Even if you consider yourself a Mardi Gras expert because you celebrated in New Orleans once, we’re here to tell you: you haven’t seen anything yet. The celebrations outside of NOLA are as diverse as the state itself. If you know anything about Louisiana, you know we celebrate all our roots: Native American, French, Spanish, African-American, Cajun and Creole. Each city in each region of Louisiana has their own way of celebrating Mardi Gras.
We all love Carnival Season--the weeks of parades, feasts, family fun and revelry are part and parcel to every Louisianan’s identity. It runs from Twelfth Night through Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Want to join in? Stake out the different regions, find a spot that speaks to you and book a trip! Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Here in the top of the boot, North Louisiana is often called Sportsman’s Paradise. From fishing and game hunting to cards and dice, to antiques, wine and culture, there’s something for everyone. And that’s especially true during Carnival Season.
Those in East Texas or Arkansas can take a short drive to Shreveport for the festivities. The Krewe of Barkus and Meoux features a royal court of pets. Past parade participants have included turtles, donkeys, cats, dogs, goats, chickens and more!
Just like it sounds, this area of the state is rich in history. These days, the diversity of the region can be seen coming together over jambalaya, classic cocktails and outdoor adventures.
The Spanish Town Parade started in 1981 in Baton Rouge. Spanish Town residents partake in a long-time tradition of kidnapping a lake flamingo and relocating it to their own yard. For locals, the flamingos are a vibrant kick-off to this festive season!
As the home of Zydeco music, amazing food and fais-do-do dance parties, locals of Lafayette, Houma, Iberia and beyond take having a good time pretty seriously. When it comes to Carnival season, the area is most famous for the Courir De Mardi Gras. Though medieval France is where it all began, capitaines of Mardi Gras can still be found leading a courir (French for run) to this day. Each community puts their own spin on the run, but across Cajun Country you’ll find hordes of participants all dressed up and running on foot, riding horses or trucks, going house to house, begging for ingredients to make a communal gumbo.
Lafayette is home to the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the state known for its family-friendly atmosphere. The first recorded celebration of Lafayette Mardi Gras was on February 14, 1869, but the first citywide Mardi Gras observance wasn’t until 1897. All parades end at Cajun Field where the annual Festival de Mardi Gras takes place with carnival rides, live music and much more.
If you’re a master costume crafter, you may want to partake in the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Association’s annual ugly costume contest. If king cake is your favorite part of the season, you’ll want to hang out in Houma. No matter where you get your cake, everyone digging in will keep an eye out for the small plastic baby baked in. If you find it in your piece, you’re responsible for buying the next cake-- and quick!
Come to the Crossroads to see all the rich variety of cultures in Louisiana come together. There’s incredible live music to enjoy, Civil War history to witness and visitors can even walk the same path taken by Solomon Northup during his 12 years as a slave.
The Alexandria Mardi Gras has been formally functioning since 1994. Locals now celebrate with a variety of parades including the Pineville Light the Night Parade. The illuminated floats coming over the bridge linking the two cities is a truly beautiful sight.
Northshore Mardi Gras celebrations are quirky, creative and high-energy. Marching bands and ornate floats take to the streets. Fancifully decorated boats ride the waves, and costumed pups walk their people.
Founded in 1965, the 300-member Krewe of Olympia is the oldest in St. Tammany. Keeping the identity of King Zeus a secret, members ride on floats, trucks and horses interspersed with marching bands from across the Northshore. And yes--there is plenty of Abita Beer, the town’s namesake, to be found!
A walking parade featuring man's best friends and their families puts some bark into the Carnival scene. Founded in 1999, the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws features dogs sashaying in costume along the Mandeville lakefront.
No matter what your favorite part of Carnival is, or your past experience, there’s something for everyone across greater Louisiana. Pretend you’re a local. Come experience the most authentic and diverse Mardi Gras you never knew existed.