New Orleans is renowned as the mecca of the Mardi Gras celebration, but in recent years, the city has become overcrowded and expensive to visit this time of year. So if you’re hoping to blow some steam before Lent, but not your cash, the Crescent City is not your best option.
Contrary to popular belief, this historic and colorful celebration is not limited to just Louisiana. In fact, there’s French influence and Mardi Gras traditions in cities all across the country. While the types of celebrations and parties differ from city to city, you’ll still find masses of people dressed in purple, green, and gold. Take a look at these cities below to find some of the best places to visit for Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis has its own rich history and traditions for Mardi Gras, most notably the Soulard Mardi Gras festival in the historic Soulard neighborhood. This four-decades-old tradition brings in more than 500,000 people, and starts in mid-January and lasts until Fat Tuesday. The celebration kicks off with smaller events like the Cajun Cook-Off, Missouri Lottery 5k Run for Your Beads, but the 7-week long party concludes with St. Louis’ biggest party of the year — the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball and the Bud Light Grand Parade.
What to Do
The Mayor’s Ball is in the Rotunda of St. Louis City Hall and is a black-tie, Great Gatsby-esque evening with fancy food, cocktails, and entertainment. You can try to get your tickets ahead of time, which go for $150. Mayor Francis Slay has proudly proclaimed that St. Louis’ Mardi Gras is not just the second largest, but also the best in the country. You can buy your ticket to the Mayor’s Ball here.
The Bud Light Grand Parade is the biggest event of St. Louis’ Mardi Gras, which draws upwards of tens of thousands of people to Soulard. The parade features hundreds of floats made by groups known as Krewes, marching bands, and an endless amount of beads flying through the air. This event is completely free, and you can find more information on the Soulard Mardi Gras site.
Tip for Mardi Gras in St. Louis: Take an Uber or use public transit for your Mardi Gras in St. Louis. Parking can be challenging, so we’d suggest not renting a car for this trip.
Where to Stay
Soulard is the place to be if you want to place yourself smack dab in the middle of all the festivities. This area books up quickly several months out before the celebration, so be sure to book your spot in advance. Choosing Downtown as your basecamp is a great idea to be close to the action. You’ll be surrounded by excellent restaurants and all that downtown St. Louis has to offer, too! Benton Park is the western neighbor to Soulard. Look for great deals on single-family homes in this neighborhood. To the North of the celebration, you can find some great deals on apartments and condos. Look in the neighborhoods of Peabody Darst Webbe or Lafayette Square. Looking for a spot a bit further from the action? Check out The Ville for some great options on rentals.
Galveston is known for being home to the biggest Carnival celebration with a beachfront view and rivals St. Louis for having the second biggest party in the country. More than 300,000 people flock to this island city, which is home to a longstanding Mardi Gras tradition that brings locals and visitors together for several action-packed days. Tens of thousands of people gather in downtown Galveston to watch parades, live music, and of course, throw beads in the air.
You can buy general admission and balcony party tickets, as well as find information on all 20+ Galveston Mardi Gras parades on the Galveston Mardi Gras site.
What to Do
All great Mardi Gras celebrations include a long-winded list of parades, and Galveston delivers! Be sure to attend the Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade parade. Galveston also has a Golf Cart parade. The parade has its participants deck out their carts in the zaniest way possible. This is a good one for the whole family. There’s also a Jeep parade that’s brand new in 2022. Looking for all the parade details? Check out the official website and get information on all of the parades happening for your visit!
Parades aren’t the only way to enjoy this event. Galveston spares no expense on top-notch entertainment. Throughout the entire event, there is a lengthy list of bands and artists, including quite a few Latin music options. There is generally a free admission day, too. Look at the entertainment page on their website for information on when you can see the shows free of charge.
Tip for Mardi Gras in Galveston: Be sure to come dressed in something flashy. Sequins, costumes, big hats, and crazy wigs are all strongly encouraged! Be warned that backpacks are not allowed into the Mardi Gras Entertainment District. Get some other common questions answered here.
Where to Stay
Stay in the middle of all the action in the heart of Downtown Galveston. These rentals fill up quickly around Mardi Gras, so plan in advance. Snag a great deal on a condo in the East End, a beautiful historic neighborhood right next to Downtown. Also find lovely little homes in Lost Bayou, just south of Downtown. Pelican Island offers gorgeous, luxury homes just across the Intracoastal highway. The best deals are found in Midtown, a neighboring area to Downtown.
While most people associate Mardi Gras with the revelry of the French Quarter, the oldest carnival celebration as we know it actually happened in Mobile, Alabama. Similar to New Orleans and Louisiana, the gulf of Mississippi and Alabama also saw a heavy dose of early French exploration, which is why all along the coast, you’ll find streets and towns named after French explorers.
What to Do
More than 1 million travel to Mobile for the oldest party of its kind, which is spread over a few weeks with parades and balls. But Mardi Gras wouldn’t be celebrated the way it is today if it wasn’t for Joe Cain, who is credited with igniting Mobile’s pride for the holiday. In 1866, Cain dressed as an indian chief and paraded the streets while people joined in — this event sparked a new ritual in the town. Now, the Sunday before Fat Tuesday is known as Joe Cain Day, and is considered a can’t-miss parade.
Tip for Mardi Gras in Mobile: The Mobile Civic Center is a good point of reference during the festivities. Plan with your group ahead of time, and make this location that meet-up spot if anyone were to get lost.
Where to Stay
Find a luxury home in one of the wealthiest, most iconic neighborhoods in the whole city: Di Grado. Look for great deals on places downtown, close to the action. These neighborhoods can be a little dodgy, so take that into account if traveling with children. College Park has lovely homes for rent. Look for a condo in Carlen or Brookwood if you’re okay with commuting to the party.
San Diego, California
If you can’t make it to the South for Mardi Gras, even the West Coast has a worthy celebration for you to experience. You can satisfy your Southern cravings — whether it be daiquiris, beignets, or live music — even in San Diego. The Gaslamp Quarter is where all the festivities take place, and over the course of four days, you can take your pick of food and drink crawls, dancing, and masquerade parties. Look no further to find out where to sport your purple, gold, and green.
What to Do
As with all other cities, there is no shortage of parades in San Diego for Mardi Gras. Check out all the food tours available as well. Get your tickets to some of the afterparties going on in the area. Looking for more fun in San Diego? Check out Mission Beach while you’re in town. Ocean Beach is another great option for fun in the sun in this beautiful city. Planning a weekend trip to San Diego? Be sure to read through this complete weekend getaway guide.
Tip for Mardi Gras in San Diego: Get more great advice on planning your Mardi Gras trip to San Diego from this complete getaway guide.
Where to Stay
Both Mission Beach and Ocean Beach offer great rental options. Look for great deals in one of the many beach towns surrounding San Diego, too. La Jolla and Coronado are just a quick drive from the city and offer lovely condos and homes right on the water.
On the other side of the country from San Diego, the Sunshine State also runs deep with French culture. Pensacola, Florida is also home to one of the first Mardi Gras celebrations in the country. The tradition still continues today with the Pensacola Grand Mardi Gras Parade which draws in over 100,000 spectators.
What to Do
The parade winds through Downtown Pensacola and is still a lot like the original parade in 1875. The parade includes a king, queen, and royal court, hundreds of floats, several marching bands, and, of course, lots of green, gold, and purple beads. You can find more information on Pensacola’s biggest event of the year here.
Where to Stay
Find a beautiful home in the Tiger Point neighborhood. Choose a condo or apartment in the heart of downtown for a more urban feel. And finally, for the best deals in the area, check out East Hill and East Pensacola Heights.
Ready to Book?
Mardi Gras is alive and well outside of New Orleans. Whether you’re looking for something in the south, the West Coast, or even in Midwest, VacationRenter has got you covered. Ready to start planning your Mardi Gras trip? Get over to VacationRenter to book your dream spot before it’s too late!