Mardi Gras maskFat Tuesday offers celebrations all over Central Florida and can be a fun time to get out with friends on a week night. Many vacationers and locals will flock to the normal venues of Universal, SeaWorld, Downtown Orlando and Disney, but this Tuesday, I’ll be in the quaint town of New Smyrna Beach (NSB) for their Mardi Gras parade and street celebration.

It’s not the big fanfare you expect from the ‘big boys’ in the region, but a small-town parade is often what many vacationers would treasure should they happen to stumble upon it. NSB’s parade is all of about 7 blocks long down beach side’s Flagler Avenue. The parade which starts at 7:00 p.m. will consist of a string of residents on floats, golf carts, antique cars, Segways and on foot; throwing out candy, beads and showing off some crazy outfits. Since Mardi Gras also happens to fall during Race Week, the famous Budweiser Clydesdale Horses will be making an appearance in this years’ parade.

The fact that many don’t think of New Smyrna Beach to celebrate Mardi Gras is exactly why you’ll be glad you did. It’s not overly crowded, it’s fun, it’s real, it’s inexpensive, small-town America. People are friendly and downright neighborly. There many wonderful restaurants to dine at before the parade, plenty of bars to party at after the parade, and hotels and B&B’s to stay at overnight.  ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: Come early and expect to walk a few blocks due to the lack of parking. The shops are wonderful and easy to spend a few hours browsing while waiting on the parade. Do not miss Dolly’s Gift Shop at 405 Flagler Ave. I could spend an hour in that shop easily.

Spend this Tuesday in NSB and be sure to catch some beads and a piece of small town charm. Wednesday will be here soon enough and you can go back to the crowds, standing in line and fighting the traffic.