11 Exciting Mardi Gras Festivals Outside New Orleans
According to historians, Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans since the 18h century. Today, the celebration has expanded to dozens of cities throughout the U.S. that celebrate the tradition – the parades, beads, food and costumes. Many cater to families as well, ensuring everyone experiences one of the biggest parties in the country. To see which ones may be within easy reach, read about these Mardi Gras festivals outside New Orleans and start planning a trip.
Top Cities for Mardi Gras Festivals Outside New Orleans
Gulf Shores, Alabama
For over 35 years, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have celebrated Mardi Gras in beach-loving style. Day or night, all festivities welcome all ages to join in on the fun. Collect beads, watch the parade, try new foods and have a blast with thousands of people. At night, head over to Lulu’s. Their Birds of Paradise Mardi Gras Ball features an evening full of dancing, music, a buffet and open bar.
San Diego, California
Join over 20,000 attendees at Gaslamp Quarters in San Diego for the Mardi Gras Carnival of Colors and Parade. This event is suited for guests 21 and older, and ranks as one of the top Mardi Gras festivals in the U.S. The Fat Tuesday Parade takes place from 5 p.m. to midnight, with dancers, confetti, tons of beads and floats. In addition, see stilt walkers, cars and performers.
In Breck, Mardi Gras festivities start in the afternoon with a tailgate party. This family-friendly celebration features free music, beads and specials from local vendors. At around 4:30, gather on Main Street in downtown Breckenridge to see floats and catch beads. After the parade, venture to the Riverwalk Center for a free concert, food and refreshments.
Snowmass also has a longtime reputation for exciting Mardi Gras festivals. The city has hosted its annual event for over 35 years, which kicks off with an uphill race followed by a bead toss in the afternoon. Other fun things to do include King Cake giveaways, prize throws, crawdad boils, live music and costumed parade. At night, catch the fireworks show around 7:30, and try foods from local restaurants.
Steamboat Mardi Gras offers two days of action-packed fun and celebrations the whole family will enjoy. This festival starts with a snow sculpture contest and large party in Gondola Square with face painters and performers. The parade travels through Mountain Village and ends with a free concert in the afternoon. Those staying all week also enjoy a Cajun crawfish boil, restaurant specials and festive skiing.
The good times roll through Destin Harbor with mesmerizing floats, costumes, street performers and live music. The free event suits all ages, and all entree participant fees benefit a local charity. Collect tons of beads and stroll the boardwalk for local food, waterfront views, and fun for the family.
In Orlando, Mardi Gras doesn’t occur just for a few days. The city’s celebration runs for two months at Universal Studios Florida. Enjoy thrilling rides and parades each night. Guests will also see elaborate street performances, vibrant costumes and beads flying through the air. Listen to New Orleans-style music and try Cajun foods. On select nights, big acts also perform on the Music Plaza stage.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Two festivals occur in the Panama City Beach area: Panama City Beach Mardi Gras and Music Festival and St. Andrews Mardi Gras. The PCB festival occurs the weekend before Fat Tuesday and promises floats, beads and live entertainment. For over 20 years, St. Andrews Mardi Gras has delighted over 50,000 festival-goers with over 30 floats, beads and festive music.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Steeped in history and a love for fun, Tybee Island goes all out for Mardi Gras. See the area decorated in purple, green and gold, and plan to have a great time. The event includes a parade, Tybee street party, live entertainment and more. The parade suits all ages, and afterwards, see the costume contest parade where a king and queen are announced.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
Grab a mask and join over 15,000 people at FollyGras, an annual celebration in Folly Beach. The town combines coastal charm and Louisiana flair to bring fun for the family. Access plenty of refreshments, beads, music and food while waiting for the parade. Dozens of food vendors and crafters line the streets, and kids will enjoy getting their faces painted and watching the pet parade. And don’t miss the live bands.
Home to one of the top – and largest – Mardi Gras festivals in the U.S., Galveston celebrates in authentic style. Mardi Gras! Galveston hosts dozens of parades in February and March, including art, cars, costumes and more. Each offer their own experience, and the main event draws over 350,000 people every year. Adults should attend a balcony party, which provides prime viewing spots and guaranteed shenanigans. In addition, check out live music every night that showcase rock, country and electronica. No matter the day, this festival delivers Mardi Gras in a big way.
Ready to party? Plan a Mardi Gras getaway and see available rentals in all of these destinations.