How to have a fun gay time at the biggest Mardi Gras events

Mardi Gras is rooted in the tradition of encouraging Catholics to partake in as many indulgences as their morals allow, before observing Lent for 40 days when they must repent for their sins. As is the case with so many holidays in America, the true meaning behind Mardi Gras is often overshadowed by people using it as an excuse for daydrinking and wearing funny little costumes, and it is now one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year.

Mardi Gras technically culminates on Fat Tuesday, literally the day to eat as much as possible and get fat before Lent, but in some cities the parties start early and last all weekend. Here are a sampling of some fun ways to partake in some festive sinning during Mardi Gras around the country.


St. Louis

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St. Louis, Missouri has the 2nd largest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S., with a massive parade on Saturday, Feb. 22, in the historic Soulard neighborhood. But first: any bakery in St. Louis will have king cakes for sale—try Missouri Baking Company, in the historically Italian neighborhood, The Hill (and buy some cannolis while you’re there!). Then on the big day, walk near Nadine’s and find this house with the turret, on Russel Blvd. and Menard St., where a gentleman named Auntie M, The Mad Beader of Mardi Gras, will be tossing his custom-made strands. They are some nice beads, so get ready to work for them, hint hint.  Sometime around 2 or 2:30 p.m., there will be a High Heels Drag Race, with contestants running in full drag of course, so be on the lookout for that. Don’t worry about the weather, because even if it is cold, the gay bars in the Soulard, Bastille and Four Strings, will have big crowds standing around outside, and people come and go so there’s always a way to sneak in and get some drinks. 


Galveston, Texas

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Galveston is about an hour’s drive south of Houston, and this island city is famous as a party destination year-round. The Mardi Gras celebration in Galveston is one of the biggest in the U.S., with multiple parades throughout February. Saturday’s parades are along Seawall Blvd., near Robert’s Lafitte, Rumors Beach Bar, and 23rd St. Station. Fat Tuesday’s big parade winds through the Entertainment District, and it’s huge, so plan accordingly for getting on and off of the island.


New Orleans

All of the French Quarter is a giant party zone during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, as parades seem to roll down the street every hour, and the New Orleans gay bars will be busy all weekend. Drinking Hurricanes while walking down the street is fun, but Mardi Gras is a part of New Orleans culture, and local residents will proudly remind you that there’s much more to experience. 

Before unleashing your demons on Fat Tuesday, join New Orleans’ high society gays at the Fat Monday Luncheon, which gives everybody another chance to wear their Mardi Gras outfits. Then on Tuesday, the Bourbon Street Awards are one of the biggest and gayest events of the weekend, and it is a must-see, because—as is illustrated by the fabulous Miss KoKo Valentine—these costumes are a-maz-ing. 

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But before the big Fat Tuesday craziness, the true spirit of Mardi Gras is in gay parties, organized by groups known as “krewes,” which got their start decades ago to celebrate solidarity against anti-gay and anti-trans bigotry. Each party has different lavish themes, and Krewe Armenius and Lords of Leather host great events. Getting a ticket to the by-invitation-only ball by Krew of Amon-Ra before Mardi Gras is a special treat.

Speaking of “special treat,” get some king

Check out this story by New Orleans’ public radio station about the fabulous history of gay Mardi Gras in New Orleans.



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