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8 Great Places to Celebrate Mardi Gras in the U.S.​

Where to find Fat Tuesday fun beyond New Orleans (and beyond Fat Tuesday)

spinner image Harlequin float in Mardi Gras Parade at Universal Studios
Universal Studios
VIAVAL / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Loosen your belts and grab strings of green, purple and gold beads. Mardi Gras season is in full swing in February, a time to party hearty and eat your fill of festive fare before the start of the Christian season of Lent. You can travel to Rio de Janeiro or Venice, Italy, for boisterous bashes, but consider one of these celebrations near you.  

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New Orleans

(Jan. 6–Feb. 21) ​​

spinner image View of a home decorated to celebrate Mardi Gras
ERIKA GOLDRING / GETTY IMAGES

The nation’s best known carnival rolls out days of parades and entertainment culminating in Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday” on Feb. 21. Revelers on Bourbon Street pound potent rum and fruit-juice-based Hurricane cocktails in plastic go-cups. Dozens of social clubs called krewes strut their stuff down St. Charles Avenue and elsewhere, tossing trinkets to screaming crowds. The Zulu krewe hands out painted coconuts. Other coveted souvenirs include hand-decorated, sequined high-heeled shoes thrown by the Krewe of Muses. Keep an eye out for a troupe of Elvis impersonators on motorized scooters. If you can’t visit in February, tour the workshops at Mardi Gras World ($22; $17 for seniors), where elaborate floats and costumes are made and stored. 

Mobile, Alabama

(Feb. 3-21)​​

spinner image clowns pass out candy and confetti during a mardi gras parade in mobile alabama
Visit Mobile

Billed as the original U.S. Mardi Gras bash, this Gulf Coast blowout is a family-friendly affair launched by French Catholic pioneers in 1703. The port city’s streets come alive with dozens of parades starting about two weeks before the big day of indulgence. A quirky feature: the tossing of chocolate-topped marshmallow Moon Pies. Other throws from floats representing Mobile’s “mystic societies” might include peanuts and stuffed animals. Locals get into the spirit by decorating porches and front yards like Mardi Gras floats. Tourists can learn more about the fete’s history and view costumes, crowns and floats from years past at the Mobile Carnival Museum ($8; $6 for AARP members).

spinner image Carnaval Parade in San Francisco, California,
NITISH NAHARAS / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

St. Louis

(Jan. 6–Feb. 18)​​

spinner image St. Louis Mardi Gras Parade
DARREN DWAYNE FRAZIER / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

The whimsical Soulard Mardi Gras, begun in 1979 in the city’s historic Soulard neighborhood by merry residents, is a standout on the St. Louis event calendar. Appropriately, soulard means “drunkard” in French. Festivities include a costumed 5K run with beer at pit stops and a bustling Budweiser Light party tent (Anheuser-Busch is headquartered in St. Louis). A star attraction: the Purina Pet Parade, winner of a Guinness World Record in 2012 for most dogs in costumes (1,326). Best dressed dogs and cats are named to the Court of the Mystical Krewe of Barkus. That’s followed by the Wiener Dog Derby, in which dachshunds compete in categories from Cocktail Wieners (up to 4 years old) to Ball Park Franks (8 years and older). The big event is the Mardi Gras parade, with an average 75 krewes on display. Last year’s winners included the Topless Mafia Jeep Krewe (vehicles, not riders, had no tops) and the Gateway Precision Lawn Chair Krewe, which executed choreographed routines using folding lawn chairs.

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Orange Beach, Alabama

 (Feb. 18, 20 and 21)

spinner image a float with a giant fish in the orange beach mardi gras parade
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

The beach vacation destination about an hour’s drive southeast of Mobile dishes up a down-home version of Mardi Gras. Watch krewes let beads and baubles fly on Perdido Beach Boulevard on Feb. 18. On Feb. 20, check out the “MoonPies on Main” parade at The Wharf entertainment district. An evening cavalcade of floats is preceded by processions of kids and pets. Fat Tuesday’s downtown parade involves dozens of local groups, including the Orange Beach High School band and cheerleaders and krewes such as the Sirens of the Sea and Order of Disorder. In nearby Gulf Shores, LuLu’s (owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy) hosts a Fat Tuesday boat parade. Watch the parade from LuLu’s outdoor deck and enjoy made-from-scratch seafood gumbo and the Crazy Sista’s Crab Dip.

San Diego

(Feb. 17, 18 and 21)

spinner image Mardi Gras performers in San Diego
GASLAMP EVENTS

Gaslamp Mardi Gras is basically a raucous bar hop. Revelers can buy tickets online, starting at $29 a night. Dress to impress in carnival colors of green, purple and gold, and swarm 20 clubs and watering holes along Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. A family-friendly Mardi Gras began on Jan. 21 and runs on weekends through Feb. 26 at SeaWorld San Diego, featuring music, Cajun specialties such as beignets, jambalaya and po’ boy sandwiches, face painting and the chance to join an exuberant parade. The Gator by the Bay! festival at Spanish Landing Park is scheduled for May 11-14 this year. It boasts seven stages of entertainers, including Louisiana zydeco stars. Expect dancing, Cajun cooking demos and New Orleans-themed food.

Orlando, Florida

(Select days, Feb. 4–April 16)​​

spinner image Stilt performers in Mardi Gras Parade at Universal Studios
VIAVAL / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Fun lovers of all ages flock to the Universal Studios Florida theme park for its popular Mardi Gras experiences delivered over the course of two months. This year, book a ride on a float and sling beads to the crowd, plus savor a three-course meal at park restaurants for about $90 a person. The 2023 theme is “International Flavors of Carnaval,” with sampling of treats from the bayou to Brazil. Weekend music headliners include 3 Doors Down and Sean Paul. Admission is included with theme park tickets; food and beverages are purchased separately.​​​

Galveston, Texas

(Feb. 10-12 and 17-21)​​

spinner image Mardi Gras revellers on parade floats in Galveston, Texas
AMERICA / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

One of the country’s largest Mardi Gras spectacles runs over two weekends and ends on the day of Mardi Gras. There are two dozen parades, including the Feb. 10 Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade. Anyone can decorate a parasol or brolly and march, as spectators cheer from decorated balconies in the city’s entertainment district. Be warned: You may get pulled into the merriment. The seaside resort’s bacchanal includes weekend concerts, a 5K with participants wearing jester hats, a decorated golf cart cavalcade, party bus procession, kids parade and a pet parade dubbed the Krewe of Barkus and Meoux. Other events include Fiesta Gras!, honoring the city’s Latino heritage with two Feb. 12 parades featuring mariachi bands, Miss Galveston Latina, dance teams and more. The jollity ends with a frenetic Fat Tuesday display showcasing the city’s krewes, dance teams and marching bands.​​ ​

San Francisco

(Feb. 21, May 27 and 28)

spinner image Carnaval Parade in San Francisco, California,
NITISH NAHARAS / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Looking for more Mardi Gras-style celebrations with Latin flair? Forty-five-year-old Carnaval San Francisco hosts three events in the Mission District. On Fat Tuesday, musicians playing music from soca to samba drums serenade at venues around the district. Attendees are encouraged to dress up and dance. You’ll have to wait till May 28 for the Grand Parade, which honors Caribbean, Latin American and African diasporic roots and typically features more than 3,000 participants and draws more than 400,000 spectators each year. Sunday, May 28, brings more live music, food and vendors to the celebration.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 23, 2022. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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