New Orleans is famous for its annual Mardi Gras festival, but right here in the great state of Texas, the folks down in Galveston will also take to the streets beginning this weekend for their own two-week celebration of feasting and merriment preceding the season of Lent.

With pretty much the entire state of Louisiana gearing up for the start of the granddaddy of all Mardi Gras in a couple of weeks, the 109th annual Galveston Mardi Gras is set to kick off Friday with a number of activities including concerts, parades, balcony parties, elegant balls and more.

More than 350,000 people are expected to converge on Galveston Island and the historic Strand District for what is the considered the third-largest Mardi Gras festival in the country. Other major celebrations are held in Mobile, Ala.; St. Louis, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; and San Diego, Calif.

Mardi Gras was first observed in Galveston in 1867. Following a sabbatical imposed in 1941 by war and hard times, the festival was restored in 1985 by Galveston-born preservationist and developer George P. Mitchell.

Along with more adult-related revelry that Mardi Gras brings, a number of family-oriented events are also planned for Family Gras! on Sunday, Feb. 23, including a coloring contest for kids 12 and under. Participants get the chance to ride on a parade float, attend a Family Gras! balcony party and be featured in the Galveston Daily News. Three winners will be announced from three different age groups. For more information, e-mail

Also planned for Family Gras! are three special parades:

Noon — Shriners Hospitals for Children & Sunshine Kids Parade

1:30 p.m. — Krewe of Barkus&Meoux Parade

3 p.m. — Mardi Gras Children’s Parade

For details on the Galveston Mardi Gras, including a full schedule of activities, ticket information, parking and nearby lodging, go to

Meanwhile, at Fort Hood’s Belton Lake Outdoor and Recreation Center (BLORA), at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, Sierra Beach is closed for the season, but a number of other family activities are available. Those include such things as camping sites, picnic pavilions, hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, paintball, 53-foot outdoor climbing wall and an archery range. Admission for military patrons is $3 per car; all others are $10 per vehicle.

The Outdoor Recreation Checkout Center, located within the garrison 14 miles southwest of BLORA, is available to authorized Family and MWR patrons, and offers such equipment rentals as kayaks, canoes, wake boards, skis, knee boards, tubes, camping equipment, pop-ups/travel trailers, accessories and more. Go to for more information.

Fort Hood’s Apache Arts and Crafts Center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for those interested in do-it-yourself projects, including picture frames, ceramics and ceramics birthday parties for kids. Also offered at the center, 761st Tank Battalion and 62nd Street, Building 2337, is screen-printing, embroidery and a wood shop.

The center has a Resiliency through Art program that offers a quiet area with art materials for soldiers to create “whatever comes to mind.” It is available free of charge to all active-duty soldiers during the week until 5 p.m. Soldiers may take their work with them, or leave it at the center to be displayed for others to see. For more information, contact MWR.

For some relaxing indoor entertainment, head on over to Central Texas College’s Mayborn Science Theater in Killeen and its ongoing lineup of new weekday matinees, classic movie showings and Laser Friday presentations. Saturday matinees run all day, and weekday matinees are on Wednesdays. Classic Movie Night is the third Friday of every month at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person, per show. For complete show descriptions, directions, membership information and more, go to

Also in Killeen, indoor athletic enthusiasts will find almost too many activities to mention all in one place at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. The complex at 2102 Jennifer Drive, between West Jasper Drive and Highway 190, includes not only trampoline-jumping, but such things as a Sky Rider indoor coaster, ropes course, climbing walls, obstacle course, tubes playground, trapeze, dodgeball and a slam dunk zone. For more information on the park, go to

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