New Orleans Loves Mardi Gras, But Other Cities Also Celebrate
San Diego, Mobile, St. Louis are among top party places
The traditional sounds of Mardi Gras have bellowed through the streets of New Orleans every February since 1699, and today The Big Easy attracts an estimated 500,000 spectators who revel during Mardi Gras parades, especially on Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” which commemorates the final day of eating fatty and indulgent foods before the ritual fasting of the 40-day Lenten season.
But New Orleans isn’t the only city that indulges in the raucous carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras. Here are five others:
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San Diego, California
The city’s Gaslamp Quarter turns into a nighttime street party every Fat Tuesday at the annual San Diego Mardi Gras & Celebration. An estimated 200,000 people pack the district to hear and see top national DJs, Las Vegas showgirls on stilts, samba dancers and acrobatic cirque performers. Highlighting the festivities is the Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras Parade that starts at 9 p.m.
Alabama Tourism Department officials say Mobile Mardi Gras is the most-attended event in the state each year, with Fat Tuesday parade crowds estimated at 500,000 to 600,000 spectators. The inaugural Mobile celebration occurred in 1703, and today many of the parade floats represent mystic societies (known as krewes in New Orleans) that schedule colorful carnival activities and masked balls for the public’s enjoyment.
St. Louis, Missouri
Even though the city doesn’t have a large French Catholic population, Mardi Gras in St. Louis has become a major contributor to the tourism economy. Parties began in earnest during the 1980s, and officials estimate annual crowds of 200,000 to 250,000 who drink beer and toss necklace beads along parade routes between 7th and 12th streets, especially in a popular Soulard neighborhood.
Billed as the only authentic Louisiana Mardi Gras experience within 2,000 miles, the annual Portland Mardi Gras Ball occurs every February in the city’s Wonder Ballroom. The masquerade extravaganza is sponsored by Mysti Krewe of Nimbus, an organization of 100-plus Louisiana transplants who celebrate the food, culture and music of the Bayou region. Misti Krewe also organizes Portland’s annual Fat Tuesday Parade.
Lafayette enjoys a good party, so the city schedules eight February parades – the first is 10 days before Mardi Gras. As for Fat Tuesday itself, that specific Mardi Gras Parade became an annual tradition in 1934, and police estimate current-day crowds at 200,000 to 250,000. A Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association formed in recent years to make sure Lafayette will always celebrate Mardi Gras.