It only happens once a year, but people from all over flock to the Gulf Coast to celebrate Mardi Gras. There are beads, masks, costumes and parades galore. Many people think of New Orleans as the birthplace of Mardi Gras but French settlers organized the first Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile. The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans in 1837 and is now considered the place where the good times roll.

If you are staying in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach this Mardi Gras season, there are many ways to celebrate. You can line the streets to yell at passing floats for beads, you can attend a Mardi Gras ball or enjoy a Mardi Gras boat parade.

Here are 5 parades you won’t want to miss in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

1. LuLu’s is hosting the 3rd Annual Birds of Paradise Mardi Gras Ball on February 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets include open bar, music by the Tip Tops and dinner. Guests must be 21 or older to attend this event.

2. The Mystical Order of Mirams rolls down Perdido Beach Boulevard on February 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Orange Beach.

3. The Mystic of Pleasures starts in Orange Beach on February 14 at 5:30 p.m. on Perdido Beach Boulevard.

4. Two family-friendly parades make their way down Main Street at The Wharf on February 14. The Children and Pet Parade begins at 4 p.m. and the traditional float parade begins at 6 p.m. All kids are invited to jump in the free bounce houses and the nightly light show will feature the sounds and sights of Mardi Gras.

5. Three parades occur on Fat Tuesday, February 17:
• The Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade starts at 10 a.m. on Highway 59 from Clubhouse Drive to the Main Public Beach by Hangout.
• The Orange Beach Mardi Gras Parade begins at 2 p.m. on Perdido Beach Boulevard and ends at Alabama Highway 161.
The Annual LuLu’s Mardi Gras Boat Parade will depart from The Wharf at 3 p.m. and travel along the Intracoastal Waterway to LuLu’s. It is also LuLu’s 16th anniversary so indulge in a slice of complimentary cake to celebrate.

Freelance writer, Karon Warren recently shared her tips with Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism on how to Have a Family-Friendly Mardi Gras on Alabama Beaches. Please read her blog post and let us know how you celebrate Mardi Gras.

Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)