The Best Mardi Gras Parties Outside NOLA

by Rachel Semigran

Get in here all you King cake-lovin', big brass-swingin' krewes: It’s Mardi Gras season! The big party's traditions have been around for centuries, dating all the way back to the medieval period. Mardi Gras made its way to our fair shores via the French in 1699 and and oh, what a home it found in New Orleans: the city's multicultural tapestry, legendary music scene, laid-back atmosphere, and amazing food make it the ideal city to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Those of us not fortunate enough to make it to New Orleans might assume we're out of luck when it comes to celebrating Fat Tuesday. But AU CONTRAIRE MON AMI! There are oodles of excellent Mardi Gras festivals all over our great, drunken nation. Here are the best places outside of New Orleans to get all that good old-fashioned sinnin' out of your system before Lent.

St. Louis, Missouri

Coming in right behind New Orleans when it comes to Mardi Gras bad-assery is St. Louis, Missouri. All over the city, locals and visitors alike partake in huge parades, loads of free concerts, and a party tent at the heart of Soulard Market Park fit for 3000 people. Oh and there's a even PET PARADE. Get your schwerve on, St. Louis.

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Mobile, Alabama

Did you know that the first official Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. might have actually happened in Mobile? Mobile, Alabama is home to all things traditional to Mardi Gras — from the historic societies and courts to the elaborate, immersive parades. The city also celebrates for the entire month of February, right up through Fat Tuesday.

Galveston, Texas

With more than 23 parades, balcony parties left and right, five masked balls, and nearly 40 concerts spanning of 12 days, Galveston takes the "everything is bigger in Texas" motto to heart. The 3rd-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States even touts the Funky Uptown Umbrella Brigade. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, we don’t know what will.

New York, New York

In a city where you can get anything at any time, it’s no wonder that the Big Apple also does justice to the Big Easy. Our favorite NYC Mardi Gras Celebration is the Two Boots Mardi Gras Ball, which benefits the Lower Eastside Girls Club. We're talking about the BEST pizza party on earth, with proceeds going to a club dedicated to developing young women’s minds and goals. Yes, please!

Panama City Beach, Florida

There are few things that could make Mardi Gras more fabulous than it already is. Put those celebrations on a tropical beach however ... and there you have more fabulous. Panama City flaunts a huge musical festival over the weekend in honor of the Krewe of Dominique Youx. New Orleans' own Dr. John and the Nite Trippers headline this year’s event and brings the Bayou to the beach. Oh and it’s all f-r-e-e.

Breckenridge, Colorado

It might be a lot colder in Colorado than Louisiana, but that doesn’t stop locals from celebrating carinival season in style. Breckenridgeans take to the streets (bundled up of course) with a citywide parade, then bring the party indoors for the Mardi Gras Ball. That's dedication.

San Francisco, California

There’s no cause for celebration that San Francisco can't perfect — and Mardi Gras is no exception. The Fillmore District is the center of San Fran Mardi Gras, where San Francisco and New Orleans melt together in one big, bright street party. There is, of course, tons of NOLA and San Fran fusion cuisine because, much like New Orleans, San Francisco is a city that embraces all of its flavors.