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7 Surprising places to celebrate Mardi Gras

Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance travel writer specializing in hotels and resorts. She's the author of The Food Lovers' Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appea...

Mardi Gras parties!

Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday, falls on February 16 this year, and we all know New Orleans is the place to celebrate. But if you can't make it to good ol' Loo-se-yana this year, you'll want to check out one of these destinations that can hold their own against the Big Easy.

Carnival in Venice


San Diego

Celebrate in the heart of downtown San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter with floats, live bands, festive drinks and beads, beads, beads! There's a wealth of dining, shopping and nightlife opportunities with hotel offerings in the area ranging from the posh US Grant to the sexy Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. Fat Tuesday in this coastal town features more than 10 DJ's, dining deals from local restaurants like Marble Room and The Merk, and a carnival-like atmosphere.

Venice, Italy

For eight days before Lent each winter, tourists and partygoers flood the ancient Italian city for pageants, concerts and balls until Shrove Tuesday signals the beginning of the fasting season. Mardis Gras, or Carnevale, in Venice is one of the largest Italian celebrations and includes gondola and boat parades along the Grand Canal, mask parties in St. Mark's Square, and a grand fireworks show to end the party in style.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile is located just 45 minutes from the mother of all Mardis Gras throw downs, New Orleans, but puts up a festive fight all on its own. In fact, today's Mardis Gras madness as we know it actually originated from Mobile in the mid-1800s. It's even got an organization dedicated just to the celebration, the Mobile Area Mardis Gras Association. Parades begin in late January and run all the way to Feb. 16 when the entire town comes out for the Fat Tuesday celebration.

St. Louis

Missouri's Mardis Gras celebration is rumored to be the second largest behind the Big Easy. Thousands of fans flock to the "Gateway to the West" each year to partake in special events like the "Southern Comfort Taste of Soulard" festival where several of the restaurant's establishments offer samples of their signature dishes and drinks. The "Lumiere Light Up the Night Fat Tuesday Parade" headlines the event on Feb. 16 through downtown.

Snowmass Village, Colorado

Revel in Fat Tuesday celebrations in ski country! The party, started by New Orleans natives, kicks off with "The Mother of All Ascensions," a wild, costumed 1,741-foot vertical uphill race up Snowmass at the crack of dawn. And non-stop action follows with crawdad boils, live music, costumed parade, mask-making contests and more.

Basel, Switzerland

In Switzerland it's known as Fastnacht and, except for Oktoberfest, it is the one time of year when normally demure Germans, Austrians and Swiss go a bit, well, crazy. This three-day affair has become a legendary event amongst Europeans and dates back to 1376. Celebrations start off at 4 a.m. on the first day with dressed-up bands marching through the streets, and continue with bonfire parties, live music, and masquerade balls.

Perdido Key, Florida

Folks in this Florida town take their Mardis Gras celebrations seriously, to say the least, but it's also a destination that's family friendly so Grandma or Junior won't see anything they're not supposed to. Originally discovered by the Spanish in 1893, the literal translation of the town's name means "Lost Key," so Fat Tuesday celebrations pay homage to the town's roots. One unique aspect is the "Mardis Gras Flotilla" party where locals go all-out and deck their boats before parading through the waterways that surround the Key.

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