A big thanks goes out to the Jefferson Parish CVB for hosting us for Family Gras, all opinions are my own.
I have always wanted to go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but have never been quite sure about taking the boys. So, when I learned that Jefferson Parish Louisiana had a whole weekend each year dedicated to family friendly Mardi Gras entertainment, I knew we had to visit! This past weekend, we packed up and headed to Jefferson Parish for their Family Gras event. What we found, was authentic Cajun food, plenty of local and national entertainment and of course, lots and lots of beads.
What is Family Gras?
Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. Family Gras happens for one weekend each Mardi Gras season and basically provides a safe environment for families to come out and enjoy the spirit of Mardi Gras without having to worry about their children seeing something inappropriate. Each day has a line-up of incredible musical talent that performs at the Family Gras venue, which is now located in the new Mardi Gras Plaza on the common ground of Veterans Memorial Blvd.
The main draw of Family Gras apart from the awesome parades is the amazing music by local and national artists. This year, the lineup included greats like Amanda Shaw, The NOLA Super Group, Cher Lloyd, Wilson Phillips and many more!
There are 10 different food booths catering to the visitors of Family Gras, cooking up Cajun food favorites like Alligator on a Stick, Jambalaya and so much more culinary goodness!
Art and Crafts
There is also an art walk area available at the festival, with booths that are lined with art and goods for sale that are created by local artists. Everything from unique wax dipped hands, adorable feather headbands, hair clips, Mardi Gras themed instruments, magnets, jewelry and even large pieces of art for your home.
Fun for Kids
In addition to the great music, delicious food and beautiful wares for sale, there is also plenty of fun for the kids. A rock wall, photo booth complete with awesome props and very professional face painting keeps kids entertained and happy throughout the day.
Now, let’s face it. If you are headed to Louisiana during Mardi Gras season, you are probably looking to see an authentic Mardi Gras parade. The boys and I had never been to one, so this is probably the part of Family Gras we were looking forward to the most. We were not disappointed. I was a little worried, because parades in our hometown mean shoving, pushing and people walking in front of you two minutes before the parade even though you have been waiting for hours.
None of that happened at Family Gras though. Everyone was there to have a good time, there was no shoving, and there were plenty of beads and other throws for all! Friday night we watched the Krewe of Excalibur and on Saturday the Krewe of Caesar kept us entertained.
Helpful Tips for Family Gras:
There is not a ton of information about this event online, so although we had a blast, there were some things we wish we had known before we went.
- Bring chairs, blankets and other items to make your experience more comfortable. We thought everyone stood and didn’t know we could bring chairs. They put barricades up in the road shortly before the parade starts and everyone moves up. That would have made our wait more comfortable. You will also need them for seating to watch the festival performances
- Prepare to wait a few hours before the parade starts. Unless you don’t mind standing rows back from the front during a parade, plan to be waiting a few hours for the parade to get to you. The routes are super long, so if you are in the middle or end of the route, it will take a few hours past start time to reach you.
- Bring bags! I mean a lot of bags! You will need them to help you carry the items back to your room.
- Stay within walking distance of the festival. We stayed at the Ramada Inn, which was only a few blocks from the Family Gras location. It was so much easier to just walk back to our room than drive around and deal with parking or road closures.
- Invest in the Royal VIP passes for Family Gras. If you can, the Royal passes are $99 a piece, and give you access to the backstage area, VIP food booth, VIP bathrooms, and VIP viewing areas. Well worth it, and you get two meals and two drinks included per day, so not a bad deal.
- Expect a few things that may not be all together family friendly. Some of the last performers, particularly the first night let a few bad words slip, and there was one drunk couple across from us at the parade one night. Now, the couple was funny, and the bad words just presented a teaching opportunity on appropriate things to say or not, so these things didn’t bother us. By far, Family Gras is the most family friendly way to experience Mardi Gras.