New Orleans is renowned as the mecca of 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.
5 Places Outside of New Orleans to Celebrate Mardi Gras
- 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.
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.
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- Galveston, Texas. 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 for 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.
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- Mobile, Alabama. 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. Similarly 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.
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 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.
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- San Diego, California. If you can’t make it to the South for 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.
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- Pensacola, Florida. 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.
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.
Want to experience a long lasting tradition? Check out Pensacola rentals on VacationRenter