How To: Mardi Gras in St. Louis

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Photo Credit: Explore St. Louis
Photo Credit: Explore St. Louis

Mardi Gras in St. Louis is one of the country’s biggest parties. Thousands of people fill the historic Soulard neighborhood to enjoy the Purina Pet Parade, the Taste of Soulard and the Bud Light Grand Parade. Learn more about how to celebrate Fat Tuesday, St. Louis style.

A group of horn players descends the steps at an elegant party.
The festivities go on for weeks in St. Louis.

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras traces its roots back to the ancient Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia, which were traditionally held in December and February. The boisterous festivals celebrated fertility and the upcoming spring. After Christianity became the state religion of Rome, it is believed church leaders found it easier to include the popular pagan traditions in the new faith instead of banning them.

Today, Mardi Gras is a last hurrah for people to eat, drink and cavort before the start of Lent, a period of time traditionally marked by fasting and abstinence. While many places throughout the world celebrate Mardi Gras, the festivities in St. Louis are believed to be among the largest. 

The Second Largest?

You may have heard the St. Louis Mardi Gras celebration is the second largest in the country, behind only the party in New Orleans. That’s a claim that isn’t backed up by any evidence. In a 2022 statement to KSDK, Mack Bradley, president of the Mardi Gras Foundation in Soulard, clarified that while there are thousands of attendees, it is not possible to know the true size of the festival. 

“Soulard Mardi Gras has never made the claim to be the second-largest in the nation,” wrote Bradley. “We have no way of accurately counting the number of people who come to our largest events as they are outdoors and not within a single area with turnstiles or counters.”

A woman puts beads around another person’s neck on the parade route.
The Bud Light Grand Parade is the largest celebration of Mardi Gras season.

Major Mardi Gras Events in St. Louis

Feb. 4: Cajun Cook-off

Watch amateur chefs preparing Cajun dishes face off in front of a panel of judges. Admission to the event includes an authentic Cajun lunch, open bar, live music and cooking demonstrations. 

Feb. 11-12: Taste of Soulard

Experience some of the best flavors of the neighborhood on a self-guided restaurant and pub crawl through Soulard. Each pass includes one drink voucher and six food vouchers that can be redeemed at any of the participating establishments.

Feb. 12: Purina Pet Parade

Dress up your furry (or not so furry) friends for the world’s largest costumed pet parade. The best-dressed pets of the parade will be crowned the King and Queen of Barkus. 

Feb. 12: Tito’s Vodka Wiener Dog Derby

Is your dashing dachshund ready for race day? Watch wiener dogs sprint down a 30-foot track to earn the title of fastest weenie in the city. While the race is only for pups, humans can compete in the best hat contest.

Feb. 18: Bud Light Grand Parade

Join thousands of people at one of the biggest Mardi Gras parades in the country and the main event of the Soulard celebration. The party begins at Busch Stadium and proceeds through the streets of Downtown South and Soulard all the way to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. 

Click here for a full list of Mardi Gras events happening in St. Louis. 

Get the Party Started

Find out where you can sample the flavors of Mardi Gras season throughout the state by exploring Missouri Cajun and Creole cuisine. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with decadent desserts perfect for Mardi Gras.