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Mardi Gras Fun for Siouxland Families

in background, blurry purple, teal, and gold sequins in a pile. in foreground, the words "Mardi Gras with Kids" and ""

Did you know it's already Mardi Gras season? While technically "Mardi Gras" refers to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which for 2023 means Tuesday, February 21st, 2023, the Mardi Gras season is celebrated from the time after Epiphany (January 6th, 12 days after Christmas) until the day before Ash Wednesday! And even more fun for Siouxland Families: our sister city is Lake Charles, Louisiana, which is basically the capital of family-friendly Mardi Gras! I reached out to the Lake Charles tourism office in early 2020 to first write this post, and they responded with tons of Southern hospitality and great ideas for celebrating Mardi Gras with kids. I added a few of my own, and I hope they inspire you to have a great day with your family:

The Colors of Mardi Gras

ladies at a Mardi Gras gala in Lake Charles Louisiana
Photo by Lindsey Janies used with permission from Visit Lake Charles

The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are yellow, green, and purple. Combine them all for the most fun effect, whether baking, decorating your home, making a craft, or getting dressed!

Eat a Kings Cake or another Mardi Gras Dessert

Kings Cakes are a quintessential Mardi Gras treat! Traditionally, a toy "baby" representing Jesus, or a bean, is hidden in a yeasted, cinnamon filled cake, and whoever finds it in their piece is the "king" of that Mardi Gras celebration. A Hershey's kiss another fun option to hide in the cake! You can bake your own with this recipe from Louisiana Travel, or you can order an authentic Louisiana King Cake from many bakeries, including Rouse's Market and Delicious Donuts & Bakery in Lake Charles!

Other classic Louisiana desserts that could be fun for Mardi Gras include beignets and Bananas Foster. I've made beignets from scratch and they're really delicious--I definitely recommend it if you have time! Here's a beignet recipe from Louisiana Cookn Magazine if you'd like to try.
Bananas Foster is also a bit complicated, but really easy to simplify. A true Bananas Foster has bananas cooked in a brown sugar sauce, usually with pecans or other nuts added, plus rum and banana liquer, and then this entire delicious, caramelized banana nut mix is poured on vanilla ice cream, and often set on fire for some tableside drama! You can try this Bananas Foster recipe from Louisiana Travel if you want to make the authentic dish.  But an easy hack is to top some vanilla ice cream with sliced bananas, pecans, and caramel syrup. It's definitely not the same, but it's still delicious and captures the quintessential flavors without the hassle or fire hazard. 

Another option is pancakes; traditionally eaten to use up ingredients people might be giving up for Lent, they're still a Mardi Gras classic. You can make your own favorite recipe, use a mix, or try this Cajun Pancake recipe from the Louisiana Cajun Mansion B&B.

Get into the Mardi Gras groove

Delight your ears with some Louisiana Mardi Gras style--fill your playlist with cajun and zydeco music! There are tons of options online on sites like Spotify, and the Sioux City Public Library even has a few zydeco CDs that card holders can check out, including Choo Choo Boogaloo by Buckwheat Zydeco, and Cajun for Kids by Papillion.

Eat Cajun food

three bowls of gumbo sit next to lobster and other cajun food, with mardi gras beads strewn between the dishes
Photo by Lindsey Janies used with permission from Visit Lake Charles

Gumbo is the food of choice for Mardi Gras, especially if it's cold, according to our friends in Lake Charles. Gumbo is essentially a soup full of Cajun flavor. You can buy canned gumbo, but for the best flavor, try making your own, like this shrimp gumbo from Lake Charles, or The Gingered Whisk's Princess Tiana Gumbo. Not a gumbo fan? Try the Lightened-Up Grilled Chicken Cajun Penne from Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats. I also love adding a Cajun flair to mac & cheese by sautéing andouille sausage with some bell pepper and onion, and then adding that plus Cajun seasoning to my standard mac recipe. It's really easy, and my kids gobble it down!

Make a Mask

a person in a gator costume is elaborately decked out with a mask and mardi gras beads
Photo used with permission from Visit Lake Charles

Costumes and masks are always fun, but they're especially fun at Mardi Gras! Try decorating your own masks with your kids, using feathers, sequins, and whatever else makes you happy, then toss on some beads and hold your own Mardi Gras parade around your house!

 Road Trip

Two men stand in brightly colored Mardi Gras attire, and one is holding a chicken
An "Iowa Chicken Run" is part of the Mardi Gras fun in Lake Charles!
Photo by Lindsey Janies used with permission of Visit Lake Charles.

Going to Louisiana is peak Mardi Gras goals, and something on my personal bucket list is definitely to visit Lake Charles! They have parades for kids, pets, and everybody else, plus costume balls, beads, music, food, and so much more to celebrate Mardi Gras. Lake Charles is also a fun destination any day of the year, with over 75 festivals each year, a children's museum, Creole Nature Trail, a WWII ship you can play laser tag in, and tons of other fun. To find out more about Lake Charles, visit their website or connect with them on Facebook.

If Louisiana is too far for a trip on a Tuesday, try some deep-fried frog legs, poutine, po boys, and crawfish etouffee at the Acadian Grille in Omaha, or maybe have some blackened shrimp, alligator bites, fried okra, and jambalaya at Swamp Daddy's Cajun Kitchen in Sioux Falls. Both get rave reviews for their Cajun food and other delicious fare!

However you choose to spend it, I hope that on Mardi Gras, you and your family laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll!) Thank you to the Lake Charles CVB for the wonderful suggestions!


  1. I've never thought to celebrate Mardi Gras with kids! Great ideas!

  2. I just went to New Orleans a few weeks ago. Love the Mardi Gras ideas.


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