If you're thinking about enjoying a good Mardi Gras celebration this year, you may want to consider heading east of New Orleans to Georgia. The New Orleans tradition that dates back to 1837 has become a national phenomenon and Georgians have embraced all the trappings of one of the world's wildest parties. Beads, masks and, of course, high spirits stretch all the way from Savannah, Georgia, in the south to way up north in Atlanta.
In 2009, Tybee Island in Savannah,Georgia, became a part of a small list of United States cities to join New Orleans in hosting an annual Mardi Gras celebration. The celebration includes the traditional green and gold beads thrown to the crowd from parade floats traveling through the center of town. Visitors can take part in a masquerade ball at Fannie's on the Beach or King Cake parties where revelers can try and find the good luck baby inside the cake. Look for plenty of live music and lots of shopping in the outdoor bazaar.
The annual Mardi Gras celebration brought over three million dollars in revenue to the city in 2011. The festivities kick off with a marathon that takes place on Front Street. Meanwhile, downtown Albany plays hosts to a street festival along West Broad Avenue complete with vendors, food and, of course, some of the wildest masks around. To take in something truly different, adopt a turtle and enter it in to the annual turtle race that benefits the RiverQuarium. Entrants also have a chance at cash prizes.
If you're looking for a centralized Mardi Gras celebration in Atlanta, you're out of luck. Atlanta's version of Fat Tuesday is a city wide extravaganza with all the high points of the original. The cutting edge "Little Five Points" district is home to Front Page News' indoor/outdoor celebration of beads, beer and music. Foodies can head to hot spots like Serpa's (owned by New Orleans native Scott Serpas), Parish or South City Kitchen for Cajun cuisine that's to die for, including bacon beignets and alligator gumbo.
Mardi Gras in St. Mary's, Georgia, starts with the annual downtown parade held on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. The annual festival prides itself on being large enough to include something for everyone but small enough to prevent overcrowding. Highlights include a vendors market, live music, a chili cook-off and even a pet costume parade. Car lovers can take in the antique car show and children have a chance at winning king and queen of the Mardi Gras at a formal costume ball that closes the festivities.
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