Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" and it represents a final day of feasting before the start of Lent, a time of sacrifice for Catholics and many Protestants before Easter. For most people, Mardi Gras means music, colorful beads and masks and parades. Join the celebration at one of these Mardi Gras parades, which will be marching through a town near you.
When it comes to Mardi Gras celebrations, no place does it better than Louisiana. People flock to New Orleans for the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, when more than 60 parades float through the city. The parades in Lake Charles, Houma and Monroe-West Monroe feature lighted boats. Madisonville and Slidell's parades feature colorful boats cruising through local canals. Shreveport-Bossier City's and Lafayette's celebrations include plenty of family activities, and the Alexandria-Pinevil features a children's parade.
Mobile, Alabama, is recognized as hosting the first ever Mardi Gras celebration back in 1703, long before the New Orleans tradition began. Each year, for the two and a half weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, the streets of Mobile are filled brightly colored floats, marching bands and more than 1 million parade attendees. On Mardi Gras, the party culminates with masked parade riders who throw out colorful beads, stuffed animals, candy and moon pies into the crowd.
The city of St. Louis, Missouri, gives Louisiana a run for its money when it comes to celebrating Mardi Gras. The Soulard Mardi Gras includes the Lumiére Place Grand Parade, which features marching bands, brilliantly colored floats, colorful beads and masks and outlandish costumes. The parade starts in downtown St. Louis and continues through the historic neighborhood of Soulard. Other activities at the parade include a Cajun cookoff, pet parade, wiener dog derby and a wine tasting.
For three weekends in February, Galveston, Texas, is the place to be if you enjoy Mardi Gras parades. The Mystic Krewe of Aquarius' 25th annual Mardi Gras Kick off Parade in 2012 will have more than 80 units including 20 high school marching bands. The Knights of Momus Grand Night Parade is Galveston's biggest parade and includes beautiful floats, marching bands and bead throwing before concluding at the Railroad Museum. The Krewe d'Esprit Rosaire Parade kicks off with a Battle of the Bands and features an after-party with cultural food booths and music.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images