Mardi Gras may call New Orleans home, but the festivals are alive and well in this northern Louisiana city, the third largest in the state, and Shreveport Mardi Gras should not be missed. Situated near the borders of Texas and Arkansas, Shreveport is roughly five hours from New Orleans. Because of this distance, the lively spirit and vibrant colors of Mardi Gras have found another home in the Shreveport-Bossier region of Louisiana.
Shreveport-Bossier is home to many great Mardi Gras organizations, known as “Krewes”, who lead a number of parades, parties, and other events during the Carnival season. Several Krewes host their parties during the last weekend of February and first weekend of March (but double check dates each calendar year because they do change).
There are over 15 Krewes celebrating Shreveport Mardi Gras each year. The Krewe of Gemini and the Krewe of Centaur have hosted the largest parades in Shreveport for nearly 30 years. Many Krewes have a charitable focus with their organization, such as the Mystic Krewe of Apollo who fundraises for curing HIV/AIDS.
Between energetic parades and festive balls, colorful beads are endless in Shreveport Mardi Gras, with this year’s (2019) Fat Tuesday festivities taking place in the first week of March. Consider Shreveport for your next early spring adventure. This post will detail places to see and things to do during Mardi Gras in Shreveport, LA. Join in the fun as we Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouller (let the good times roll)!
Shreveport Mardi Gras: The Ultimate Guide
Where to Stay:
There are many places you can call home during Shreveport Mardi Gras, but I found the Marriott Courtyard Shreveport-Bossier City/Louisiana Boardwalk to be a great option. The hotel is in a great location among shopping, dining and the Louisiana Boardwalk. You can see the bridge and city right outside the hotel door.
The hotel furnishings look newer and crisp. The staff is extremely friendly, items are priced good and the Bistro in the hotel serves delicious food and Starbucks coffee.
Shreveport Mardi Gras: Things To Do
The Enchanting World of Fantasy Masks Exhibit
The Shreveport-Bossier area gets the Shreveport Mardi Gras season started with a unique fantasy masks exhibit at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in beginning in early January. “The Enchanting World of Fantasy Masks” displays the majestic, regal masks you would come to expect as essential to traditional Mardi Gras regalia. Admission to the museum is free and open daily from 9am – 4pm.
Local Shreveport artist, Dennis Beckman, designed the masks in the exhibit, with a variety of themes including “All that Glitters”, “Into the Woods”, and “Floral Fantasies”. Masks feature jewels, feathers, sequins, and other design elements. Many are worn for festive gatherings, and the beautiful designer pieces also make festive, colorful home décor. Desiring a souvenir? Beckman’s masks are available for sale at his sister’s shop, The Enchanted Garden, in Shreveport.
The Ark-La-Tex Mardi Gras Museum
Operated by the Krewe of Gemini, this public space showcases Mardi Gras in all its glory year-round on weekends. Opened in 2002, the Bossier City outlet displays masks, floats, crowns, and festival regalia for visitors to experience.
On the outside of the building, you’ll find an expansive, colorful mural depicting a festive Mardi Gras mask. The Museum boasts the second largest collection of Mardi Gras royalty costumes in the world.
This is one of the neatest gift shops in Shreveport. Wit items for every occasion, owner Deb has created this magical store for all needs.
One of the main highlights are the one of a kind masks that her brother Dennis makes. This is where you go for your Shreveport Mardi Gras mask!
Krewe of Highland Parade
The inception of the Krewe of Highland was to bring the community together for a fun filled day. In 1994, Matthew Linn wanted to promote the historic nature of his home neighborhood with a festive Mardi Gras parade. Highland is a funky neighborhood with a diverse population, and he wanted to create a fun occasion where neighbors would meet one another. He’s accomplished his goal, as residents and visitors have grown attendance to exceed 11,000 people in recent years.
The parade route spans through several residential streets over three miles and runs through the daytime, with floats driven very slowly while children stand on either side of the floats waiting for beads. People are dressed up in festive Mardi Gras gold, green, and purple, while others don colorful masks and outlandish costumes. Musicians are aboard many floats, with live music flowing throughout the streets, and you may even find a local marching band making their way along the parade route.
What sets the Krewe of Highland apart from the other parades is not only the pride and community created, but also the goodies thrown from the floats on the parade route. Not just colorful beads, you can come hungry to this Krewe’s parade, with tacos, packaged ramen noodles, and grilled hot dogs thrown to the crowd. In addition to the food, you’ll see stuffed animals, decorated plastic cups, and other gifts given away for attendees.
The parade attendees love hosting the event to celebrate Mardi Gras and bring joy to the children and families for the fun party. Parade goers will always be heard throughout the route, screaming to the hosts a traditional phrase, “Throw me something, mister!” in an attempt to receive some fun souvenirs.
I was fortunate that I was able to ride with the tourism board on a float for this parade and throw goodies to spectators. Being on the float gave me a new view of what it is like for those who come out. Just seeing the excitement of it all in everyone’s eyes is pretty amazing.
Krewe of Gemini Parade:
The oldest parading Krewe in Shreveport! 2019 was their 30th year of participation.
I went to this parade as a spectator and caught all the things thrown to me. The energy of the crowd is undeniable. There’s a spirit of Shreveport Mardi Gras that cannot be duplicated and it is unmissable among the attendees.
Mardi Gras Beads
You may be wondering why are beads often thrown from the floats and parades during Mardi Gras. Back in the 1880s, a man dressed like Santa Claus started throwing festive beads, and the other krewes soon followed suit, after they spent many years throwing food, dirt, and whatever else they could find. Today, plastic beads are thrown out for the crowds to enjoy and take home as a souvenir from their Mardi Gras adventure.
Krewe of Highland Grand Bal
If you plan to let the good times roll, enjoy the right kind of party in style. The Krewe of Highland throws a proper event with royalty being crowned during the evening’s festivities, dressed in elaborate costumes to celebrate the annual gathering.
Go all out at this event and decorate your table to reflect the Shreveport Mardi Gras spirit.
This year’s Grand Bal XXIV featured a Greatest Show on Earth theme that reflected an elaborate circus environment. Festive dances entertained crowds in feathered costumes and bright colors. Tables overflowed with red, green, and gold decorations, as well as all kinds of circus carnival regalia.
The Grand Bal recognizes its royalty at each annual event. This year’s King of Fantasy, Dennis Beckman; Queen of the Wild Things, Theresa Edgerton-Scott; and Captain of the Krewe of Highland, Sydni Smith, reign over the evening festivities.
Tableau was the most exciting part of the Bal. Much like the Shreveport Mardi Gras parades, the royalty comes out one by one and does throws to the crowd. It is a high energy event full of excitement and wonder. You truly have no idea what is coming next.
Get a Drive-Thru Daiquiri
This is a thing, everywhere. One simply doesn’t go to Shreveport Mardi Gras and not get at least 1 drive-thru daiquiri. I went inside of ‘The Jump Off” and tasted their offerings before deciding on a daiquiri. It was hard to choose because all of them were so good.
I made a second stop at Alky Therapy Daiquiri and went with the King Cake flavor. Stopping here means you are going to find a lot of fun stuff – especially monster style daiquiris.
Calling all bourbon and whiskey aficionados! Fatty’s is where you stop to get the best cocktails in town AND they have over 400 bourbons and whiskeys on shelf – including the infamous Pappy Van Winkle.
My favorite drink that I had here before one of the Shreveport Mardi Gras parades was the Hurricane, which is a must get when in Louisiana.
My favorite piece of “street art” is the piece at Tubb’s Hardware. The woman embodies the Mardi Gras spirit and is absolutely stunning. Her eyes will pierce your soul. It is a beautiful piece of art.
Shreveport Mardi Gras: Cuisine
Seek out some Cajun, creole, and fun favorites that ring in the Mardi Gras season. You’ll find these traditional foods available in Shreveport, some year-round, but all plentiful during Mardi Gras!
If you’ve visited New Orleans before, you’ve likely craved piping hot beignets, fried seafood, “dressed” po’boys, and other favorites since returning home. You can find all of these traditional dishes, among many others, in Shreveport-Bossier.
The very first place I ate in Shreveport was Orlandeaux’s Cafe, and the bar was set high from here. The sweet tea IS the best I had during my entire trip and I probably drank my weight in it. Items I would suggest ordering are their famous stuffed shrimp, the gumbo and the fried catfish.
For delicious po’boys and craw fish, head over to Kim’s Seafood. Not only is the owner the kindest and sweetest person I have ever met, but he makes insane food. This was my first time eating both craw fish and a po’boy and it was life changing delicious.
King cake is a special cake prepared around Mardi Gras, made of a French bread-type dough. The mild flavored cake is traditionally glazed with white frosting and colored crystallized sugar on top. The purple represents justice, the green symbolizes faith, and the gold indicates power, said to honor the trio of kings who visited Jesus on the Epiphany. The cake is baked with a small plastic or porcelain figurine or baby inside (some place them outside the cake), and the tradition suggests that whoever finds the figurine in their slice of cake is the one who must bake the cake next year, or host the next Mardi Gras party!
There are many locally made king cakes available in Shreveport-Bossier, as well as cafes and restaurants selling slices or whole king cakes delivered from southern Louisiana. You’ll also find king cake cupcakes, pastries, flavored coffee beverages, daiquiris, and other king cake inspired dishes in the area.
You can even take a King Cake Making Class at Lilah’s Bakery in Shreveport, where you’ll take home a medium sized king cake to enjoy! I highly recommend this class because you get to learn about the history of the store and how to truly make a cake, while seeing the store operate.
Another pick of incredible king cake is Tubb’s Hardware. Tubb’s s where I had my first taste of this delicious dessert and I was blown away at how amazing it is. Tubb’s like to use a gold baby Jesus on their cake and they always put it on the purple, for royalty.
For delicious beignets and breakfast, seek out Whisk. The owner specializes in a dessert bar style breakfast and does not disappoint.
For a non-traditional Louisiana dining experience, visit Ki’ Mexico for incredible Barbacoa tacos and elote! The guacamole was a big hit as well – the chips are thick and perfectly fried.
If a traditional Northern Louisiana meal, and my favorite of the entire trip, you will want to book time with Chef Harris at ‘Us Up north.’ This is one of those dining experiences where you just kept saying “holy shit” after every bite. As if you had eaten for the first time in your entire life. Her hot water cornbread is going to change your life in ways you didn’t know.
Make sure and visit the Flying Heart Brewing and Pub for Carnival (king cake flavored) beer during Shreveport Mardi Gras. Hands down, this was my favorite beer that I had during my stay. The food is really good as well. Highly recommend getting a pizza!
Many visit Bossier City for top-notch seafood dishes, traditional cocktails that evoke New Orleans, and much more. You can even find a delicious muffuletta at Feritta’s Delicatessen in Shreveport.
Experiencing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Mardi Gras really don’t mean you need to take a trek down to New Orleans. You can find a taste of the incredible dishes in Shreveport to experience the big flavor of the Big Easy.
Shreveport Mardi Gras: Final Thoughts
Shreveport is stepping up their game when it comes to spring festivities with a Mardi Gras season that is nothing short of memorable. With feathered costumes, eclectic people, vibrant colors, and much more, you’ll enjoy a special trip with unexpected wonders.
Where else can you take in an elaborate street parade and outdoor festival that spans several city blocks in a residential neighborhood with thousands of children screaming for beads or gifts — and food! Purchase a ticket to attend a Grand Bal and take in the prestigious royalty, majestic environment, and live entertainment of the evening during Shreveport Mardi Gras. Enjoy a slice of seasonal king cake from a local bakery, or order a cake to bring home and surprise your friends or family with such authentic flavor. You won’t run out of things to do as you take in the glory of Fat Tuesday!
Consider mixing it up next time you desire a spring trip and take a look at Northern Louisiana. You just might find that Shreveport-Bossier has what you’re looking for in terms of festive activities, delicious local cuisine, family-friendly parades, community traditions, and small town living with big time fun.
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Shreveport-Bossier Tourism Board, but as always, opinions are entirely my own.