All Aboard for Mobile’s Magical Mardi Gras Tour!
Where better to celebrate the fun and festivities of Mardi Gras than in the city that claims its rightful birthplace in the United States? If you’re guessing New Orleans, cher, guess again. We’re in Mobile, Alabama, “The Little Easy,” where moon pies, music and merriment abound in the city “born to celebrate.”
Dining with a View of Mobile at Dauphin’s Restaurant
It wasn’t hard to coax this Pacific Northwest wanderboomer to a land of sunshine, southern hospitality, grace and charm in February. Add good old-fashioned family fun for Mardi Gras, and my bags were packed.
Ready to plan your own Mobile Mardi Gras adventure? Here’s how to make the most of your visit:
Start Your Day with Traditional Southern Foods.
Breakfast at Royal Street Café
Nothing says “Rise and shine!” in the South more than a breakfast of biscuits, gravy and grits. Order the cheese grits and cathead biscuits at local favorite Royal Street Café. Cathead biscuits? Fluffy, light-as-air, these delicate concoctions seem so-named because of their size, about as big as a cat’s head.
Have a hankering for hot beignets instead? Head to Panini Pete’s to experience Mobile’s version of this New Orlean’s classic. Tip: Ask about Panini Pete’s wet vs. dry baking process and adding a twist of lemon to your beignets.
How about an order of bananas foster French toast? You’re in good hands at Miss Ruby’s Spot of Tea downtown where exceptional service is a way of life. “Everybody eats two meals a day and we never know when someone comes to our door what they walked away from and what they’re walking back to. My thrust in life is that people are fed well and have gotten information about what Mobile has to offer.”
Miss Ruby makes the rounds at each table in her role as part concierge, part Mobile ambassador, asking patrons about their interests. It’s also her way of keeping up to date on what’s happening in the city. “If at the end of the day, my customers ask themselves what they experienced, they would say at Spot of Tea someone looked me in the eye and paid attention.”
Stroll the Downtown Commercial District.
Mobile is home to seven historic districts within 600 square blocks, each with its own distinct character. Before jumping into your fun Mardi Gras events, take time to get acclimated in your Southern surroundings. Walk off your hearty breakfast with a leisurely tour of Royal and Dauphin Streets for an overview of popular restaurants, restored Art Deco, brick and stone buildings and museums.
Notable stops on Royal Street (besides the Royal Street Café) include: Fort Condé, where visitors can explore the city’s colonial past; the History Museum of Mobile, with its permanent collections and rotating exhibits; and the beautiful Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa.
Rest up from your shopping excursion on Dauphin Street in one of Mobile’s public parks, Bienville Square or Cathedral Square. Or stop in to view the beautiful art glass windows and hand-carvings at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Take a Driving Tour of Mobile’s Historic Homes and Districts.
A grove of century-old oaks welcomes visitors outside the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion in the Midtown Historic District. Inside, a grand circular staircase, immense double-parlor ballroom, crystal chandeliers and treasured antiques, hint at Southern-style entertaining of times gone by. A fainting couch prompts our guide’s comment: “If you think about the corsets they had to wear, you know why they needed them.”
Soak up more Southern ambiance in the Greek-revival architecture that defines the Oakleigh House in the Oakleigh Garden Historic District. In the home’s authentically-restored period rooms, visitors can step back in time to 1833 when James Roper began one of the first homes built outside Mobile’s city limits.
Visit the Mobile Carnival Museum.
For a preview of coming Mardi Gras attractions, learn about its history at the Mobile Carnival Museum. From intricate costume designs to elaborate float constructions, you can view past parades and balls through videos and exhibits. By the time you have finished your museum tour, you’ll be ready to join in the neighborhood parties and line the parade routes, if you haven’t already.
Rent Your Ballgown or Tux.
If you receive an invitation, or purchase a ticket when possible, to one of the Mardi Gras balls, you will need to dress the part to attend. “Costume de Rigueur Strictly Enforced” means white tie and tails for men and floor or ankle length dress for women. No military uniforms allowed. No exceptions. Otherwise, you will not be admitted.
To avoid getting turned away at the door, pack your formal wear or visit Francia’s Formal Wear for your tux or gown fitting.
Line the Parade Routes.
So many Mardi Gras parades, so little time! To join a parade, you will either need to be born into one of the groups hosting one or pay for the privilege.
Party Reveler at Joe Cain’s Parade
The good news is you don’t need to be in a parade to enjoy the revelry. Plan to see as many parades as possible during your stay. The more the merrier! From the Floral Parade with its MCA Juvenile Court, including a king and queen for children, to Joe Cain’s “People’s Parade,” one of the oldest and most secretive krewes (group hosting a parade, ball or social events), each has its own unique history and festival theme. Look for the schedule, a list of balls and parade routes in Mobile Mask, The Reveler’s Guide to Mardi Gras.
Along the parade route, partygoers throw bushels of Mardi Gras beads, small toys and moon pies from their floats. Before long you will be toe-tapping, screaming and reaching for throws along with everybody else. Trust me. Just be sure to stay alert to avoid getting hit in the eye.
Mystics of Time Ball
By the time you wrap up your Mobile Mardi Gras adventure, you’ll be a party-goer pro. Memories of good-time parades, coronation balls, delicious Southern dishes and warm hospitality will dance in your head for years to come.
For more information:
Many thanks to Alabama Travel for the opportunity to join in the revelry for Mobile Mardi Gras!
What’s your favorite Mardi Gras memory, wanderboomers? Please share with us here.