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100 Miles or Less: Mardi Gras with the Locals in Galveston

Join the state's largest Mardi Gras celebration this weekend.

By Katharine Shilcutt February 2, 2016

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Destination: Galveston
Distance: 50 miles
Driving time: 1 hour

If you're not checking out the Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas that takes place each year in Beaumont and have chosen instead to stick a little closer to home, we don't blame you. After all, why make the drive east on I-10 (whether to Port Arthur or farther east to New Orleans) when the largest Mardi Gras in Texas is just a short trip south?

Now celebrating its 105th year, Mardi Gras! Galveston kicked off its 12-day celebration last weekend with a concert by Collective Soul, a flotilla of parade floats and plenty of parties. This weekend brings country favorite Cory Morrow to the stage and another line-up of parades, including the big Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade that kicks off Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.

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Along with the Knights of Myth, the Knights of Momus are responsible for Mardi Gras! Galveston's current incarnation. Before the two rival parade krewes kicked off their decades-long competition in 1871 to see which could create the most fantastic floats each year, Mardi Gras in Galveston consisted of a masked ball and a theatre performance of Shakespeare's King Henry IV.

Today's annual Mardi Gras festivities, revived fully by Galveston scion George Mitchell in 1985, now attract upwards of 300,000 visitors. (Interesting footnote: Mitchell, the so-called "father of fracking" whom you may also know as the founder of The Woodlands, passed away in 2013 at the Tremont Hotel, the iconic Galveston hotel on the main Mardi Gras parade route.)

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The Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade is only one of a dozen parades taking place this weekend, so if catching beads and dancing in the streets is your favorite way to celebrate Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras! Galveston is the party for you. Tickets for balcony viewing parties are already sold out, but admission is otherwise free; just grab a spot along the parade route and take it all in. Parking lots and garages are also scattered throughout the Strand historic district, while a taxi stand at 23rd and Market will offer cab service for anyone who doesn't want to brave the traffic.

If you plan just a wee bit ahead, you can still get Mardi Gras packages at hotels like the Galvez and the Tremont House. For those that prefer more idiosyncratic accommodations, Airbnb offers plenty of overnight options, including a 36-foot yacht. After all, you may not be able to attend Tilman Fertitta's famed Mardi Gras festivities at the San Luis Hotel, but at least you can retire in style on a yacht of your own at the end of the night. 

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