, the events calendar lists a slew of other things to do, so those fleeing Mardi Gras might find Destin a good escape.
Information about Destin, Fort Walton and Okaloosa Island is available atemeraldcoastfl.com, (800) 651-7131.
South Walton County, Florida
Most fans of the smaller Florida Panhandle beachside towns call this area 30-A, the name of Scenic Highway 30-A, the 18.5-mile two-lane road which stretches from Santa Rosa Beach to Inlet Beach, and includes Blue Mountain Beach, Grayton, Watercolor, Seaside, Seagrove, Watersound, Alys Beach, Seacrest, Rosemary Beach — among others. Off the wider Highway 98 west of Highway 30-A are Miramar Beach, Sandestin and TOPSL.
There’s a kids’ Mardi Gras parade at noon Saturday (Feb. 15) at Seaside, and a Mardi Gras Dog Parade at 2 p.m. at the Village of Baytowne Wharf, on the Choctawhatchee Bay side of Sandestin.
Then, on Mardi Gras, head back to Sandestin for the 5 p.m. Fat Tuesday Baytowne Bash Parade, with floats, decorated golf carts, and of course, throws, including Moon Pies. The partying goes into the night.
On the other hand, forget all things Carnival, yet find a taste of home at the 26th annual Sandestin Gumbo Festival Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, also at Baytowne Wharf. Gulf Coast restaurant chefs will be cooking, and you can sample. Tickets are $20.
Find more more atvisitsouthwalton.com, (800) 822-6877.