Mardi Gras: Top 9 Cities Not Named New Orleans to Celebrate Fat Tuesday

Feb. 18, 2012 - Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S - Patrons take time out of their celebration for a quick photo showing off their cost
AlamyPatrons take time out of their celebration for a quick photo showing off their costumes during the 2012 Mardi Gras parade and festival at the Soulard District in St. Louis, Missouri.
It's Mardi Gras season -- time to blow some steam and overindulge before the Christian season of Lent begins. Think New Orleans is the only place to throw some beads? You need to get out a bit more.

1. Mobile, Alabama

Widely recognized as the birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States, the bonne temps have been rolling in Mobile since 1703. Today, nearly four dozen parades in less than two weeks celebrate that legacy. If you want authenticity, it gets no better than Mobile Bay.

2. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

These spots share seven family-friendly parades in just a few short days. Kids and pets even have their very own parade. A parade just for boat lovers comes courtesy of Jimmy Buffet's crazy sister's restaurant: Lulu's in Gulf Shores.

3. Mississippi's Gulf Coast

Here, the moon pies fly all along Highway 90, and one of the best spots to watch the parades is from the front porch of the Blessey Chateau Bed and Breakfast Inn. Plus, you can quiz owners Katherine and Walter about their years as King and Queen of the Gulf Coast Mardi Gras. There are bicycle parades, krewe parades, military parades and jambalaya cook-offs from Pascagoula to Gulfport to Pass Christian to Bay St. Louis. The folks in N'awlins got nothing on their neighbors to the east.

4. Lake Charles, Louisiana

Any Louisiana community worth its crawdads has some sort of Fat Tuesday celebration, but visit Lake Charles anytime of the year to learn that Mardi Gras is more than parades and beads. The Imperial Calcasieu Museum, the largest Mardi Gras museum in the United States, tells the global history of the celebration, along with the best recipes for King Cake and showcases 1,000 costumes. As you wander through the displays, feel free to dance a little fais do-do. Don't worry about having rhythm. Painted footsteps on the floor will tell you where your feet are supposed to be.

5. St. Louis, Missouri

Celebrating 250 years since the French founded this city just upriver from N'awlins, St. Louis is home to the second biggest celebration in the United States. The Soulard district is ground zero for more than a month of activities, including a Taste of Soulard restaurant crawl. Pet parades crown the family friendly events, but keep the kids away from Soulard on actual Fat Tuesday. McGurk's and Molly's among the best bars to grab a hurricane.

6. Galveston Island, Texas

It's not the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the country, but it's the biggest in Texas, so it's pretty darned big. They've had the fever for more than 100 years on the island and party for at least two weeks. The best part of its parade: more than 2000 umbrella dancers help the good times roll along the beach.

7. San Diego, California

What does a West Coast city named for a Spanish flagship know about a French celebration? Plenty, as it turns out. Where Mardi Gras celebrations in many cities carry on for weeks, San Diego's Gaslight District puts its best effort into the one Tuesday. In addition to parades, beads and alcohol, you'll enjoy any number of street performers including fire eaters, stilt walkers and things you just may have to see to believe.

8. Venice, Italy

Mardi Gras is known as Carnival in much of the world with unique cultural traditions from the Caribbean to much of South America. However, for two distinct Mardi Gras experiences, book a quick trip to Venice where it's called Martedi Grasso. Beads are not a requirement for celebration as much as finely crafted porcelain or glass masks. Everyone wears them, a tradition that can be traced to the 12th century. Martedi Grasso in Venice ends with a silent parade of candlelit boats up the Grand Canal at midnight.

9. Sydney, Australia

Mardi Gras celebration has become synonymous with Gay Pride in the Southern Hemisphere. Parties take place around the city for the better part of a month, but the big parade is on Sat., March 1. Best part of Mardi Gras in Australia –- it's summer down under!

Follow Diana Lambdin Meyer at or on Twitter @mojotraveler.

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