Mardi Gras in New Orleans typically means dancing in the streets, standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers and watching one parade after another roll by while slowly becoming a human bead tree. But Mardi Gras 2021 will be different.
Parades won’t roll. There will be no large crowds or events. The health and safety of our community is a priority, but that doesn’t mean Mardi Gras is cancelled.
In the days leading up to February 16, expect the king cakes to flow in abundance and krewes to find new ways to keep the Mardi Gras spirit alive. If you find yourself in New Orleans, mask up and please remain mindful of the Phased Reopening guidelines our city is under, but remember that no one does Mardi Gras like New Orleans. Here’s how to celebrate.
Start with King Cake on January 6
Carnival season begins on January 6, which means that the wait for king cake is officially over. Traditionally made with sweet brioche dough, cinnamon filling and a glazed icing finish, the first slice of king cake is the official marker of the Mardi Gras season. Bakeries in New Orleans have been making them for years in both traditional and eccentric varieties (savory crawfish king cake, anyone?). If you’re in town, swing by King Cake Hub to check out over 60 local varieties. Learn more about New Orleans’ Best King Cakes here, many of which are available for nationwide shipping.
Check out what the krewes are doing
Though krewes can’t roll this Mardi Gras season, many are adapting to celebrate in new, socially distant ways. See the list below for how various krewes are marking the year:
- Krewe of Joan of Arc: Get your tickets for a live performance drive-by event on January 6, which will feature storytelling inspired by Joan’s life and legacy.
- Funky Uptown Krewe: Participate in a socially distant scavenger hunt beginning on January 6 from Funky Uptown Krewe. Their coveted throw, the hand-painted record, will be scattered along the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line hiding in plain sight. Check out their Instagram for clues.
- Krewe of Bacchus: One of the most anticipated superkrewes of the Mardi Gras season, the Krewe of Bacchus couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let 2021 go by without creating 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. Search the app store for the Throw Me Something Bacchus! app once it goes live on January 6.
- Krewe of Muses: Support local businesses along the Muses parade route while entering a contest to win a one-of-a-kind, special edition, 2021 Muses shoe. Play the "Stilotto" from January 20-February 10 by visiting the businesses listed here and enter during your visit.
- Krewe of House Floats: Krewe of House Floats is a new, non-traditional krewe created specifically for the times we’re living in. It calls on members in neighborhoods all across the city to transform the exterior of their houses into a float, creating an opportunity for spectators to drive on by and remain safe from others. Check here for a map of the houses and create your own parade with the Krewe of House Floats this Carnival season.
Attend a cocktail tasting or museum, and stay in a hotel
Check out the following Mardi Gras-themed events below.
- Floats in the Oaks: Visit New Orleans City Park from February 4-14 for Floats in the Oaks, a first-ever drive-thru display of floats from various Mardi Gras krewes. See the intricate details of floats from years past while remaining socially distant in your car. Train ride add-ons are available for an additional price.
- Hilton Krewe of Shoebox Contest: Hilton Riverside New Orleans is honoring the beloved childhood tradition of creating a shoebox float with a new contest. Participants will construct their floats out of cardboard and submit in person to the hotel or online for the chance to win a variety of prizes. There is no fee to enter but participants are asked to consider donating to the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation. The deadline to enter is February 12.
- Sazerac House: Get into the Mardi Gras spirit with festive events from Sazerac House. Throughout February, both in-person and virtual workshops will be taking place. Drink and learn about Carnival traditions, participate in a mask-making workshop or watch a cocktail demonstration from home.
- Cochon Butcher: Dine in at Cochon Butcher from January 6-February 17 as they celebrate Carnival around the world. Each week, a new country will be celebrated with a special small plates menu, taking us from Germany to Brazil to Venice and ending right at home. Takeout and delivery is also available.
- Southern Food & Beverage Museum: Enjoy a king cake-making class in person at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum on January 29 or February 5.
- Paradigm Gardens: Enjoy a Mardi Gras celebration with food and music this February at Paradigm Gardens. Your ticket includes a five-course Carnival-themed meal, as well as performances from K.O.B. Brass Band, DJ Kash and the Black Flame Hunter Mardi Gras Indians. The 21+ event will be outdoors and socially distant, with dates spanning February 5-13. All are encouraged to wear a costume.
- Mardi Gras World: Stop by Mardi Gras World to get a behind-the-scenes look at float building and decorating process that brings much of the season to life. Open daily for tours, this should top your list of things to do during the season.
- Backstreet Cultural Museum: To learn about the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Rich with artifacts, including hand-beaded suits and photography, this off-the-beaten-path museum is worth the visit.
- JAMNOLA: 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 more. Visit from January 22-February 21 for new installations celebrating Mardi Gras.
- If you plan on staying in New Orleans this Mardi Gras season, be sure to take advantage of these hotel and attraction deals. With up to 20% off the best available room rate, discounts on swamp tours and free drinks, there's plenty of reasons to stay in NOLA this January and February.
Search for that special Carnival food
Mardi Gras isn’t only about the parades and parties –food is at the core of every celebration. Our restaurants are open and ready to serve you at a table or provide takeout to your home. Copeland’s of New Orleans has “Feed Your Krewe” food packages and a Mardi Gras King Cake Cheesecake on the menu these next few weeks. Reginelli’s is bringing back their Cajun Crawfish Pizza, King Cake Cocktails and King Cake Bread Pudding. Not in New Orleans? Goldbelly will ship you the same po-boy you’d be eating in between parades on Endymion Saturday (Parkway’s roast beef, obviously). Oh, and we can’t forget about Popeye’s. You can’t let a Mardi Gras season go by without driving through a Popeye’s.
Experience Mardi Gras from home
Pop on our curated Mardi Gras playlist and enjoy Mardi Gras festivities from the comfort and safety of your home with a virtual cooking class from New Orleans School of Cooking. 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. And finally, be sure to tune into “Mardi Gras for Y’all,” a three-night, four-and-a-half-hour spectacle featuring celebrity interviews, musical performances and narratives on the history of Mardi Gras. Watch the celebrations here on February 12, 13 and 14.
Commander's Palace National Wine & Cheese Show is bringing a Mardi Gras Extravaganza to homes across the country on February 10. Click here to learn more and get tickets to this festive virtual event.
Enter to win a curated prize package featuring items from Zapp’s Potato Chips along with local vendors valued at $500 each with our sweepstakes here.
Dress in Mardi Gras style
From headdresses to Mardi Gras-themed socks, there’s a little purple, green and gold for everyone to be found in local shops. Meyer The Hatter has Mardi Gras Saints & Pelicans caps available now, and St. Claude Social Club is your go-to spot for unique clothing and accessories. Dirty Coast, Fleurty Girl and Perlis have t-shirts, ties and everything in sequins. Don’t forget to add a festive face mask to your costume for Mardi Gras 2021.