Plan a trip to Shreveport, Louisiana for Mardi Gras (or just because) with travel tips, packing recommendations, and secret information to help you have the best time.
I ended February 2022 with my first Mardi Gras experience in Shreveport, LA, which I found to be a bit of a hidden gem. The long weekend in Shreveport and Bossier City was packed with activities--and lots of eating--but I still feel like there's much more to explore. If you're looking for ideas for a weekend road trip from Houston or Dallas or another part of Texas, add Shreveport to your list and keep scrolling.
Need more unique US destinations? Check these out, too!
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Shreveport Mardi Gras 2022 Vlog
Wondering why should I visit Shreveport? You might be surprised to learn that the Shreveport-Bossier City metro area has a lot to offer. Especially at this time of year, I highly recommend trying out Shreveport if you're intimidated by bigger Mardi Gras celebrations in bigger cities. I was hosted by the Shreveport Bossier-City Tourism Bureau on a whirlwind dive into the city's history, culture, and, of course, cuisine.
Photography above by Kyle J Photog
Mardi Gras Traditions to Pack For
This trip gave me my first taste of several Mardi Gras traditions. Each one is driven by social groups called krewes. Krewes can be formed around common interests, neighborhoods, shared heritage, or something else entirely. Each krewe puts on a bal, bash, and parade during the Mardi Gras season, which can span several weeks. There are currently 15 krewes in Shreveport and Bossier City, including two Black krewes: Krewe of Sobek and Krewe of Harambee. Erika and I are pictured above at the Krewe of Highland Bal with the Queen of Sobek!
- Mardi Gras Bal - Each Krewe hosts a bal, which is a formal gala that happens prior to parade. Dress to impress and pack a mask. Or purchase a custom one at Enchanted Garden Shreveport, where Dennis Beckman designs them. (Dennis is a Shreveport native who designs masks for carnival events all over the world and works with Miss USA pageants, as well.) Any gown or jumpsuit with sequins is a safe bet. Here's the gown I wore. Mardi Gras Bals are invite only, with attendance usually limited to Krewe members and their guests. We attended the Krewe of Highland Bal and I have to admit that I initially assumed that the single L spelling was a typo but nope! It's intentional. Don't be like me: get up on your Mardi Gras lingo.
- Mardi Gras Bash - Also hosted by a Krewe, I liken the bash to a tailgate, with live music, food and drink, and activities to gear up for the parade kickoff. Depending on weather, this could be a tented event. When we attended the Krewe of Gemini bash with the Shreveport Bossier City Tourism Bureau, it was cold and rainy so I definitely appreciated the tent and heaters. You have to get out in the elements to catch those beads, though, so pack a lightweight poncho and/or umbrella. Hand-warmers also came in handy. On the flip side, pack sunglasses and quality sunscreen, as well as a hat, when it's bright and sunny.
- Mardi Gras Parades - You don't need an invite to watch the parades, and some of them actually go through residential streets so folks camp out and watch from the comfort of their front lawns. Weather at this time of year can be tricky and, in fact, it was freezing and rainy during the Krewe of Gemini parade and the next day, we had bright sunny conditions in the 50s during the Krewe of Highland parade. So check the forecast and dress accordingly!
I overpacked everything in just a carry-on bag and personal item, per usual, and think you could likely get away with doing the same, even with formal wear and outerwear. Outside of the ball, attire is pretty casual. You might want to bring an extra bag to bring back all your Mardi Gras beads and your bal mask, though. I had to get creative with that. Check out my carry-only packing process.
Fun Things to Do
Especially if you're visiting outside of the Mardi Gras season, make sure to check out these unique local Shreveport experiences. This Red River city has several hidden gems!
- BeauxJax is a block of businesses in Bossier City that kind of make for the perfect night out. There's a venue where local chefs host private dinners, a restaurant, frozen daiquiri bar, and axe throwing!
- Enchanted Garden is full of novelty items, souvenirs, gifts, and, as I mentioned above, custom Mardi Gras and carnival masks. And they have an entire collection of memorabilia in my sorority colors because our region hosts conferences in Shreveport on the regular. They know what's up!
- Far End District - This is an historically Black-owned area of Shreveport currently being revitalized by Black business owners. Up for Brunch and Louisiana Daiquiri Cafe, which I share more about below, are both located in the Far End District.
- Great Raft Brewing has a tasting room, tours, and retail beers for sale. I am not a beer drinker but really enjoyed their brunch & brews pairing, which included a flight of their most popular beers (including a King Cake stout!) and three yummy brunch items: hot honey butter chicken biscuit, king cake bread pudding, and street corn hash-brown casserole. Chef's kiss. You'll find Great Raft's signature 318 beer on tap in restaurants all around Shreveport.
- Municipal Auditorium is an historic site constructed shortly after World War I that was once the springboard for anyone wanting to get into country music. Elvis Presley got his start here. The auditorium still serves as a music venue to major artists and is steeped in history. Sam Cooke was inspired to write A Change is Gonna Come after being jailed in segregated Shreveport while on his way to perform at the auditorium.
- R. W. Norton Art Gallery is located in a residential part of Shreveport and free to the public. Events and exhibitions vary throughout the year and when the weather is nice, you'll want to stroll through the surrounding 40 acres of botanical gardens.
- Robinson Film Center is a movie theatre and education center dedicated to the art and history of filmmaking. Shreveport has a surprisingly rich cinematic history with countless notable movies and television shows having been filmed there. You can learn about it, catch a flick, and enjoy a full meal at Abby Singer's Bistro on the second floor. The theatre rooms have ridiculously comfortable reclining seats and you can bring your meal (and cocktails) from the bistro into your movie, if you like.
- Shreveport Aquarium is located in downtown Shreveport and perfect for Louisiana family road trip stop because it's interactive and has something for everyone. You can touch starfish, jellyfish, and stingrays then enjoy lunch and cocktails at the onsite bistro.
- Shreveport Festival Plaza is walking distance from downtown hotels and the site of various festivals, fairs, and farmer's markets throughout the year.
- Tipsey the Band--wherever you can catch them playing while in Shreveport is a must stop! This soulful cover band does all the hits and they do them phenomenally. They've been noted as one of Shreveport's best bands and really do it all. I had the pleasure of being in the audience when they performed for this year's Mardi Gras kickoff.
- Tubb's Hardware is an old fashioned general store that carries a little bit of everything including souvenirs, beads, a variety of king cakes, and boudin. My favorite was the praline filled king cake.
Where to Eat in Shreveport and Bossier City
I hit up a lot of Shreveport restaurants and never had a bad beignet! Beyond the powdered sugar puffs, there was no shortage of delicious food from casual street fare to high end multi-course meals. Here are my dining recommendations.
- Ernest Orleans Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge Go for a nice dinner. I had several courses and enjoyed just about everything but order the marinated crab claws.
- Ki'Mexico Go for tacos, tortas, and drinks. Order the hibiscus margarita.
- Louisiana Daiquiri Cafe Go for late night drinks. Order one of the Shreveport neighborhood themed drinks.
- Orlandeaux's Go for a piece of Black history in Shreveport. Orlandeaux's has changed names and locations over the years but is regarded as the oldest Black family-owned, continuously operating restaurant in the country. Order the beignets and swamp water.
- Up for Brunch Go for an early breakfast or brunch. Order the shrimp & grits and beignets.
Coming from Houston, most of us are very familiar with New Orleans in southern Louisiana. Shreveport is in northern Louisiana, also known as Louisiana's other side. It's close to Louisiana's borders with Texas and Arkansas, and thus influenced by all three state's cultures. Shreveport and Bossier City encompass three Louisiana parishes: Bossier, Caddo, and Desoto. One major selling point is that this is a place you can travel on a budget, compared to areas more heavily visited by tourists.
Where to Stay
I stayed at Sam's Town Hotel & Casino, which is conveniently situated in downtown Shreveport. It was pretty convenient to get just about anywhere in town and some of the parade and bash festivities were in walking distance. It is a massive hotel with onsite restaurants and casinos on multiple levels. My room was on the 18th floor with a view of the Long-Allen bridge, well-appointed, and spacious. I'll admit that based on the hotel exterior, I expected the rooms to be dated but was pleasantly surprised by how modern mine was. Peep my Instagram story highlight for a proper look at it via video.
In case you haven't yet noticed, I tried to align with Mardi Gras colors for this trip, which are purple, green, and gold. These colors represent justice, faith, and power.
How lovely is the Long-Allen bridge all lit up over the Red River? I hope this travel guide helps you plan well for visiting Shreveport. Sharing is caring so be sure to pin my Mardi Gras road trip tips and follow me over on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!