Mardi Gras is synonymous with New Orleans. But the Big Easy isn’t the only place that knows how to put on a party when it comes to celebrating this age-old extravaganza!

Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday) is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Christian Lent season leading up to Easter. During Lent, people traditionally fasted or gave up something such as drinking, eating certain foods, or enjoying other indulgences. So that means a happy Mardi Gras is the last chance to fatten up and enjoy these things before abandoning them for the next several weeks. Mardi Gras festivities are strongest in traditionally Catholic countries and parts of the U.S. where the Church has held prominence in the local culture.

Here’s our take on 11 of the biggest celebrations outside New Orleans. Happy Mardi Gras!

Mobile, Alabama

Turns out America’s oldest Mardi Gras celebrations are not in New Orleans but in Mobile, where they have been organizing events since 1704…14 years before New Orleans was founded! Parades, parties, live music and general merriment rule the day.

Lafayette, Louisiana

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Mobilus in Mobili

Louisiana’s second city — and unofficial Cajun HQ — offers more of a down home, small town approach to Mardi Gras. It’s big fun all right, but also a neighborly place with more family oriented activities than how things tend to go a couple of hours south in NOLA.

St. Louis

Just under 700 miles north up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, the city of St. Louis struts its stuff in Missouri style with what’s claimed to be the largest Mardi Gras festivities outside Louisiana. Visitors will find related events all over town, but mostly in the neighborhood of Soulard. Known for its nightlife, live music scene and low key bars and restaurants, Mardi Gras is as good of an excuse as any to party. Elsewhere, look for family fun such as its admission-free zoo!

Galveston, Texas

The Gulf Coast city of Galveston throws another of the country’s biggest Mardi Gras celebrations each year. Imagine all the fun of a New Orleans style party on the beach with a hearty Texas welcome and you’ll have a good idea of what goes down during festivities here!

Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola goes all out for a Florida Panhandle party that combines all the traditions of Mardi Gras with the best bits of a beach break. Cook offs, balls, and charity events round out the fun vibes.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Rio also goes wild this time of year with the world’s largest Carnival celebration, including street parties and parades with local samba school dancers performing in colorful costumes accompanied by marching drummers and elaborately decorated floats.

Venice, Italy

The most elegant of Carnival celebrations takes place in Venice, when the whole city dons masks and ornate costumes for the admiration and amusement of everyone. Balls and exhibitions fill the calendar and the streets, bridges, and canals fill with thousands of partygoers every night.

You may also like: Last-Minute Guide to N’awlins Mardi Gras

Basel, Switzerland

Referred to as “72 hours of madness” in a city that’s usually known for its tame temperament, Basel’s annual Carnival (known as Fasnacht) is one of Switzerland’s biggest outdoor events and a time for masked drum corps to parade through town in their boisterous wake. Art lovers will surely enjoy Basel’s festivities, as this charming city is illuminated with thousands of hand-painted lanterns!

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

The Caribbean’s answer to a New Orleans style Mardi Gras is a West Indian Carnival. Vibrantly costumed dancers parade through Port of Spain with street parties, lasting well through the night.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney sees Mardi Gras as an opportunity to celebrate diversity, putting on one of the world’s biggest Pride events in the world with the hands down fun Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

San Diego, California

How about some SoCal sunshine with your Mardi Gras parades and partying? Booking flights to San Diego so you can be at the city’s historic Gaslamp District is an absolute must if you want to get some West Coast fun on Fat Tuesday. It’s the city’s biggest street party of the year with plenty of live music and Djs, and events for everybody ready to have fun.

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras? Where’s the party going to be for you this year? Let us know in our comments section below!

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About The Author

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.