Mardi Gras is February 28. But it’s not always easy making it to the Big Easy for true New Orlean-style celebration. Still, there are plenty of gatherings outside of the Big Easy where you can get your horn-blowing, bead-tossing party on.
St. Louis, MO: Sure, there’s a parade. (This year’s theme is cinema.) But that’s just the beginning of the merriment, which includes more than a dozen events throughout the city, starting in January. From the Snowman Softball Tournament to Wiener Dog Derby to the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball, the Gateway City’s celebration offers something for everyone. Dress warm!
Breckenridge, CO: This time of year, folks in this winter resort town are bundled up in more than just ski jackets and mittens. Breck plays host to Mardis Gras revelers who don glittery masks, feather boas and beads for the annual Mardi Gras parade. The festivities also include free hurricane drinks, a free concert at Riverwalk Center and a gumbo cook-off to to keep everyone warm.
Mobile, AL: Show respect for the OG of MG. Mobile hosted the first official U.S. Mardis Gras celebration back in 1703. Now, the party gets started on Joe Cain Day—the Sunday before Fat Tuesday—which honors the father of Mobile’s modern-day Mardis Gras celebration with a 5k, procession (don’t call it a parade) and more. Continue the reveling on Mardi Gras proper with multiple parades (okay, now you can call them parades) and a visit to the Mobile Carnival Museum.
Orlando, FL: Okay, so this parade is about as authentic as Rapunzel’s hair extensions. But where else do you have so many chances to catch a Mardi Gras parade? Universal Studios Florida holds its extravaganza—complete with floats, beads and Cajun food for sale, plus occasional A-list concerts—every night from Feb 4–Mar 17. For some grown-up fun afterward, head to Universal CityWalk’s nightclubs.
Burlington, VT: Buttoned-up New England might seem like an unlikely place for Mardi Gras mayhem, but bundle up for this celebration that holds its own. The festivities include a Kegs and Eggs breakfast, circus performers, live music, photo booth, costume contest and more. The main event is the family-friendly parade, where bystanders jockey for position to catch beads, MoonPies and even gourmet chocolate truffles.
San Diego, CA: The city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter gives NOLA’s French Quarter a run for its money, with an estimated 20,000 revelers packing the streets on Fat Tuesday. The parade includes floats, stilt walkers, samba dancers and other entertainment, not to mention VIP restaurant packages on the night of the event. Kick things off early during the February 25 Big Easy Bites & Booze Tour, which features New Orleans-inspired food and drinks at 20 downtown San Diego restaurants.
Galveston, TX: This year’s Texas-sized celebration extends from February 17–28 and spreads from historic downtown to the beach. The festivities range from family-friendly parades to electronic dance parties to a 5k to a golf cart parade to balcony parties to masked balls and more.