Celebrate Mardi Gras in DC in 2020


It’s Carnival time, and — everybody’s havin’ fun!  You don’t have to be in Louisiana to let the good times roll and pass a good time for Mardi Gras.  There are lots of ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in DC.

As a South Louisiana native, Mardi Gras is in my blood.  It is a major holiday event that is steeped in tradition and rich family memories–and it is important for me to share that with my kids.  We wear purple, green, and gold (the official colors of Mardi Gras); read Mardi Gras and other Louisiana-themed books; make lots of Mardi Gras art projects (think masks, crowns, and floats made of shoe boxes); and decorate our house with all things purple, green, and gold–including flying a Mardi Gras flag.  (See this post for more ways to celebrate Mardi Gras–or any tradition–at home with your kids in DC.)

Twins in NolaTawk Mardi Gras pajamas.
Bring Mardi Gras to bedtime with Louisiana-themed stories like Gumbo, The Little Float that Could, and Cajun ABCs.

As we get closer to Fat Tuesday, the culmination of the Carnival season, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Mardi Gras around Washington, DC.  Below are some ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in DC, with and without kids, in 2020.

The Wharf Parade and Fireworks

To celebrate Mardi Gras in DC with the whole family, check out The Wharf’s Mardi Gras celebration on Saturday, February 22. This is a community-wide extravaganza featuring a spirited parade down Wharf Street at 4pm, a dance party with live music on District Pier, kid-friendly activities, and a special fireworks finale at 6:30pm. You can get special treats at favorite neighborhood restaurants, including s’mores at the Caps Campfire at Camp Wharf.Mardi Gras Twins in DC

Family Gras at the Capitol Cider House

Head down to the Capitol Cider House’s second annual Family Gras on Sunday, February 23 from 10am to noon in Petworth. This family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration includes beads, face painting, crafts, and Gambino’s King Cake flown up from New Orleans.  Oh yeah, and house cider, craft beer, local wine, and cocktails for the parents.

Bayou Gras at Bayou Bakery — On Mardi Gras day, Bayou Bakery will have live jazz music, $5 Cajun dishes, and $5 Hurricanes from 4-9pm. Join the Bayou Bakery krewe for some New Orleans Fat Tuesday festivities.  Videos from last year show kiddos busting a move on the dance floor.

Eat Cajun Food! Or even host your own Mardi Gras dinner or party! 

Plenty of local grocery stores carry Zatarain’s jambalaya and gumbo box mixes that can help you celebrate Mardi Gras in DC.  These are super quick and tasty.  And sure, they aren’t homemade, but lots of Louisiana households eat these regularly–especially if you spice them up by adding your own trinity!

Bayou Bakery has a Mardi Gras catering menu featuring king cakes, pralines, gumbo, and much more.  Warning:  King Cakes must be ordered 72 hours in advance for Mardi Gras day pickup.  Due South also has Mardi Gras day catering options, including gumbo, jambalaya, and their delicious pimento cheese.  And last, but certainly not least, there is always Popeye’s!  Nothing screams parade route cuisine quite like some Popeye’s chicken and biscuits.  Don’t forget the red beans and rice!

Kid makes jambalaya to celebrate Mardi Gras
Self-proclaimed “Princess Cook” stirs the jambalaya.

Adults Only! 

If you want some adult time on Mardi Gras day, head to the Mardi Gras Extravaganza benefitting the DC Central Kitchen at Union Market’s Dock 5 with food, live music, and drinks — including a Hurricane competition.  This event is held by New Orleans/DC Chef David Guas (of Bayou Bakery), Spike Mendelsohn and Pike Productions.  Another option is Mardi Gras 2020! Fat Tuesday at Due South, bringing live music and an all-you-can-eat Cajun buffet to Navy Yard.

Baby girl decorates for Mardi Gras
Let the littles get in on the decorating. Turns out this three-year-old is an expert at working a balloon pump.
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Born and raised on the bayou in South Louisiana, Angelle moved to DC for undergrad at Georgetown. After working on the Hill and Disney's government relations office, Angelle traded-in her Mickey Mouse ears for law school at GW. An election law and white-collar defense attorney at Covington & Burling, Angelle's other full-time job is mom to twin toddlers Emma and Evan (2016). She and her husband Jordan live on Capitol Hill/H Street, where the twins excitedly yell "choo choo" every time they see the streetcar. In her spare time, Angelle scours the internet for coordinating smocked clothing for her twins and dreaming about the international family travel she will do once Emma and Evan learn to sleep or watch feature-length movies on a plane. All posts are her own views.