Mardi Gras and the larger carnival season as a whole is rooted in the Christian celebration of the period of time from Epiphany (the revelation of the Christ traditionally observed on January 6th or 19th) and culminating in Madri Gras (french for Fat Tuesday), the day prior to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent’s ritual sacrifice and fasting. In New Orleans’ French Quarter, it has come to mean the nations largest and most decadent party. For Angeleno’s who aren’t among the French Quarters one million strong visitors this year, here are some local celebrations guaranteed to leave you grinning behind your mask and beads.

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Date: Feb 18th
Time: 3 p.m..; Parade begins at 4:30 p.m.

The worlds largest independent record store will once again celebrate its big love for New Orleans with its annual Fat Tuesday Gala at its Sunset Strip location. Each year, the music and movie retailer and free concert venue hosts the best party this side of Bourbon Street with live DJ’s, special guests, spin-and-win prizes at the Prize Wheel of Fate and capped off with a full-on parade that spills out onto the strip. The world class entertainment and festivities are provided free of charge and open to the public.

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Dates: Feb. 18th, 19th & 21st
Time: 9 a.m.  – 9 p.m.

LA’s orginal outdoor market will be hosting its 23rd Annual Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday Celebrations this year on February 18th, 19th and 21st. The festivities include live authentic Zydeco and Cajun music, a parade, mask making, bead tossing, a Mardi Gras paraphernalia stand and a full supply of Dixie Beer. There will be kid and pet friendly activities as well, such as face painting, crazy hat decorating and shaker making workshops and the crowning of the pet “Mutti-Gras” King and Queen in several different weight categories. Many of the restaurants and bars – like the markets award winning Gumbo Pot – will also feature fantastic New Orleans style cuisine.

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Dates: Feb. 18th & 19th
Time: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: $7 for family music tickets; Full Event Tickets-$10 in advance and $15 at the door

Zabumba is the favorite Brazilian joint of LA Locals and has the straightforward mission of  delivering the best of Rio de Janeiro to West LA. The festivities continue all of Mardi Gras Weekend, February 18th -19th with children’s activities planned during the day when LA Samba School opens the venue early at 1 p.m. for their second annual Carni Gras. There will be dance performances and lessons, festive bands throughout the weekend, beads and delicious eats.

Long Beach Mardi Gras Parade & Festival

Date: Feb 18th
Time: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

This year, Los Angeles’ largest Mardi Gras Celebration returns to downtown Long Beach on February 18th at Rainbow Harbor. The free events begin at noon and continue throughout the day with family friendly activities until late afternoon, masks and costumes, bead throwing, a massive parade, live music and dancing and of course some famously N’awlins style food and drink. For the adults, there are always several parties whose good times roll into the wee hours and may include a separate cover, always below $20.

Brazillian Carnaval Exotica

Date: Feb 25th
Time: 8 p.m.
Price: Advance- $40 – $65; Day of Show- $50 – $75

The most authentic carnaval on the West Coast is back for it’s 12th year on February 25th. This full-immersion sensory spectacle includes food, dance and drink, an all-star Brazillian Carnaval Band, prizes and special guest performers. An LA institution, that promises to educate as well as entertain with dance and music lessons. Costumes are always highly encouraged.

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Kristen Lowman is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found on