Louisiana's Biggest Statewide Party: Mardi Gras

Of the hundreds of Louisiana festivals, none top Mardi Gras.

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Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras Beads

New Orleans Mardi Gras Float

New Orleans Mardi Gras Float

It’s a spectacle of parades, unbelievable costumes and dancers in the streets donning purple, green and gold—Mardi Gras’ official colors—with great music, food and drink at every turn.

Most everyone knows something about Mardi Gras but with a big misconception attached: They think it is exclusive to New Orleans. New Orleans has Louisiana’s largest and most well-known Mardi Gras, but nearly every community in the state has its own version of the annual celebration.

Carnival Season refers to the 41 days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Mardi Gras, is French for Fat Tuesday, which refers to the practice of eating rich foods before the religious obligations of Lent. The period leading up to Mardi Gras Day, which falls on Feb. 25 this year, is known as the Carnival season.

Parades are the most popular public activity during the days leading up to Mardi Gras. Parades are organized by private social clubs called krewes. The New Orleans area has more than 60 parading krewes and there are many more throughout the state. Multiple parades are staged in cities including Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette, Lake CharlesHouma and more!

Parades include elaborate floats and krewe members in themed costumes. Riders throw tens of thousands of colored beads, themed cups, doubloons (commemorative coins), trinkets, toys and items of humorous or historical nature. Marching between floats are bands, dance teams and flambeau carriers who illuminate night parades with torches. 

An unusual Mardi Gras celebration is found in the more rural areas in south Louisiana’s Cajun Country such as Mamou, Eunice and Church Point. The Courir de Mardi Gras, or the running of the Mardi Gras, involves costumed participants going house to house on horseback, performing tricks and stunts in an effort to secure donations of chicken, sausage, vegetables and rice that will be used at the end of the day to make a massive gumbo for a community street party, usually featuring live Cajun and zydeco music. All are welcome to participate in Courir de Mardi Gras and is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Louisiana visitors can also experience Mardi Gras year-round through popular attractions, including Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, The Presbytere and the Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans; Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge; the Mardi Gras Museum at Central School Arts and Humanities Center in Lake Charles; and the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice.

Want to be ready for your #OnlyLouisiana Mardi Gras experience? Learn more with these 10 Things You Might Not Know About Mardi Gras.