Mardi Gras, but with a Pensacola twist! Floating boat parades, flying Moonpies and more.…don’t miss the annual Pensacola Mardi Gras celebration!
In 1874, Pensacola residents saw all the fun their Gulf Coast neighbors were having celebrating Fat Tuesday, and decided to start their own Mardi Gras. Now, more than a century later, the Pensacola Mardi Gras Grand Parade is one of the biggest celebrations on the Gulf Coast with up to 100,000 people attending.
For nearly 150 years, people have lined the streets of Pensacola each winter in hopes of catching a string of shining beads, a handful of candy, or the most coveted throw off all, the Moonpie. (Moonpies, for the uninformed, are chocolate dipped marshmallow pies. They also come in vanilla, strawberry and banana-dipped, but chocolate is king.)
Winding through Historic Downtown Pensacola — the event includes a king, queen and royal court, about 250 floats, marching bands and dance teams, an avalanche of green, gold and purple beads and balloons — all manned by about 6,000 people. It is quite a bedazzled spectacle. (Heads up: the Grand Parade can last more than four hours from beginning to end, so wear comfortable shoes and bring drinks and snacks.)
Although the Pensacola Beach Mardi Gras celebration is a fledgling — its first parade took place in February 1980, more than 100 years after Downtown Pensacola’s — you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful parade backdrop. Parents with young kids flock to this family-friendly parade that parallels the sugar-white sands of the beach. (Quick tip: plan ahead for travel time on the bridges if you don’t plan to spend the day at the beach… But why wouldn’t you? It’s the perfect time of year to sprawl on the sand.)Pensacola’s parade celebrations aren’t just limited to land either. As the saying goes, “whatever floats your boat,” right? Each year, the Pirates of Lost Treasure host their own unique Mardi Gras celebration with the Pirate Flotilla – an annual floating boat parade that travels down the Intracoastal Waterway in Perdido Key. (FYI – the flotilla starts at Hub Stacey’s and ends at the legendary Flora-Bama Bar, where the unofficial party continues afterward.)