1. Start the party at breakfast: Get a sweet start to your Mardi Gras weekend with a batch of Nawlins-style beignets. Drop by Café Ventana in the Central West End for a box to go or whip up a batch at home with this recipe from Southern Living. Don't have enough patience to let dough rise? It's OK to cheat a little and use refrigerated pizza dough. (We won't tell.)
2. Dress up time: Mardi Gras is a colorful celebration, so break out the crayons and glitter for some crazy crafty masks. Kids Activities Blog has a fun and free printable mask. Pick up beads from the Dollar Store or let the kids make their own with straws and clay.
3. DIY parade: The best part of Mardi Gras is the parade, but you might not want to take your kids to Soulard until they're 21. So why not do the next best thing? Make your own parade. Decorate their wagon, trike, or bike with green, gold, and purple streamers and decide on a spectacular Krewe name. Invite the neighborhood kids to join in, and march or pedal around the block. (It's also a great way to work off all that sugar from the beignets.)
4. Mardi Gras slime: Take a break from the party action with a Mardi Gras STEM craft like this glittery purple, green, and gold slime. Check out Steve Spangler Science to really dig into the science of slime.
5. Morpho Mardi Gras: The butterflies are rocking Mardi Gras every weekend until the end of March. Head over to the Butterfly House to check out the Bug Parade in the main hall, thousands of Blue Morpho butterflies in flight, and then craft a butterfly-inspired mask.
6. Jammin' jambalaya: Keep the festivities going through dinner time with homemade jambalaya. Try this not-too-spic, kid-friendly jambalaya recipe from Simple Life and Home. It's a one-skillet meal with chicken and kielbasa and just a pinch of spice. The shrimp is totally optional.
7. King Cake: Ready for dessert? Then dig into a traditional King Cake. You can find tasty cakes ready to roll at local bakeries like McArthur's Bakery Cafe, Lubeley's Bakery, or Federhofer's Bakery. All three bakers have cakes ready for pickup; but if you want a special flavor, you'll need to call in an order.