From colorful beads to flashy costumes and immense libations, Mardi Gras is a time for embracing gluttony and glee.
In addition to New Orleans, which cities are best for letting the good times roll on Fat Tuesday?
To find out, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Top Mardi Gras Cities.
We compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities by the number of Mardi Gras events, Cajun food vendors, costume stores, and community interest, among eight total metrics.
Use our rankings to find the best city to let loose ahead of Fat Tuesday on Feb. 21.
In this article
See how each city fared in our ranking:
Crown of Carnival
It’s no secret that New Orleans is the top Mardi Gras city in the U.S.
The Big Easy champions a 16-point lead ahead of the next-best city, New York. The fête has already started in New Orleans, where parades run through the city for weeks ahead of Fat Tuesday. NOLA is the monarch of Mardi Gras, with the most Carnival events and festivals — over 100 more than in St. Louis (No. 2 in that metric). NOLA also shines with numerous costume stores and nightlife options to party the night away.
New Orleans also boils over with the most Cajun food vendors per square mile, followed by another Bayou State city, Baton Rouge (No. 15). Baton Rouge offers its own spectacular festivities, too.
Parading through history
New Orleans isn’t the only iconic Carnival city in America. St. Louis (No. 9) and Mobile, Alabama (No. 32), each have their own intricate festivities and histories surrounding the holiday.
With celebrations going back to 1703, Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras in America. The Gateway to the Gulf boasts the third-highest number of events and plenty of Cajun food vendors to fill up before heading to the parades to catch MoonPies and doubloons.
The biggest party in St. Louis takes place in a neighborhood called Soulard — a French name that fittingly translates to “drunkard.” Even though the Gateway City’s Mardi Gras began more recently in 1979, this city paraded to the top of our ranking with the second-highest number of events. STL also has abundant nightlife options per square mile, making it easy to stumble from bar to bar.
West Coast Krewes
Fat Tuesday fêtes have found popularity in cities out west.
Las Vegas (No. 3) loves to party and takes the king cake for the highest Community Interest. While the only parade you might encounter are people parading through the casino, Sin City offers plenty of costume shops if you want to get dressed up before hitting up one of the many nightlife options or Mardi Gras events.
Let the good times roll in sunny San Diego (No. 10), which hosts three days of eating, drinking, and dancing in the historic Gaslamp Quarter. Both San Diego and Los Angeles (No. 4) floated to the top, thanks to numerous events, party supplies, costume stores, and metaphysical stores.
Flat Tuesday cities
A variety of smaller cities and suburbs landed at the bottom of our ranking. These include Chesapeake, Virginia (No. 196), West Valley City, Utah (No. 197), Columbus, Georgia (No. 198), and Surprise, Arizona (No. 199), along with Thornton, Colorado, in last place.
These cities fall flat with low scores across the board, including little interest in the holiday. If you’re lucky, you might encounter a Mardi Gras-themed happy hour at a local dive in one of these cities. Otherwise, it might be best to have a ball at home.
Behind the ranking
For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below.
We then grouped those factors into four categories: Entertainment, Food, Party Supplies, and Community Interest.
Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category.
Finally, we averaged the scores for each city across all categories.
The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 200).
- The “Worst” among individual factors may not be 200 due to ties among cities.
- This ranking includes the largest 200 cities in the U.S. and therefore excludes smaller iconic Mardi Gras destinations, such as:
- Biloxi, Mississippi
- Galveston, Texas
- Lafayette, Louisiana
- Lake Charles, Louisiana
- Pensacola, Florida
- See slideshow below for more info about festivities occurring in the above cities
Allevents.in, Gemstone Well, Google Ads, Tripadvisor, and Yelp
Final thoughts: Smaller standouts
Our ranking covers the country’s largest cities, but there are some smaller cities that deserve a shoutout for hosting special Mardi Gras celebrations. Check out the slideshow below to learn more.
Spring is on the horizon, so you might soon join the Krewe of Push Mow and bring your lawn mower out for a spin. If you’re too busy dancing the day away, hire a local Lawn Love crew to check off your lawn care to-do list.
Main photo credit: iStock