Mardi Gras is fast approaching, and I for one cannot wait! I know New Orleans kinda has a market on the event, but I think the Barefoot Mardi Gras Parade in Corpus Christi has created quite a reputation for itself. If you have never been, you really should give it a go this year, and, as the title of the event implies: shoes are not required!
I tag along with a large group of friends each year, and let me tell you: they know how to party! My friends Mark and Melissa Beach (what an appropriate last name) are originally from New Orleans and they make it their life mission that we all have a fabulous time at this event. I spoke with Melissa to get some more detailed advice to help others plan their perfect day at the Barefoot Mardi Gras Parade. Here is what we came up with as your guide to the Barefoot Mardi Gras Parade on North Padre Island:
WHAT IS BAREFOOT MARDI GRAS?
The Barefoot Mardi Gras Parade is an event that attracts locals and visitors alike. The event is more than a parade, they have a King & Queens Ball, and a Kickoff Party prior to the parade. To learn more check out their website here. Go to one, or go to all events, but definitely attend the parade on Saturday. This year it is February 18, 2023.
WHERE/WHEN TO GO
The parade route begins at Whitecap Beach and travels to Padre Balli Park. All cars are required to park uniformly, head in first toward the water. There is a parking lot at the Briscoe King Pavilion and at the Michael J. Ellis parking lot. Those are both relatively short walks to the beach, with the Briscoe King Pavilion being closest. Michael J. Ellis does have public showers and bathrooms for use though.
The parade begins at 11:00 am, but I can assure you: you MUST arrive earlier than that. The crew I go with arrives at 5:00 am to secure a spot, yea you read that correctly. We obviously take this very seriously. It is safe to go between 8:00-9:00 am to secure a spot. Anytime after that, you can still attend, but parking a car on the beach will be more challenging. You can always utilize the parking lots mentioned above.
Melissa told me that in NOLA they have names for where you stand during a Mardi Gras Parade, such as “neutral ground side” or “sidewalk side.” This indicates which side of the floats you stand to watch the parade. At the North Padre beach parade, it is more like “water side” or “dune side.” Water side seems to be most popular, but depending on the weather, it can be annoying because of the tide, so you must pay attention to your vehicle. Dune side is great though because kids often stand on the dunes and slide down while they wait for the parade to start (but please beware of snakes)!
WHAT TO WEAR TO BAREFOOT MARDI GRAS
This event is BIG, rain or shine. I mean it. I go every year, and it has rained and been COLD most years, and the masses still show. The energy is no less exciting during bad weather years. This does mean you need to come prepared for the unpredictable Texas weather. Dress comfortably, you will likely be there for a few hours. Take a coat or sweatshirt, maybe a blanket. Some people bring gloves and hand warmers, it can get that cold, but not every year. Best to be prepared. If you take the kids, Melissa also suggests an extra shirt or set of clothes in case they get wet and then get cold. And though shoes are optional, take some just in case.
WHAT TO TAKE
My friend Melissa and her husband drive to Louisiana to get amazing boudin and a proper King’s cake. They also make homemade jambalaya in a giant cauldron on the beach (and it is INCREDIBLE). If you are not that committed, she suggests just bringing the following for a good time:
- A bucket- To catch loot! Parade floats will provide candy they throw to kiddos. She said this is not the same in NOLA, but a great addition to our beach version of the Mardi Gras.There will also be beads and other items for kids to enjoy.
- Beverages/Snacks– An ice chest of drinks and water for your crew and some easy to open snacks. Bagged chips and prepackaged items are easiest. You will likely be out a while, don’t underestimate the need for beverages and food!
- Speakers/Music- This is not necessary as there will be plenty of music for all to enjoy, but if you like a certain style, bring your speakers and play your fav tunes.
- Chairs- Bring a chair for each person in your group so you can sit and relax throughout the day.
- Sunscreen– Though the weather is usually overcast and cold and we all have sweat shirts on, sunscreen for faces is still ideal! Also, it is wishful thinking that maybe, JUST MAYBE, the weather will be sunny and bright!
- Warm Clothes- Already mentioned, but bring a jacket!
- Beach Permit– You can get this for $12 at any local gas station or CVS on the island.
KICK IT UP A NOTCH
Ok, so those are the BASIC recommendations for a fun time at the parade. If you are like Melissa and like to go all out, then here are some tips for elevating your parade experience!
- Tiki Hut- The Love Shack Tiki Hut is the newest and coolest way to spend time at the beach! You find the location and they bring the hut to you. It is decked out with everything you need for a great day at the beach: speakers, margarita machine, chairs, hammock swings, and so much more. Check out the Love Shack Tiki hut here and really elevate your Barefoot Mardi Gras experience. Bookmark this link for summer beach plans too!
- Porta Potties- Nature will call, and it will be crowded. Because Melissa and Mark love us so much, they rent us a porta potty. If you are taking a large crew, this is a great idea! Check out this porta potty rental website here. If you see a porta potty on the beach at the parade, it is likely a private rental, NOT a public use facility, so basically: not for you. There are sometimes public use porta potties at the Whitecap entrance of the beach, and public facilities at Michael J. Ellis parking lot.
- Canopy- If you are planning on being there most of the day, a canopy is a great addition. You can bring your own, or rent on here from Holiday Beach Rentals.
- Rent a Room: Avoid the traffic getting to the island and avoid getting up early! Live like a tourist for the day and get a condo or hotel room. I recommend a condo from Seascape Properties. There are many hotels and condos located within walking distance to the parade.
- Golf Cart: Golf carts are kind of a thing on the island. If you don’t own one, no problem! Rent one from Joyride Rentals, or one of the many other golf cart rental places on the island.
This event is also a great day for local Padre Island Businesses. Check out the North Padre Island Guide and select a local business to patron while you are on the island for the parade! We have many pizza places like Authentic New York Pizza (grab to go and take it to the beach), seafood options like Scuttlebutt’s and Surfside Sandwich Shoppe, or get a healthy protein shake at Third Coast Nutrition before the parade! There are also great places to shop before you head home, like Padre Island Art Gallery, Nauti T’s Creations, or Agave Beach Boutique.
We will be there. I hope you are too! Look for me in the Love Shack Tiki Hut, give Melissa, Mark, and I a shout out if you see us! Also, pray for SUNSHINE! But…bring a jacket…just in case.