OK, so the main event isn't 'til next weekend, and Fat Tuesday isn't 'til a few days after that, but let's face it: Mardi Gras kicks off this weekend, and everyone in St. Louis knows it. Queue up for the Beggin' Pet Parade or thrill to the Wiener Dog Derby, and then start figuring out where you'll be on February 25. We've got all the best deals below.
5K Run for Your Beads
Get your exercise, St. Louis Mardi Gras style. Show up in your best purple, gold and green costume and race your way through the historic Soulard neighborhood. In true Mardi Gras spirit, pit stops along the race route will feature complimentary beer and hurricanes (for runners 21 and older). All registrants will receive a limited edition 5K Run for Your Beads t-shirt. Saturday, Feb. 18, 9 a.m. $30 pre-registration; $35 race day. Lafayette Ave. & 8th Street, mardigras.com/events/
Beggin’ Pet Parade
Join grand marshals Anna Elise Parks and Lisa Hart of KTVI for one of the largest pet parade in the world. As the Guinness World Record holder for “Most Dogs in Costumed Attire,” the Beggin’ Pet Parade features thousands of dressed-up pets and plenty of highlights, including a coronation ceremony for the best pet costumes, a wiener dog derby, and a Beggin’ sampling for pets. A required registration fee of $10 for each pet participating in the parade benefits the Open Door Animal Sanctuary. All other activities are free to parade spectators. Sun., Feb. 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Free. 314-982-3523, www.begginpetparade.com. Soulard neighborhood, Allen Ave. and Menard Street.
Wiener Dog Derby
If your dog is more of a speedster than a stroller, the Wiener Dog Derby starts at 2 p.m. at Wiener Stadium (Lafayette Ave. and S. Ninth Street). There are four divisions based on age, with the Wiener Wannabe class open to non-dachshunds small enough to fit in the starting box. Both events are free for spectators, though it’s $10 to enter your mutt in either the parade or the races. Sun., Feb. 19, 2 p.m., free for spectators. Soulard Market Park, Lafayette Ave. & S. 9th Street.
MARDI GRAS WEEKEND
Sidney Street Shakers Mardi Gras Party
Thu., Feb. 23, 8 p.m., $6. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis, 314-773-3363.
Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball
Hosted by the Mardi Gras Foundation in the rotunda of St. Louis City Hall, this black-tie gala features food, cocktails, dancing, and spectacular entertainment. Mayor’s Ball proceeds benefit the Mardi Gras Foundation, which has made community grants to improve Soulard and downtown since 2003. Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. $150 general admission. St. Louis City Hall, 1200 Market Street.
The Grand Parade
The parade starts at 11 a.m. at Busch Stadium, but things really kick off when the lead marcher hits Soulard. The entire neighborhood becomes a street party that lasts late into the night, with drink and food specials at most bars, music in the streets and beads flying about hither and yon. Admission to the parade and Soulard is free, but bring money for party fuel. Sat., Feb. 25, 11 a.m., www.mardigrasinc.org. Anheuser Busch, 1 Busch Place, St. Louis, 800-342-5283.
High Heel Drag Race
If you think running is hard, try doing it in high heels. Once you are done taking in the sights of the Mardi Gras Parade, head on over to Nadine's Gin Joint (1931 South Twelfth Street; www.mardigrasinc.org) at 3 p.m. today where full-drag performers runs don their best attire and heeled footwear for an entertaining race in Soulard. But there are a few bonuses this year. There's an all-genders heat, where you can wear your shoes of choice for a relay race, and a "boys in heels" category where the men do not have to wear a dress, but need heels. There will be lots of running, but probably more balancing. Admission is free, and winners get prizes and beads, of course.
Colt Ford at Country Gras
Get ready for a Mardi Gras Party like no other, Country Gras. On Sat., Feb. 25, an all-inclusive party at Social House in Soulard stars 93.7 The Bull featuring Colt Ford. Sat., Feb. 25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., all-inclusive tickets starting at $55, 314-241-3023, firstname.lastname@example.org, countrygras.com. Social House Soulard, 1551 S. 7th Street.
Mardi Gras 2017
Breakfast buffet 8 a.m.-10 a.m. for $8.99. Shuttle service to parade runs 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Shuttles at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. for $40 (ticket price includes early shuttle, breakfast buffet and unlimited hurricanes or Abita Mardi Bock until the shuttle leaves). Shuttle service runs continuously every hour until 5:30 p.m. First come, first served with $10 receipt. Drink and food specials all day. Live music by the Zydeco Crawdaddies 1 p.m. -5 p.m. and Rogers & Nienhaus 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (no cover). Sat., Feb. 25, 8 p.m.-midnight, 314-968-0061, email@example.com, hwy61roadhouse.com/. Hwy 61 Roadhouse and Kitchen, 34 S. Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves.
Mardi Gras at Big Daddy’s
Big Daddy’s on the Landing is the official Cruzan Rum Late Night Headquarters of Mardi Gras. Check it out all week for “the Best Mardi Gras Experience in the Whole Wide World.” Big Daddy’s offers affordable parking and a free shuttle to and from Mardi Gras. Shuttle runs from 8 a.m. ‘til midnight all day and night. Fri., Feb. 24, 9 p.m.-3 a.m.; Sat., Feb. 25, 8-3 a.m.; Tue., Feb. 28, 9 p.m.-3 a.m., free shuttle to/from Mardi Gras 8 a.m. ‘til midnight, 314-621-6700, firstname.lastname@example.org. Big Daddy’s-the Landing, 118 Morgan Street.
The Official Fireball Mardi Gras Party
All-inclusive package from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Steve Ewing (lead singer from the Urge) starts at 1:30 p.m. after the parade on the heated, covered party patio. DJs spin from 10 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. Sat., Feb. 25, 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m., early bird special promo code: FIREBALL for 10% off all-inclusive come as you go pass, 314-771-3066, email@example.com, soulard.bigdaddystl.com/big-daddys-events/. Big Daddy’s-Soulard, 1000 Sidney Street.
Celebrate Mardi Gras in Maplewood with hurricanes, sazeracs, vieux carres, jambalaya, gumbo and etouffee. Feb. 24-28. Boogaloo, 7344 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314-645-4803.
Duke’s, the Soulard sports bar, is teaming up with Jim Beam and Red Bull to bring the ultimate all-inclusive Mardi Gras “Duke’s Tent” experience. For $65, Duke’s tent tickets include all day in-and-out access to a heated tent in the heart of Soulard, with all-you-can-drink signature cocktails and beer. A lineup of national and local performers includes headliner Big Once from Chicago, as well as St. Louis legends DJ Mahf, Nappy DJ Needles, & VThom. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit facebook.com/DukesinSoulard.
Riley’s Pub has drink specials all day, with a Mardi Gras shuttle bus every hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat., Feb. 25, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Riley’s Pub, 3458 Arsenal St., St. Louis, 314-664-7474.
Keeton’s opens at 8 a.m. with a breakfast buffet. Ride in style to Mardi Gras on the shuttle bus; the first bus leaves at 8:45 a.m. Sat., Feb. 25, 8 a.m., $10 for breakfast and bus. Keeton’s Double Play, 4944 Christy Blvd., St. Louis, 314-351-6000.
Molly’s in Soulard
Enjoy 12 hours of open bar (shots excluded) with seven bars and one of the largest patios in St. Louis with heated tents, multiple DJs, lunch and dinner buffets. Sat., Feb. 25, 10:30 a.m.- 10:30 p.m. For VIP cabanas, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Molly’s in Soulard, 816 Geyer Ave., 314-241-6200.