When you hear about Mardi Gras celebrations, you probably think of New Orleans, which has almost become synonymous with the festivities of Shrove Tuesday. It’s thought that the earliest Carnival in North America took place in 1699 close to where New Orleans is located today. Mardi Gras might be an official state holiday in Louisiana, but there are other locations that do the holiday right.
In Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama, Mardi Gras is an official holiday. Some counties around the state allow employees to take a personal day of leave on Mardi Gras. Mobile, Alabama, is the place that is known for having the oldest organized celebrations and parades of Mardi Gras. Mystic societies in Mobile once hosted parades, formal balls and other activities for the day, but in 1871, the Mobile Carnival Association came together to coordinate activities. In 2011, more than one million people attended.
Celebrate in Louisiana
New Orleans might hold the most prominent celebration, but you can find parties in every major city in Louisiana. Here are a few:
- Alexandria – the party in this city is more family-friendly. Several parades are hosted each year, including a children’s parade.
- Baton Rouge – For people who love a parade, the capital of Louisiana hosts eight different parades for partygoers.
- Houma – With two parades on Mardi Gras, and another eight parades on the weekends leading up to Mardi Gras, you are sure to find plenty of activities in this city.
- Lafayette – This second-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the state includes all the activities you would find in New Orleans, but only a quarter of the people. It’s estimated that 1.2 million people attend the parties in New Orleans, but about 250,000 attend the one in Lafayette.
- Lake Charles – You’ll find plenty of family-friendly activities here, but the real draw is the museum that displays the world’s largest collection of Carnival costumes.
- New Roads – The New Roads parades include public participation, unlike the ones in New Orleans that tend to be more exclusive. Floats must be built fresh each year.
- Shreveport – Although Mardi Gras festivities date back to the years after the Civil War, when the Great Depression ended the celebrations, the parade tradition died out until about 1989.
Smaller celebrations can also be found in Thibodaux, Monroe, Mandeville and more. Louisiana is definitely the place to go when you want to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Although the date varies, Detroit is home to some great Mardi Gras celebrations inspired by the “krewes” in the South. French Canadians were some of the first settlers in the area, and today’s celebrations not only honor the traditions of Mardi Gras, but are now influenced by other ethnicities that live in Detroit.
The celebrations in Pensacola date back to 1874, but the first parties were largely unorganized and began by individuals who wanted to celebrate. Today, it’s organized by a civic group, and the celebration actually begins the week prior to Mardi Gras, with parades and masquerades held over the weekend instead of actually on Mardi Gras.
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis may have been founded by the French, but these settlers did not have the Catholic background with the roots of Lent and Mardi Gras. The celebrations in St. Louis began in the early 1980s as small local parties in neighborhood bars, but with corporate sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch and Southern Comfort, the parties grew. Today, St. Louis boasts the largest animal parade in North America.
Even More Towns Celebrate Mardi Gras
Many other major cities in the United States host Mardi Gras celebrations. There’s no reason you have to be preparing for Lent to enjoy the parades and masked balls of the day. Just party and have fun.