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Celebrating the Big Easy’s biggest holiday — right here in South Jersey
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Mardi Party!

Celebrating the Big Easy’s biggest holiday — right here in South Jersey

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I try to go down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras every year. The allure of that city during Carnival season is something that I (and many like me) find utterly irresistible. It’s hard to put a finger on what specific thing draws me to it, because there are so many aspects happening at once that make it so special — Mardi Gras is more than you think it is and more than could ever be explained in any newspaper article. The best way to sum it up — it’s like a massive piñata full of fun was just smashed open over a city that knows exactly what to do with it.

In New Orleans, the gritty beauty of the French Quarter sets the perfect tone, and as the season gains momentum, the anticipation and energy thicken in the air as one and all revelers cherry pick from a menu of perfect celebratory experiences.

I love them all — diving for throws at the parades, people watching from the balconies, or the simple pleasure of sipping a Hurricane in the courtyard of the legendary Pat O'Brien’s. Of course there’s the sound of jazz trumpets blaring like warbled sirens out the wide open doors of the bars and clubs along Frenchman street, the brass bands fronting second lines as they march and dance their way through town, the intoxicating smells of beignets, pralines, gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee and other dishes that are all but exclusive to the city, and of course, the wild, unapologetic decadence and revelry that is Bourbon Street. It’s all pure magic — with a dose of voodoo.

(Sigh) Sadly, this year I won’t be making it to New Orleans, but the good news is that there are more than a few options in our neck of the woods for those looking to let the good times roll (or “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”as they say in The Big Easy.) From swamp-inspired cocktail parties to Creole cuisine and live concerts, here are our picks for the best ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in South Jersey:

Getting’ jazzy in Atlantic City

Atlantic City’s most extensive Mardi Gras celebration will be happening along Tennessee Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 21, which is the actual date of Mardi Gras itself (Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French, in case you were unaware.)

The party kicks off at noon and will be happening simultaneously at four venues all located next door to each other — Bar 32, Rhythm & Spirits, Cuzzie’s Pizzeria Kitchen and Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall. Expect noisemakers, beads, booze and general merriment.

Bar 32 will feature beignets from the legendary New Orleans hotspot Café Du Monde (available either on their own or with Bar 32’s homemade chocolate dipping sauce), as well as a New Orleans-style milk punch with chocolate shavings or a sweet grasshopper cocktail.

Rhythm & Spirits will transform into a swanky jazz club, complete with famed NOLA cocktails like the Sazerac, Ramos Gin Fizz, Grasshopper, La Louisiane, and Vieux Carre, along with charbroiled oysters and live jazz music from 6 to 9 p.m.

Cuzzie’s Pizzeria Kitchen will come through with some Louisiana-inspired food specials that you just about never see in Jersey, including muffaletta sandwich (inspired by the classic one at Central Grocery in New Orleans) and a savory crawfish pizza.

Finally, the folks at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall will be partying their way through the day with specials including hurricane cocktails, a boozy king cake shake and authentic Creole cuisine like jambalaya, gumbo and Po Boy sandwiches. The Dixieland Jazz Band with Tom Angello will perform from 7 to 10 p.m.

For more info, go to

Over on the Boardwalk, The Yard at Bally’s will celebrate Mardi Gras from Feb. 17 to 25, with a variety of themed cocktails and food offerings. There will also be a special King Cake event Saturday, Feb. 18, where one person will win a three-day, two-night trip to Bally’s property in Biloxi, Mississipi.

Bally’s is located at Park Place and Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Go to

Swamp music in Tuckerton

If you have yet to see a show at the Lizzie Rose Music Room, you are truly missing out on one of the best and most gorgeous venues in our area, as well as one of the most intimate (it only seats 75 people). To celebrate Mardi Gras, the Lizzie Rose will host James Day and the Fish Fry for the second year straight. Expect a mix of authentic zydeco, Cajun waltzs, French music and the music of New Orleans natives Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Doctor John and more. Last year’s show sold out, so grab your tickets while you can.

Lizzie Rose Music Room is located at 217 E. Main Street, Tuckerton. Go to

Zydeco and more in Cape May

Mardi Gras lands in Cape May in a big way this year as Exit Zero Ferry Park plays host to a pair of performances (at 6 and 8:30 p.m.) by two-time Grammy award winners the Terrance Simien Zydeco Experience.

Simien is an 8th generation Louisiana Creole and his show is rooted in traditional zydeco, an upbeat style of music first developed in southwest Louisiana that combines elements of blues and Cajun music, with an emphasis on relatively uncommon instruments such as accordion and the a vest frottoir, a specialized washboard used as a percussion instrument. The music is high-energy and a hell of a lot of fun, and crowds will easily work up a sweat trying to keep up on the dance floor.

Guests can choose from two ticket options: a $50 ticket which includes a full New Orleans-style buffet plus admission to the show, or a $25 ticket which only includes the show.

Exit Zero Ferry Park is located at 1200 Lincoln Blvd. in North Cape May. Go to


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