Observing Mardi Gras as a historic, honored and age-old tradition might not register for most of us. After all, this isn’t exactly your grandmother’s holiday (unless your grandma likes to get crazy and collects beads by…well, you know). These days, we honor Fat Tuesday with a grandiose party that trumps all the rest, using booze and beads as our spirit guides.
The celebrations are massive and widespread. And don’t think that they’re limited just to Tuesday, February 12. As a cultural hub, San Diego has two carnival-style celebrations on the Saturday before, one representing Brazil and the other, Italy. Dig out your feathers…it’s time to have some fun.
Discover the top Mardi Gras celebrations of 2013.
21st Annual San Diego Brazil Carnival Mardi Gras – Saturday, February 9
Before you completely lose your beads at this year’s Mardi Gras celebrations, celebrate South American-style. Grab your feathers, stretch your glutes and get ready for some serious booty-shakin’ all night long at the 21st Annual San Diego Brazil Carnival on Saturday, February 9. Starting up at 8:30pm at the San Diego Museum of Art Sculpture Court, the fantasies unleash with hot Samba beats, sexy Samba dancers, electrifying Capoeira performances and high-energy, nonstop Brazilian music. For more sensory-overload, they’ll feature an exciting Batucada-style parade through the dance floor as well as a free raffle entry to win a round trip to Brazil. General admission will grant access to the full bar and one huge dance floor. If you’re serious about a night of reckless Samba, go big with VIP admission that will include reserved seating and a table for eight, photo ops with the Samba dancers, and access to the Rio Lounge.
$25-$75. 9pm. 21 and up. San Diego Museum of Art; brazilcarnival.com.
10th Annual Little Italy Carnevale – Saturday, February 9
For another cultural celebration, the Little Italy Association presents their 10th Annual Little Italy Carnevale, held on Saturday, February 9. Established to reflect the traditional Carnevale in Venice, the evening with feature a festive mix of entertainment, Italian grub, and hundreds of attendees dressed in traditional Venetian Carnevale regalia. Find the fun on India Street between W. Fir and W. Cedar Streets, from 5pm to 9pm. Meander past stilt walkers, mask-making for kids and shopping options, all highlighting the unique Italian culture alive in San Diego.
Free to attend. 5pm. All ages. India Street between W. Fir and W. Cedar; littleitalysd.com.
19th Annual Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras – Tuesday, February 12
This massive block party is one of the most well-known Mardi Gras celebrations in the city, a 19-year old tradition that features top talent, hundreds of attendees and endless amounts of colorful beads. This year, they’re unmasking a new look and a new partnership with Belly Up Productions, The Gator by the Bay and McFarlane Promotions. Headlining entertainment will feature Ozomatli, DJ Z-Trip, Karl Denson, Gaslamp Killer, Mikey Beats and Little Hurricane, among others performing on four outdoor stages and musical processions throughout the event. The extravaganza will start at 5pm and will shut down all of the south end of the Gaslamp from Market to L Streets until 11pm. New this year, guests will be granted in and out privileges so they can refuel at top San Diego restaurants. Dinner packages for $50 are available at participating restaurants such as Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, Gaijin Noodle + Sake House, Dick’s Last Resort, Sevilla and more. Gaslamp Mardi Gras is one of the most anticipated festivals on the west coast, with over 40,000 expected to be in attendance.
$40 in advance and $50 at the door. 5pm. 21 and up. Gaslamp Quarter; gaslamp.org
See all the photos from last year’s Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras
12th Annual Hillcrest Mardi Gras – Tuesday, February 12
Over in Uptown, the 12th Annual Hillcrest Mardi Gras Street Party will envelop University Avenue between First and Fourth Avenues. Starting at 6pm, attendees will launch into a festive night of beads and debauchery as live entertainment takes over the streets. The Hillcrest affair will also feature food and drink for purchase, an exclusive VIP party area and the return of Rich’s Dance Stage with a hot DJ lineup. Go VIP to secure express entry, a private reception area and private bathrooms.
$15 advance ($20 day of). $50 VIP ($75 day of). 6pm. 21 and up. University Ave. between First Ave. and Fifth Ave.; mosuniverse.com
The French Connection – Tuesday, February 12
The French Connection allows party-goers VIP access to the top ten Mardi Gras club celebrations downtown. Guests with a French Connection pass will get front of the line admission, food and beverage treats, welcome shots and live DJ performances at the best nightclubs and bars on Fifth Avenue, such as the Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse, 207, Belo, Brick + Mortar, Onyx Room, Analog, Vin de Syrah and more.
$29. 5pm. 21 and up. gaslampmardigras.com
Insider Tip: Stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, just steps away from the Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras. Two special promotional packages available right now give guests two GA tickets to Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp and VIP access for two to the Official Mardi Gras After-Party in 207 along with contemporary accommodations. Get details here.