California’s Funky Mardi Gras

Dance and catch beads in Nevada City over Valentine's Weekend.

Nevada City Chamber

THAT LIVELY JOIE DE VIVRE: Ask anyone who has ever marked a Mardi Gras in New Orleans to share their favorite part and you'll probably hear as many answers as a string has shiny beads. Some specific references'll be noted, from the King Cakes to the outlandish krewes, but many a reveler will simply cite the joie de vivre of the festivities and the funky, live-outlandishly nature of it all. That can be harder to pinpoint than a physical object, but finding that funky-fun spirit is something fans of the occasion look for, whether they're in Louisiana or not. It's a bit harder to find a party on the scale of The Big Easy, of course, but if you're seeking out a small-town version, one that comes with a Main-Street-y vibe, then turn your eyes upon Nevada City. You won't find the mondo floats nor the crowds of thousands along the town's walkable Broad Street, and, unlike the French Quarter, there aren't oodles of balconies providing a rain-down of beads (courtesy of people on the balconies doing the throwing). What you will find is a charming parade, and costumes, and the kind of funky fun-having that comes naturally to the go-its-own-way burg. Are you ready to dance a little, NOLA-style, but without wading through streets upon streets of revelers? Then go N.C. on...

FEB. 13 AND 14, 2016: True, true, Mardi Gras officially lands upon Tuesday, Feb. 9, but it is just Nevada City's thing to keep the party going a bit longer. The parade is complemented by a masquerade ball, and the feathers and sequin-cool masks shall be out in full force, wherever you happen to land. That it is also Valentine's Weekend throws a twist in the to-do, so think red sequins, perhaps, in your Fat Tuesday-themed togs. The parade's on Sunday, the capper to the weekend, and temps can be nippy 'round the Sierra town in mid-winter, so plan accordingly. Is this the year you make New Orleans? Cheers to that, but if that isn't in the cards, and you want an accessible 'n awesome interpretation of the holiday via a charmer of a village, make for the hills.

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