So, you’re thinking about coming to Mardi Gras in New Orleans for your first time? Read these Carnival tips and facts to get the most out of Mardi Gras 2017!
First things first, Mardi Gras 2017 is on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Mardi Gras always lands on the Tuesday that is 47 days before Easter. It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent. Carnival season refers to the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, and officially begins on January 6 every year. Although Carnival season lasts more than a month, the parties, parades and fun kick into high gear on the Thursday before Mardi Gras.
Most hotels sell out months before Carnival season. Sometimes, rooms can be booked at the last minute, but don’t expect any last-minute deals. The ideal locations are in the French Quarter, Downtown/Warehouse District and Garden District, specifically hotels along the parade routes. About 80 percent of Mardi Gras happens within walking distance of these hotels. Leave your car parked at the hotel, or park it for the duration in a lot or unrestricted street outside of the French Quarter/parade route fray.
Private balls area held by clubs called krewes. Some krewes, like Endymion and Orpheus, have an open membership process that allows anyone to apply and join. Other krewes, like Rex and Zulu, have a closed, and very exclusive membership and process to join.
Plan your parade schedule – but don’t over-plan it.
The “official” parade season kicks off the second Friday before Mardi Gras – on February 17, 2017. But this is New Orleans, so there are plenty of unofficial parades that start rolling as early as January 6th. Initially, parades fall on weekends only, but the schedule really kicks into high gear on Friday, February 17th with the Uptown night parades. It’s good to have a basic “want to see” list while you’re here, but know this: trying to stick to a plan in the Big Easy during Mardi Gras is like trying to catch water in a sieve. Locals know that you never really know where you want to be until… you’re there. And in New Orleans, if you go with the flow, you’ll find that the best moments happen when you let the city take you where it wants you. You’ll probably want to catch at least one or two of the super krewes, like Endymion, Bacchus and Orpheus, because they have the biggest floats, best special effects and massive amounts of throws. Zulu and Rex should be on everyone’s Mardi Gras bucket list, and if you’re in town for the “unofficial” parades, you should check out one of the small, quirky parades for their clever themes and throws.
A mask not only signals to the float riders that you’re worthy of a few throws, masquerading is what makes Mardi Gras a loose, fun affair. The relative anonymity gives you license to go out of character and do things like shriek “THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER!” and dance with strangers on the neutral ground. If you want a full-blown costume, visit a New Orleans costume shop – just remember that whatever you wear, you’ll be wearing it All-Day-Long. If you want to keep it simple (and we suggest that you do), invest in a wig or mini top hat from Fifi Mahony’s or a mask from Maskarade or head to the French Market for the annual Mask Market, when artists from around the country set up shop in the French Market to sell one-of-a-kind masks.
The start of Carnival on January 6 also marks the start of king cake season. No Mardi Gras is complete without eating the purple, green and gold confection. King cake parties are held in offices and homes around the city all season. If you’re only in town for Mardi Gras, be sure to check out one of the local bakeries that specialize in king cakes.
A 7-cent strand of beads, a plastic cup, a doubloon with no monetary value whatsoever…no grownup ever believes that he or she will be reduced to a screaming, jumping, waving nutcase for such trivial trinkets, so prepare yourself for bead fever. You may find yourself vying with an 8-year-old for a stuffed animal or, better yet, purposefully standing next to kids in order to intercept any throws aimed at them. It happens to the best of us. Pack an extra collapsible bag so you can cart home the 30 pounds of beads and other mementos you’ll catch.
|* All dates and information are subject to change.|