Mardi Gras 2013: 5 Places to Spend Mardi Gras Besides New Orleans

Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years. It is actually known as the carnival, which is a very accurate description of what goes on during the celebration.

Most countries that celebrate Mardi Gras have strong Roman Catholic ties, and while most people think of New Orleans when discussing Mardi Gras, there are other cities that celebrate as elaborately as they do in the "Big Easy."

Here are 5 surprising cities in the U.S. that know how to enjoy Mardi Gras as much as New Orleans.

1. Mobile, Ala.

Fun fact: the carnival celebration in Mobile is older than the one in New Orleans. The first known Mardi Gras celebration took place in Mobile in 1703. On February 11, despite pouring rain and diving temperatures, thousands of people lined the streets of Marin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Mobile to enjoy the carnival festivities. Mobile's history in celebrating Mardi Gras is longstanding.

2. Baton Rouge, La.

The party in Baton Rouge starts in early February and doesn't end until Mardi Gras on February 12.  To say it is one nonstop party in Baton Rouge until then is an understatement. All the parades are hosted by different groups around the city, making for diverse and exciting entertainment. Baton Rouge is a great escape for many who want to avoid the insanity of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Each Krewe has their own special events, complete with huge floats and balls. The party is nonstop.

3. San Diego, Calif.

Not to be outdone, the city of San Diego knows how to get into the festivities of Mardi Gras. Tens of thousands of revelers flock to the downtown area of Gaslamp Quarter for some Mardi Gras fun. This lavish event sets off the inevitable 40 days of Lent. And people in San Diego like to do it in style. This year marks the 19th annual Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp with live bands, street dancing, food, and drinks galore. 

4. Portland, Ore.

Portland, Oregon is also home to lavish Mardi Gras celebrations.  In fact, the city hosts an authentic New Orleans style carnival and annual ball. This year marks the third annual Mardi Gras Ball. The event is costume-themed and this year's theme is Such a Night. To say that cities in the northwest United States do not understand the typically southern traditions of Mardi Gras is an understatement. The aim is to bring New Orleans flavor to the beautiful city of Portland once a year, and they succeed brilliantly.  

5. St. Louis, Mo.

St. Louis holds a Mardi Gras party that includes and welcomes all types of people: old timers, first timers, and everyone in between. Thousands of people turn up for the celebration. Naturally, the party is lively, but it also has a family friendly environment. Home to Soulard, one of the largest celebrations outside of New Orleans, it has everything for everyone. The Soulard festivities last for weeks, making St. Louis another Mardi Gras hotspot outside of New Orleans.