Mardi Gras in New Orleans typically means large celebrations, parades rolling one after another featuring elaborate floats and revelers dancing throughout the streets. This year the health and safety of our community is the priority, so wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large crowds is a requirement. While parades and large events won’t be possible, it doesn’t mean Mardi Gras is canceled.
Creativity in New Orleans knows no bounds and there are so many ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in 2021. Locals have transformed the front of their houses into floats through a coordinated effort by neighborhood called the Krewe of House Floats and New Orleans City Park’s Floats under the Oaks has created the first-ever drive-thru display of floats from various Mardi Gras krewes. Virtual events include a three-night, 4½-hour online spectacular called "Mardi Gras For All Y'All " that will bring New Orleans' signature celebration to the world, Commander’s Palace Wine & Cheese Night’s special Mardi Gras Extravaganza, cooking classes and more. Local restaurants and bakeries are shipping seasonal favorites nationally, including the only-to-be-eaten-during-Carnival king cakes and hotels are providing great discounts and deals.
A House in the Krewe of House Floats/Credit: Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee and Krewe of Red Beans
A New Look for Old Traditions
Floats are moving past the parade route, turning houses and parks into spectacular displays of Mardi Gras magic.
- Krewe of House Floats is a new, non-traditional krewe created specifically for this unusual year. Members in neighborhoods across the city have transformed the exterior of their houses into floats, creating an opportunity for spectators to drive by to safely enjoy, while supports local businesses and artists impacted. The krewe has just released the map of over 3,000 participating houses and have even had expats from across the country and world participate.
- New Orleans City Park is bringing the excitement of the parades to one spot to safely be enjoyed with Floats in the Oaks from February 4-14, a once in a lifetime opportunity for visitors to view iconic floats from various Mardi Gras krewes all in one place. Ticket holders can drive under the live oak trees to view the intricate details of floats from years past while staying socially distant in their car.
New This Year for Locals and Visitors
Many of the krewes that usually roll along St. Charles Avenue, along with attractions throughout the city, are creating exciting new festivities throughout the Carnival season.
- Hotels and attractions are offering Mardi Gras deals like up to 20% off the best available room rate, discounts on swamp tours, free drinks and much more.
- The krewe of Muses, known for their prized decorated shoes, has partnered with local businesses along their traditional parade route on a contest that shoppers can enter to win a one-of-a-kind, special edition, 2021 Muses shoe. Shoppers can play the "Stilotto" by visiting the businesses listed here.
- Paradigm Gardens’ outdoor, socially distant Mardi Gras celebration includes a five-course Carnival-themed meal, live performances including Black Flame Hunter Mardi Gras Indians and costumes are encouraged.
- JAMNOLA is a permanent pop-up celebrating the music, art and culture of New Orleans brought to life by 20+ local artists. Exhibits include films on Mardi Gras traditions, murals representing the faces of New Orleans, a life-size interactive crawfish boil pot and new installations celebrating Mardi Gras.
Eat Like You’re on a Parade Route
Food is at the core of every festival in New Orleans and Mardi Gras is no different. If you want a taste of the season, there are plenty of options to order to your door.
- King Cake is one of the most iconic carnival dishes, with many believing it should only be eaten between Epiphany and Mardi Gras Day. This year, iconic restaurants like Galatoire’s have started making king cakes for the first time. This includes Brennan’s, who debuted three flavors, Traditional, Strawberry Cream Cheese and the Chocolate ‘Black and Gold’ King cake. Click here for the full list of king cakes available to ship.
- Also new this year is Gracious Bakery’s King Cake Kit, which provides a dry mix for you to bake a king cake in your own home.
- Goldbelly ships New Orleans classics nationally, including Central Grocery Muffuletta, Parkway Bakery & Tavern’s Roast Beef Po’Boy and turtle soup from Commander’s Palace.
Experience Mardi Gras at Home
Our curated Mardi Gras Playlist and these curated virtual events bring the festivities to everyone’s home.
- Tune in to “Mardi Gras for Y’all,” a three-night, four-and-a-half-hour spectacle will provide an insiders tour all the moving parts that make Mardi Gras an inclusive experience lead by Hoda Kotb, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Saints legend Archie Manning and many more. Watch the celebrations here on February 12, 13 and 14.
- Royal Sonesta New Orleans will host its annual “Greasing of the Poles” at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 12 as a virtual event, with audiences invited to join the revelry via a watch party on the hotel’s Facebook page. This year’s theme, “Mardi Gras MASKerade,” incorporates the importance of safety into an event made famous by irreverent, audacious performances.
- Commander's Palace National Wine & Cheese Show is bringing a Mardi Gras Extravaganza to homes across the country on February 10.
- Zapp’s and NewOrleans.com have given individuals the chance to win a curated Mardi Gras in a Box prize package. For those who don’t want to wait to see if they’ve won, retailers are offering a limited collection of festive, fun boxes for purchase.
- Throughout February, both in-person and virtual workshops will be taking place at the Sazerac House. Drink and learn about Carnival traditions, participate in a mask-making workshop or watch a cocktail demonstration from home.
- Learn to make favorite dishes of Mardi Gras from the comfort and safety of your home with a virtual cooking class from New Orleans School of Cooking.
- The Krewe of Bacchus has created a free, interactive app with virtual games and real-life prizes. Join a “mini parade” for the chance to capture digital throws redeemable for doubloons, bicycles and more. Download from Google Play or the App Store.
Safely Enjoying New Orleans
The City is currently in a modified Phase 2 which means that restaurants and attractions are open at 50% and bars are open at limited capacity, offering outdoor seating and to go drinks. Live music is limited but as always New Orleans business owners and musicians have gotten creative without door shows and expanded outdoor seating for dining with our mild winter weather. Our community and the hospitality industry are taking the situation very seriously and striving to make New Orleans as safe as possible for all, especially our guests. We have instituted a NOLA Hospitality Safe Program through which hotels, restaurants, musicians, and others have taken a pledge to follow COVID-19 reopening guidelines and guests are asked to do the same.
Images available upon request.