You don’t need to live in New Orleans to let the good times roll this Mardi Gras.
But other than The Big Easy, which U.S. cities are best for celebrating Fat Tuesday?
To find out, Lawn Love ranked 2022’s Best Cities for Mardi Gras (Besides New Orleans).
We looked for cities with plenty of Mardi Gras events to attend, bars to quench your thirst, and Cajun and Creole restaurants to satisfy your appetite, among six total factors.
Use our rankings and in-depth analysis to make the most of your free-spirited fête.
In this article
See how each city fared in our ranking:
Results in depth
Gateway to Carnival
It’s no shock that one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. takes place in Soulard, a St. Louis neighborhood with a French name that translates to “drunkard.” St. Louis holds the crown as the best Mardi Gras city besides New Orleans (or NOLA for short).
The Gateway City floated to the top, thanks to high ranks in both the Partying and the Eating and Drinking categories. This isn’t just an imitation NOLA Mardi Gras – St. Louis has unique Fat Tuesday traditions of its own, including the world’s largest parade of costumed pets.
You’d think it has something to do with St. Louis’ French roots, but this city’s Fat Tuesday actually began in 1979 because a small group of friends wanted a night to remember. Since then, almost half a million people flock to the city to take part in the festivities each year.
Local tip: Mardi Gras season lasts nearly two months in St. Louis, with plenty of events to check out. Local favorites include Taste of Soulard, Tito’s Vodka Weiner Dog Derby, and, of course, the highlight of the festival, the Bud Light Grand Parade.
French fêtes run the show
Despite their close proximity to New Orleans, Louisiana’s Baton Rouge (No. 2) and Metairie (No. 3) are Mardi Gras destinations in their own right. These two cities rose in the ranks due to their abundant Carnival events, food, and libations. (Festivities might spill out from the French Quarter into Metairie, but the New Orleans suburb has parades of its own.)
Mardi Gras was brought to America in the 17th century when French explorers colonized the Louisiana region. Mobile (No. 7) was the first capital of French Louisiana, which is why this sleepy Southern city still has an unforgettable Fat Tuesday of its own.
The Azalea City pulled ahead in the ranking for having abundant Mardi Gras events, which is unsurprising because the city hosts more than 40 parades for the holiday each year.
Local tip: Check out Baton Rouge’s Mystic Krewe of Mutts, squirrely Mid City Gras, and kitschy pink Spanish Town Parade.
Mobile is home to the Gulf Coast King Cake-Off and hosts plenty of masquerade balls.
Krewes from coast to coast
You don’t need to live in former French territory to find quality King Cake for Fat Tuesday. Big cities like New York (No. 4), San Francisco (No. 5), and Miami (No. 6) fared well in our ranking, despite their lack of French roots.
These cities scored well all around, with New York pulling ahead, thanks to abundant events and community interest. Foodies should flock to San Fran and Miami, where there’s plenty of Cajun and Creole fare to fill up on and bars to help you get in the spirit.
In addition to ocean views, each city has significant Catholic populations. Catholicism is the dominant religion in NYC, Miami, and San Fran, so it’s not surprising that they go all out for Mardi Gras before Lent begins.
Local tip: Jazzy New York doesn’t celebrate with parades but with concerts, pancakes, and bar crawls.
Similarly, San Fran indulges in music and food at Fat Tuesday in the Fillmore and Redwood City’s Mardi Gras Carnival.
In Miami, Sip & Stroll at Zoo Miami, feast at a crawfish boil, or dance the night away at The Wharf.
Masquerading through the Lone Star State
Texas is hit-or-miss when it comes to celebrating Mardi Gras. Big cities like Dallas (No. 8) and Houston (No. 10) have plenty of events and community interest, while smaller cities like Laredo (No. 200), Brownsville (No. 198), and Frisco (No. 195) scraped the bottom of our ranking.
We typically include only the biggest 200 cities in our rankings. However, Galveston (No. 69) deserved a place in this ranking because of its impressive Mardi Gras celebration, which draws in half a million people to the Texas coast each year.
Fat Tuesday in Texas tends to be milder and family-friendly compared to more indulgent (and sometimes scandalous) celebrations in Louisiana. Dallas celebrates with a music festival and Houston with a parade and pub crawl. Galveston is the exception and celebrates for weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, with plenty of parades and events to attend.
Local tip: At Mardi Gras! Galveston, be sure not to miss the funky Umbrella Brigade or Zaniest Golf Cart Parade.
We ranked 200 U.S. cities from best to worst (1-200) based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below.
Our sample of 200 cities includes 196 of the biggest, plus four cities that are significant to U.S. Mardi Gras due to the large size of their celebrations: Biloxi, Mississippi; Galveston, Texas; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Pensacola, Florida.
Note: For Mardi Gras Events and Festivals, we considered all Mardi Gras-related events, including parades and other types of publicly listed celebrations.
- Mardi Gras Events and Festivals
- Weight: 3
- Party Supply Stores per Square Mile
- Weight: 1
- Metaphysical Stores per Square Mile
- Weight: 1
Eating and Drinking
- Establishments Serving Cajun and Creole Food per Square Mile
- Weight: 2
- Bars per Square Mile
- Weight: 2
- Google Search Volume for “Mardi Gras” and “Fat Tuesday” Over Past 12 Months
- Weight: 1
Association of Metaphysical Stores, Coastal Mississippi, Gemstone Well, Google Ads, Google Events, Lafayette Travel, TripAdvisor, and Yelp
Final thoughts: Bring New Orleans to your doorstep
After a pandemic-induced hiatus, the “Greatest Free Show on Earth” is finally back in New Orleans. More than 1.4 million revelers make their way to The Big Easy for Mardi Gras each year.
If you can’t make it to NOLA’s Mardi Gras, why not bring some of the French Quarter’s flair to the table in your city?
Wear something snazzy:
In order to blend in at Mardi Gras, attendees should wear a bold, unique costume. Dress festively by wearing purple, green, and gold if you don’t have snazzy regalia.
Another traditional part of the Fat Tuesday attire is masks — not COVID masks (you’ll need those, too) but striking, glittery, feathered masks. In fact, New Orleans law requires Mardi Gras float riders to wear masks in order to preserve the tradition.
Get your krewe together:
Krewes host parades varying in theme, from political satire to mythology, history, and entertainment. They toss trinkets and souvenirs, dubbed “throws,” during Mardi Gras parades, design creative floats, and host elaborate balls or parties after the parade.
If you’re a party animal interested in keeping spirits high on Fat Tuesday, set up your own krewe. Take inspiration from some of NOLA’s faves:
- The first all-female krewe is the Krewe of Muses. Their throws are hand-painted high heels, and they’re known for their humorous and satirical floats.
- One of three Super Krewes is the Krewe of Bacchus, named after the Greek god of wine. This krewe has a long history of celebrity monarchs, including J.K. Simmons, Elijah Wood, and William Shatner.
- Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is a newer krewe, catered toward sci-fi and space lovers. They’re known for their hoax-based publicity stunts and pranks.
Forge a feast:
Whether you love the nightlife or just like dressing up, indulgence is synonymous with Mardi Gras. Get together with some friends and host a potluck, or try your hand at a Cajun-inspired dinner for your family. Don’t forget the king cake (or the baby)!
Deck out your lawn mower:
Now that spring is approaching, you’ll be breaking out your trusty lawn mower sooner or later for your lawn’s first cut of the year. Why not roll out your mower and recreate your version of NOLA’s Krewe of Push Mow, or ride along in Stafford’s Lawn Mower Mardi Gras Parade in Drew, Mississippi?
Don’t let your lawn look unruly during your rowdy Fat Tuesday festivities. Contact a local Lawn Love pro to fix your landscape and make you feel like a king.
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