Mardi Gras in Lafayette (Parade Schedule & More)
The 2023 Lafayette Mardi Gras dates run from Friday, February 17 until Mardi Gras Day which is on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. Here is everything you need to know about the Mardi Gras season in Lafayette, LA.
Wild parties, parades, beads, and Cajun culture—these are all things that come to mind when you hear the words ‘Mardi Gras.’ If you’re planning to travel to Louisiana to experience this one-of-a-kind annual celebration, then you won’t want to miss making a stop in Lafayette, a city at the capital of Creole country and known as one of the happiest places in America.
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2023 Mardi Gras in Lafayette, Louisiana
You’ll want to stay long enough to experience their Cajun Country Mardi Gras with numerous parades (including a dog-themed one), exceptionally delicious and unique dining options, and, most importantly, their uniquely traditional boucherie as well as the Cajun tradition of Courir de Mardi Gras.
What Does ‘Mardi Gras’ Mean?
The literal translation of ‘Mardi Gras’ in French is ‘Fat Tuesday’—and for good reason. Mardi Gras falls every year on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the Catholic tradition of Lent.
Fat Tuesday is considered to be the last day of feasting on tasty foods, specifically meats and alcohol, that are all forbidden during the season of Lent. The actual Mardi Gras celebration isn’t just one day in Lafayette, either—it’s a celebration that takes place across several weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday and begins with the workday ends.
Although it began as a French tradition, it has now spread throughout the state of Louisiana and even up through the southern part of the United States.
Mardi Gras in Lafayette vs. New Orleans
When you think of Mardi Gras, the first place that most likely pops into your head is New Orleans. However, Mardi Gras actually takes place in regions throughout the entire state, and citizens of different cities and towns celebrate in varying ways.
South Louisiana, referred to as “Acadiana,” or Cajun Country includes Lafayette as well as 21 additional parishes and nearly 700 small towns and rural cajun communities.
Lafayette in particular is known for its traditional Mardi Gras experience that offers the wild parties of New Orleans but at a tamer level so that it is more family-friendly, as well as better prices and fewer tourists.
Mardi Gras events in Lafayette take place starting two weeks before Fat Tuesday, and this town is known for its series of parades that are nearly continuous—including a famous “pet parade”—and its annual traditional Boucherie that people travel from all over the country to see. It’s also known for the rural Courir de Mardi Gras celebrations.
Parades Happening for Mardi Gras 2023
Mardi Gras parades in Lafayette are a good time and begin exactly 11 days before Fat Tuesday on February 10, 2023. Get ready to grab beads, doubloons, other tokens and candy that will be tossed if you attend!
Below are some of the best parades to see each day leading up to Fat Tuesday. For a full list of parades, I like the Lafayette tourism site.
Krewe de Canaille – February 10, 2023, 7pm – Starting in Downtown Lafayette
The Krewe de Canailles walking parade promotes sustainability, inclusivity, and creativity
Carencro Mardi Gras Parade – February 11, 2023, 11am – Carencro High to Carencro Community Center
Family-friendly event run by a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Mardi Gras cultural experience
Krewe des Chiens – February 11, 2023, 12pm – Downtown Lafayette
A parade that centers around dogs, as dogs are paraded down the streets by their owners, often dressed up in costumes colored in the signature Mardi Gras green, yellow, and purple, and draped with beads.
Krewe of Carnivale en Rio Mardi Gras Parade – February 11, 2023, 6:30 pm – Downtown Lafayette to Cajun Field
Parade inspired by the festivals in Rio de Janeiro
COVID Heroes Parade – February 17, 2023, 6:30 pm – Pontiac Point to Cajun Field
Parade honoring essential workers, COVID survivors, and other COVID-19 heroes
The Krewe Of Bonaparte Parade – Saturday, February 18, 2023, 6:30 PM
In 1972 a new Mardi Gras Krewe was established to help promote the tradition of Mardi Gras in Acadiana and to encourage Lafayette’s young citizens to participate in Mardi Gras.
The 2023 parade has 969 scheduled riders, which means lots of beads, trinkets and stuffed animals to be thrown during the parade route!
The parade begins at the corner of Simcoe, Surey and Jefferson streets and ends at Cajun Field.
Queen Evangeline Parade – February 20, 2023, 6 pm
This parade features; Krewe of Triton, Krewe of Attakapas, Krewe of Xanadu, Krewe of Victoria, Krewe of Troubadours, Krewe d’Argent, Krewe of Bon Amis, Krewe de Rendevous, Krewe of Karencro, Krewe of Apollo, and Krewe of Olympus.
King Gabriel’s Parade – February 21, 2023, 10 am – Downtown Lafayette to Cajun Field
Independent Parade – February 21, 2023, 2:30 pm
The Independent Parade stretches 3.9 miles through Lafayette downtown and other main streets. This Lafayette Mardi Gras festival parade ends at the festival grounds with carnival rides and plenty of food vendors to keep the party going!
Lundi Gras in Lafayette
The day before Mardi Gras is known as Lundi Gras, meaning ‘Fat Monday’ or ‘Shrove Monday.’ Lafayette hosts the famous “Bar-a-thon,” which is a 4.8 mile run that features several “adult hydration stations.”
Similar to a regular marathon’s water and snack stations, these “adult” stations offer beer and other adult drinks. Following behind the runners is a party bus, which anyone can hop onto if they find themselves too inebriated to finish the race. It’s technically untimed and there are no winners, but there is a community costume contest for runners who choose to participate.
Traditional Lundi Gras Boucherie
Lafayette’s traditional boucherie occurs every year on Lundi Gras. It’s an entire-day-long event that continues well into the night surrounding the act of butchering, cooking, and eating a hog as a community.
The idea of the Boucherie is to pass Cajun culture down through generations, so this is an activity that the whole family can participate in. People travel from all over the country to participate, and the entire community pitches in to eat and use the whole pig—even the bones.
In the early morning, the pig is skinned and bacon is served; by nightfall, beers are being cracked open as the bones are boiled into stew. Sausages are stuffed and hung inside smokers, and musicians gather to play instruments together in a kaleidoscope of song.
Courir de Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)
The Cajun Mardi Gras, traditionally known as Courir de Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday Run, has been a staple in Southern Louisiana for hundreds of years.
The Courir de Mardi Gras is a traditional Mardi Gras event held in many Cajun and Creole communities of French Louisiana on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. This Cajun carnival has its roots in French medieval society.
Courir de Mardi Gras is a Mardi Gras tradition where participants dress up and wear masks, some walk, some ride horses, and some jump on the back a truck pulling a flat bed through the streets (mostly in rural areas), knock on doors, and go from house to house singing, dancing, and asking for food donations in order to make gumbo.
It’s customary for participating houses to throw a live chicken out into the streets or a field as “food,” and the runners must try to catch it. At the end of the day, the entire community gathers to make and eat gumbo.
These events are sometimes only open to a community, while others are open to the public with a donation to join in the celebration and tradition.
You can read about my entire experience at the Prarie de Femmes Courir de Mardi Gras.
Another popular Courir de Mardi Gras Run is the Annual Saddle Tramp Riders Club Traditional Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras that happens in Church Point.
What—and Where—to Eat During Mardi Gras
As per its name and origins, the most important part of Mardi Gras is the food. In Louisiana, you can experience traditional foods that have no rival anywhere else in the world.
Lafayette is known for its cajun food (including its famous cajun donuts from the Cajun Market Donut Company), crawfish etouffee, drive-thru daiquiri shops, gumbo, jambalaya, beignets, and king cakes.
The Louisiana king cake tradition differs from France. Louisiana king cakes are oval and decorated in the Carnival colors of purple, green, and gold, which represent justice (purple), faith (green), and power (gold). Some are plain with only decorated sugar on top while others are filled with wonderful things like cream cheese, fruit preserves, and praline filling.
The best King Cake options in Lafayette can be found at Meche’s Donut King, Keller’s Bakery Downtown, and Poupart’s Bakery.
Buck and Johnny’s
Visit Buck and Johnny’s for their famous Zydeco Sunday brunch with live music and a big dance floor. Plan for a line to get in, unless you arrive early. If you love music, dancing and great food, this is a must!
It’s Crawfish Season During Mardi Gras
If you visit Lafayette for Mardi Gras, you are in luck if you like crawfish! The season typically lasts from January to June, so this is a perfect time to enjoy this seafood delicacy.
Sadly, Randol’s, a Lafayette institution closed its doors after more than 50 years of boiled crawfish and Cajun music. Other good options for crawfish include Half Shell Oyster House of Lafayette, The Cajun Tabel, Dons Seafood and Lagneaux’s.
Other food options!
Have dinner at the Artmosphere Bistro on Johnson Street. Although most of these foods can be found almost anywhere now at many big-box grocery stores, nothing compares to traditional, fresh food from native Louisiana—especially when it comes to gumbo and beignets. Many fantastic local restaurants in Lafayette can be found along any of its many parade routes.
Mardi Gras History
The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons.
The first American Mardi Gras took place on March 3, 1699, when French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville landed near present-day New Orleans, Louisiana. They held a small celebration and dubbed their landing spot Point du Mardi Gras.
By the late 1830s, New Orleans held street processions of maskers with carriages and horseback riders to celebrate Mardi Gras.
The first recorded celebration of Lafayette Mardi Gras was on Feb. 14, 1869, but the first citywide Mardi Gras observance happened in 1897 with a ball, parade and Mardi Gras king and queen proclaimed.
If you’re going to travel anywhere for Mardi Gras, Lafayette is the place to be. With their numerous parades, focus on community, and dedication to preserving Cajun culture, you can get the full and traditional Mardi Gras experience without the wildness, exorbitant prices, and insane amount of tourists present in New Orleans.
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