Mardi Gras is Louisiana’s celebration of life, culture, and community. It defines who we are as a people, as family and friends dress in their funkiest attire to attend parades, parties, and balls. Whether you live up in Shreveport or way down in New Orleans, for a few weeks the party truly does not stop and the attitude of the carnival season infects everything in its wake. It is a time to take a deep breath and let the dog times roll before the busy spring season blossoms. Here are 10 places to celebrate Mardi Gras in Louisiana that are a guaranteed good time.
Being the coolest “unofficial” party in New Orleans, this annual costume ball happens each Endymion night the Saturday before Fat Tuesday. Though not necessarily open to the public as you first need to get your hands on a ticket that includes a plus one and you must wear a really good costume. You may even be denied entry if your costume isn’t up to par, so bring your best! Locations change each year along with the band lineup. Having used to of been The Radiators gig for years this is a wild party with more recent acts including George Porter Jr. and Eric Krasno.
Named after the downtown Baton Rouge neighborhood where it runs, this parade is an all-day throw down. This quirky neighborhood is one of the oldest in the Louisiana and is home to a host of characters that make this parade along with its dedicated riders. The pink flamingo is the neighborhood mascot and thus flows everywhere with the parade, along the route, and in costume with attendees. It is held every Saturday before Fat Tuesday and runs through the streets of downtown, including Spanish Town Road itself. Afterwards, bar hop down on third street or catch the sunset on the river levee.
Every year down in St. Landry Parish the Courir de Mardi Gras happens in one of the most unique, authentic display of the tradition in the state. It is a true Cajun tradition that is a Fat Tuesday Run though the celebrations often start on Lundi Gras. This tradition involves a huge community cookout, parade, chicken run, and a whole lot of good times. Today, the Courir de Mardi Gras in St. Landry Parish has over 2,000 participants in the run each year. The most important thing to remember is the handmade costume that must be worn to participate. The traditional wear involves being masked with strips of fabric covering the participant basically from head to toe. Look up examples and get to sewing!
Hosted by the Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association, this annual four-day event is held at Cajun Field in Lafayette. Regional acts provide fresh, live music while carnival rides, games, and parades all surround the event. From Friday all the way through Tuesday, Cajun Field becomes an excellent place to catch the parades like the Queen Evangeline Parade and the Lafayette Mardi Gras Parade. Though it also provides a solid place to meet, greet, and enjoy other activities along the route. Notable acts such as Wayne Toups and Corey Ledet have entertained in past years.
This Krewe in Shreveport developed to help foster as well as promote animal programs to help abused, abandoned, or any other animal in need. Though in true Louisiana fashion they do it by having a heck of a good time. The Krewe of Barkus and Meoux Parade in Shreveport is a dog friendly parade where owners register their pets beforehand and show up dressed up in costume. The dogs are the show, the parade, and the attendees making for quite the spectacle for animal lovers. Thousands of people show up to support this Krewe and their mission as well as awe at the amazing costumes worn by man’s best friend. Support a great cause and have a great time at the Barkus and Meoux Parade in Shreveport.
One of the world’s biggest indoor parties, the Endymion Extravaganza is the only party held in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during Mardi Gras. Over 20,000 people dress up in formal gowns, tuxedos, and suits to take part in this Mardi Gras main event. Arrival begins at 7 p.m. where guests enjoy the atmosphere until the Endymion Parade storms into the Superdome around 8:30 p.m. for the final part of the parades journey. Lasers, confetti, and pyro techniques accompany the entry. Being one of the largest and most extravagant parade during carnival, Endymion is a true sight to see in the dome. Afterwards, world-class entertainment rages on with headlining acts such as Pitbull, Kelly Clarkson, Steven Tyler, and KISS being part of the Extravaganza in recent years.
The Metairie Truck Parades themselves are an annual treat to behold that go on for weeks during carnival season. Though on Mardi Gras Day the oldest truck parade of them all rolls on as the Krewe of Jefferson, its over 3,500 members, and 75 truck floats rolls on. The truck parades provide a family friendly atmosphere in the suburb that sits directly next door to the Crescent City so it still has the same flavor. The route is along Veterans Boulevard allotting much more space for families and children to enjoy the parades than in the neutral ground in the city.
This gala held in southwest Louisiana is an extravagant event in which over 60 krewes royalty attend. All clad in their finest the guests pour into the Lake Charles Civic Center Coliseum as the royalty strut in their finest glittering costumes and the celebrations ensue. Being the second largest Mardi Gras in Louisiana, Lake Charles’ kings, queens, royal dukes, duchesses, captains, courtesans, and jesters are all present for the night of food, drinks, and dancing. This ball is open to the public for only a small, nominal fee and costumes are not required. A free piece of king cake is given to everybody on this Lundi Gras night gala the night before Fat Tuesday.
This famous chicken run held in the town of Iowa is a full-on festival that lasts for a day and goes on each year. The parades lineup at 9 a.m. on Fat Tuesday and roll at 10 a.m. down Hwy 90 stopping at local businesses and going through neighborhoods with horses following behind. How it works is the captain blows his whistle at participating homes triggering the zydeco musicians to get down and play. If the residents approve they donate to the community gumbo and a chicken is thrown into the air that the kids have to catch. More chickens are released toward the end of the parade at Market Basket and VF Factory Outlet and finally rests at Rabideaux’s Sausage Kitchen, which is an official spot on the Louisiana Boudin Trail. Come take part in this time-honored Cajun Mardi Gras tradition to enjoy the parade, the zydeco dance, and the delicious gumbo that is cooked at the end.
This party goes on during the Krewe of Janus parade in downtown Monroe and is a great place to have a home base near the parade route. Hosted by the Downtown Monroe Alliance everyone is invited to this party that includes music, food, drinks, and more Mardi Gras fun. Free beer samplings by Choice Brand, local food vendors, a full bar, and live music by such acts as Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas are just some of the entertainments to catch at this event. The party goes down in the old Coca Cola building with music happening on the Skent-N-Dent Stage.