The most-popular and raucous Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. can be found in the beaded and boozy French Quarter of New Orleans where music, parades, picnics and floats fill the streets in the weeks leading up the Ash Wednesday. But the Big Easy isn’t the only place to celebrate the traditionally Catholic holiday. Consider these four U.S. cities that are giving New Orleans a run for its King Cake.
Mardi Gras in Mobile
Southern grandeur and French traditions take center stage in Mobile’s 50-plus parades where Moon Pies complement traditional plastic Mardi Gras beads and candies thrown from floats. Lucky visitors may score an invitation to one of several exclusive balls held by resident secret societies, the first of which was formed in the 1830s after a series of late-night drunken mishaps involving cowbells and garden rakes. Late-night revelers at modern balls dress in “costume de rigeur,” meaning gentleman must wear black tuxedo tails and white accoutrements, while ladies must wear floor-length gowns. Unless you’re a member of the society, don’t wear a mask, or you could be turned away at the door.
Mardi Gras on the Mississippi Coast
The Mississippi Gulf Coast features a series of Carnival-inspired parades and events most of which started in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1908. King D’Iberville and Queen Ixolib preside over what organizers claim as the largest Mardi Gras parade on the coast. Kid-friendly movies, jambalaya cook-offs, fundraisers for local schools, and a children’s walking parade provide a family-friendly vibe to an often adult-themed celebration. The Krewe of Neptune, which includes members from across the South who remain committed to authentic secret society traditions, will host Fat Tuesday festivities in 2014. The 33-year-old krewe also is credited with returning Mardi Gras
bacchanalia to the Gulf Coast in the years following Hurricane Katrina.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
With an entertainment powerhouse like Universal Studios hosting a Mardi Gras celebration, expect a no-holds-barred approach to fun in the Florida sun. The celebration line-up includes a series of concerts from February to late May. Performers include Robin Thicke, Barenaked Ladies, Kool & The Gang and Huey Lewis and the News among others. In addition to the star-studded musical acts, guests can expect seasonal menus with New Orleans flare, as well as bar crawls lasting until the wee morning hours. Aside from the adult fun, Universal offers kid friendly viewing areas to take in the vibrant floats and majestic street performers.
Mardi Gras! Galveston
Legend says that everything’s bigger in Texas. When it comes to Mardi Gras, Galveston offers plenty of supporting evidence with 23 parades, 20 balcony parties and one-of-a-kind offerings like a mass Hokey Pokey dance led by the Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade, a Zaniest Golf Cart parade where participants compete for top honors and a chance to score balcony seats. Although festivities span the month of February, the main Mardi Gras parade on Sunday, March 2 benefits the Galvaston Island Humane Society with the theme “South Pawcific.”