Everybody knows the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States takes place on the streets of New Orleans. But New Orleans isn’t the only American city with French Catholic heritage, and you can find some surprisingly big celebrations if you know where to look.
Galveston is a town and barrier island that sits at the mouth of Galveston Bay near Houston. In this resort town, Mardi Gras is a two-week celebration with daily parades and parties, and is second only to New Orleans as the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in America. Of course, the fact that Houston is several times as big as the Louisiana town is one of the main reasons. The fact that there’s only one main highway to the island can cause traffic problems, but since Galveston is a resort town it has plenty of places to stay.
Head east of New Orleans instead of west and you’ll come across Biloxi, Mississippi. Like Galveston, Biloxi is a Gulf Coast resort town, but instead of having a major nearby city it has casino resorts and hotels along the beach. Who better to sponsor the excess of Mardi Gras? Biloxi also has a museum about the history of Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations. To experience the action you can check out one of these hotels, stay a few days and join in the parades and balls.
St. Louis doesn’t have the same level of Creole or Cajun heritage of the Gulf Coast, but its history as a French outpost goes back almost as far as the Gulf Coast settlements. The neighborhood of Soulard in particular comes alive for a whole five weeks of Carnival and combines St. Louis favorites such as blues music and pizza with Southern cooking, seafood, and a massive parade that takes place on the Saturday before Mardi Gras. On the other days you can join cooking contests, balls, other parades, and outdoor parties.
Mardi Gras parties aren’t just a French tradition, as any Brazilian will tell you. So if you want to experience a Brazilian-style Mardi Gras without using your passport, you can head to the Gaslight Quarter in San Diego, where the main parade features plenty of ladies in elaborate costumes along with New Orleans influences in the food and drinks you can get at the celebration. You can also go on a self-guided tour of Gaslight taverns and restaurants, so you can enjoy all the variety you can only experience during an American Mardi Gras celebration.
Needless to say, you can also find major Carnival celebrations throughout the rest of Louisiana and in cities such as Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Mobile, Alabama also makes a good place to enjoy Mardi Gras since it’s not much farther east than Biloxi. So if Fat Tuesday has come around again but you’ve already enjoyed the day in New Orleans, try visiting one of the other destinations on this list to find out just what you’ve been missing.