In less than three hours (four if you decide to pack before jumping into your car), you can be neck-deep in the Mardi Gras spirit.
Sure, you can always partake in the wild parades and non-stop debauchery of New Orleans, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny for the privilege unless you have friends with a particularly comfortable sofa sleeper.
As much as we love NOLA, we sometimes prefer to stick closer to home and budget our time and finances a little better. Which is why we love Shreveport-Bossier City equally, even if for entirely different reasons. You’ll find nearly as many parades with options as soon as this weekend if you’re ready to let the good times roll ASAP.
Last year, we spent several days absorbing the charming southern hospitality of Shreveport-Bossier and participated in everything from making king cakes to throwing beads from a parade float (we think we still have a pulled shoulder from that!). So here are some tips for making your Mardi Gras visit the best it can be.
One of your first stops should be someplace to get your Mardi Gras wardrobe in a proper state and you’ll find several options around town. If you want to go beyond the made-in-China masks you’ll find most places, opt for a fabulous custom-designed mask made by the equally fabulous Dennis Beckman at The Enchanted Garden. You’ll also find tons of beads and other Mardi Gras throws, drinkware and more at Tubbs Hardware (along with riding mowers if you’re in the market) and
Attending a parade during Mardi Gras is, well, mandatory if you ask us. And as we mentioned, you’ll nearly a dozen parades and parties to choose from as soon as this weekend. You can also find inspiration for costumes and learn the history of Mardi Gras in the region at the Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras Museum.
GAY IT UP
Like many (bigger) small towns in Louisiana, Shreveport-Bossier is pretty darn gay-friendly. There’s a large population of LGBT residents and even a couple official gay bars: Korner Lounge and the huge club/dance venue Central Station. And if you’re looking for beignets, catfish or a stiff drink, Marilynn’s Place is also one of the town’s gayest hangouts.
One of the main reasons we frequent Louisiana towns? Food. Food. Food. We know this might be blasphemous in some circles, but we’ve had better meals in Shreveport-Bossier percentage-wise than we’ve had in New Orleans. Crazy, right? But the people here are passionate about their cooking and it’s usually pretty wallet-friendly, too.
One absolute must when visiting is a trip to Us Up North where Chef Hardette Harris serves up North Louisiana’s Official Meal (and we mean government-sanctioned official!) in her small bistro. Creole Café & Catering also gives us a case of the yummies with their to-die-for gumbo, while Herby K’s has one of our all-time favorite po-boys, the Shrimp Buster. For crawfish, one of the local favorites is Kim’s Seafood, which also features plenty of Asian versions including crawfish fried rice and crawfish egg rolls. Or for straightforward Chinese with a killer (and award-winning wine list), we highly recommend Lucky Palace. Just don’t be scared by the rather scary motel it’s located inside. And for modern Mexican, Kí Mexico can’t be beat.
Then when your sweet tooth takes over, make sure you try one of the many (and we mean many) king cakes available from Lilah’s Bakery. As we mentioned above in the LGBT section, Marilynn’s Place has some incredible beignets and brunch. Or indulge in something non-Mardi-Gras-themed but equally decadent at Whisk Dessert Bar.
There are only so many hurricanes one can ingest. (Our max is seven). So when you’re looking for other boozy distractions, you’re totally covered in Shreveport-Bossier City. For excellent craft cocktails in a very small, dark New Orleans-esque setting, Fatty Arbuckle’s would be our go-to every day we’re in town if we could swing it.
Of course, if you’re not already aware, Shreveport-Bossier City is a destination known for its many drive-thru daiquiri spots. There are way too many to list, but two of our favorites are The Jump Off for traditional frozen drinks with near-lethal doses of booze. And Alky Therapy wins our hearts for their wildly inventive brain-freeze concoctions served in oversized prescription bottles adorned with all sorts of things, from gummy bears to Oreos. (Pro tip: the cookies help soak up the alcohol!)
With the exception of a few bed-and-breakfasts, accommodations in Shreveport-Bossier City fall into one of three categories: elaborate hotel/casinos, major brand mid-price chains and ultra-basic, budget motels. Luckily, the two cities aren’t hard to navigate and you can pretty much stay anywhere that fits your needs and have an enjoyable experience. We personally have had great times at the Horseshoe (pictured above) and the newer Margaritaville Resort Casino, but we’ve had equally enjoyable extended stays at Courtyard by Marriott Shreveport-Bossier City/Louisiana Boardwalk. Besides, if you’re doing Mardi Gras right, you won’t need your room for anything other than sleeping.
And washing glitter off your body.