We’re fast approaching the end of Carnival, the traditional Christian season of festivities before Lent. "Mardi gras" means "fat Tuesday" in French, marking a centuries-old ritual of feasting before fasting. Like your fellow revelers around the world and in New Orleans — the capital of Mardi Gras — you too can fatten up before giving up earthly pleasures and atoning for your sins. South Florida pays homage to the Big Easy’s party spirit at the following events, some of which spill over into March, in case you want to sneak in a bit more hedonism. What’s a few more days of celebration?
1. Mardi Gras Mania Tenth-Anniversary Celebration
Mardi Gras Casino lives up to its name with a free four-day celebration that also marks the casino’s tenth anniversary. The party starts Friday, February 24, at 5 p.m. and ends Tuesday, February 28, at midnight. Showgirls, fire jugglers, mimes, magicians, and stilt-walkers will add to the Bourbon Street atmosphere, along with fireworks Saturday at 11 p.m. and Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Nightly musical acts will conclude with headliners Gary Wright and '70s pop/rock band Orleans Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tickets to the grand finale show cost $20 to $60. All other shows are free. Visit mgfla.com or Facebook.
2. Carnevale at Coral Gables Museum
Ancient Italians celebrated Carnival in winter long before the French brought European traditions to the shores of Louisiana. In fact, the word "carnival" originated in Latin as carne and vale, literally “to throw away the flesh.” Get a little taste of Italian Carnival at the Coral Gables Museum this Saturday, February 25, from noon to 8 p.m. at a free, kid-friendly event featuring crafts, face painting, and authentic food and carnival treats such as fritelle and chiaccheire, available for purchase. Local Italian schools will perform from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by music from Giorgio and David of Sembra Ieri. The event is organized by the Italian International Parents Association. Visit iipamiami.org or Facebook.
3. Mardi Gras Bar Crawl, Fort Lauderdale
Bar Crawl Nation wants to know if you’re ready to take over eight of downtown Fort Lauderdale’s best bars this Saturday, February 25, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets range from $24.99 general admission ($30 at the door) to $34.99 for beads and masks. Make it to every bar — along with the rest of the nearly 1,500 anticipated fellow drinkers — and win a Mardi Gras T-shirt. Everyone gets a souvenir mug and scorecard to keep track of the watering holes, all offering $3 drink specials. Visit barcrawlnation.com or Facebook.
4. Fort Laudi Gras
Fort Lauderdale celebrates in grand style at the second-annual Fort Laudi Gras this Saturday, February 25, from 4 to 10 p.m. The free, family-friendly bash features BIG 105.9 FM’s Paul Castronovo as the king of Fort Laudi Gras, holding court over a creole feast of crawfish, oysters, gumbo, and jambalaya, along with Louisiana favorites such as Abita beer to help wash it all down. Mardi Gras bands and jesters will complement the Krewe stage entertainment, which includes pop-up burlesque shows. Face painting for the kids and a marketplace of top regional craft artists will complete the fun at the event, held indoors and outdoors at Revolution Live and America’s Backyard. Visit fortlaudigras.com or Facebook.
5. Hot Jazz in the Gables
Jazz in the Gables, a free weekly concert series, will jazz it up real special next Tuesday, February 28, with a Mardi Gras-inspired performance featuring Hank’s Hot Jazz. Trombonist Hank Bredenberg leads the New Orleans-style band, which is inspired by swing Dixie arrangements and traditional jazz. Listen to Hank’s Hot Jazz from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the outdoor McBride Plaza. Visit jazzinthegables.org.
6. Mardi Gras at the Fish House Miami
The Fish House Miami might know a thing or two about celebrating Mardi Gras in Miami: This place has been doing it for 15 years. A crawfish boil, jambalaya, and king cake are on the menu inside, and grilled oysters Cajun-style will be served outside. Big Easy IPA from Louisiana's Abita brewery will also be on draft for the occasion. Three stages will feature six bands playing blues, jazz, and zydeco; singer Rachelle Coba and Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan are on the roster of musicians. Strike your best Mardi Gras pose with belle of the ball Jenna Beth of Cupcake Burlesque, who will hand out beads aplenty. There’s no cover to enjoy the music Tuesday, February 28, from 5 p.m. to midnight.
7. Mardi Gras at Vagabond Kitchen & Bar
Vagabond Kitchen & Bar brings a taste of Mardi Gras to Miami Tuesday, February 28. Start with seafood gumbo, and choose between blackened snapper or creole jambalaya for the second course. Dessert includes bread pudding and traditional king cake. Listen to French Caravan — Miami’s own gypsy swing band — while dining. Seating begins at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight. Tickets cost $45 per person. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Concrete Beach Premieres Miami Gras
Wynwood’s Concrete Beach Brewery will celebrate Miami’s international diversity by blocking off NW 24th Street Saturday, March 4, from noon to 6 p.m. and pouring Miami Gras, a limited-edition French-style saison that’s inspired by the cocktail traditions of New Orleans. Dance in the street to Bad Apples Brass Band, and watch samba dancers shake things up. Food includes Crazy Poke's fish salads finished with beer-laced sauces, Cajun food from Grumpy Greg’s, and guava king cake from La Boulangerie. Come in costume for a chance to win a VIP party at the brewery’s Social Hall and drink for a good cause: Concrete Beach will donate $1 for every Miami Gras sold to the Rhythm Foundation up to $1,000. RSVP on Facebook. Visit concretebeachbrewery.com.
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9. Carnaval on the Mile
The 19th-annual Carnaval on the Mile will take place after Ash Wednesday, but don’t give up good music for Lent. The free, family-friendly art and music street festival will happen Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is part of a two-month series of events that benefit the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, which has been serving underprivileged children in South Florida for 40 years. Enjoy dozens of jazz and funk musical acts, a cocktail pavilion, and tasty food from local restaurants; plus, meet artists showcasing their work. For $50, check out Cork & Fork, a series of chef demonstrations, culinary tastings, exclusive book signings, and other foodie fun. Visit carnavalmiami.com.
10. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic's Mardi Gras Madness Tour
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic will take their the Mardi Gras Madness Tour to the Fillmore Miami Beach's Jackie Gleason Theater next Sunday, March 5, at 8 p.m. Clinton revolutionized R&B during the '70s and made funk a legitimate genre deeply rooted in the music traditions of New Orleans and the blues of the Deep South. Arrive early at 6 p.m. for Miami blues band Juke, performing in Tito’s Stardust Club. Also, before the show, enjoy hurricane cocktails, Abita beer, and a crawfish boil in a festive atmosphere full of beads, masks, and balloons. The Bobby Lee Rodgers trio will open the show for the King of Funk. Tickets cost $30.50 in advance and $33 the day of the show. Visit fillmoremb.com.