Already been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Think you can scratch it off your bucket list? Not so fast! Before you say you’ve seen it all, here are some specific must-dos. From quirky events to super local traditions, here is how to have the ultimate Mardi Gras experience.
For many, the local marching bands are a highlight of the parade. High schools, colleges and military create some of the best beats in the city. Cheer them on from the side and hear the official sound of Mardi Gras.
One of the earliest parades of the season, the Krewe du Vieux is the only parade that goes through the French Quarter or Vieux Carre. Adults only, it is famous for its wild satire, adult themes and for showcasing the city’s best brass bands. It’s a fabulous night with lots of humor. The parade “sub-krewes," including the Krewe of Underwear, Krewe of L.E.W.D., and the Mystic Krewe of Comatose (a spoof on the old-line Krewe of Comus). And if you love Krewe du Vieux, make sure you catch the other “micro-krewes.”
Since 1819, the North Side Skull and Bone Gang has been rising before dawn, costuming as skeletons and waking up the 6th Ward on Mardi Gras morning. It’s a bone-chilling tradition you shouldn’t miss.
These are the most treasured throws of Carnival, so it won’t be easy. Just remember, at Mardi Gras time, greed is good. Don’t give up till you get what you want. And many specially made throws have hashtags from the people who threw them so you can tag them online and thank them for their artistry – and aim.
While most krewe balls are “invitation only,” the Endymion Extravaganza after the parade is open to anyone who buys a ticket. Put on a ball gown or tux, and be there when the floats come rolling into the Superdome for the fun and then dance the night away.
King Cake parties where everyone brings a cake from a different bakery are becoming a new tradition. Try three or more and become part of the “who makes the best king cake in town" discussion.
Tracing their roots back to a time when Native Americans helped shield runaway slaves, the Mardi Gras Indians can be found parading down the streets on Mardi Gras day in their spectacular hand-sewn costumes.
You need to find two things on Mardi Gras morning: A slice of king cake and a great spot to watch contestants in fabulously colorful costumes compete for top honors at the Bourbon Street Awards (a.k.a. “the most famous drag-queen contest in America”). There are group awards and individual awards and it’s always incredibly inventive.
Yes. A parade of costumed dogs is also on our calendar. This canine Carnival parade is one of the most imaginative events of the season- the Mystick Krewe of Barkus. Come see dogs and their people costumed to the hilt. Previous themes have included the “Wizard of Paws,”“Jurassic Bark”and “Tails from the Crypt.” Only dogs who were once homeless are eligible to be queen and the king belongs to a member of the krewe.
When most people think about Mardi Gras, they think of mega-krewes or historic organizations such as Bacchus and Rex. However, several micro-krewes exist as well and are just as fun. The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is a micro-krewe known for their Star Wars theme and sci-fi crazed members. Get in on the fun in the Marigny neighborhood, and see the decadent costumes. 'tit Rex puts a unique spin on Mardi Gras traditions by building miniature floats out of shoe boxes. The mini parade is full of creative takes on Mardi Gras krewes and takes place in the Marigny.
There are more than 30 wonderful adult dance groups that take to the streets during Mardi Gras, including the legendary 610 Stompers, the Storyville Baby Dolls, the Merry Antoinettes, the Muff-A-Lottas, the Pussyfooters, Roux La La and more you just have to see to appreciate.
Embrace the festivities that have made Mardi Gras so iconic worldwide and head to the French Quarter. Catch beads as you stroll down the street and hear bands playing live jazz, or better yet, toss beads to passersby from a Bourbon Street balcony. This isn’t just something you can put on your Mardi Gras bucket list, but your bucket list for all things iconic and adventurous. Find a list of hotels on Bourbon Street with balconies here & book your stay for an upcoming Mardi Gras! While you're there, check out the Greasing of the Poles on the Friday before Mardi Gras Day at the Royal Sonesta.
While the small krewes are wonderful, there’s nothing like the site of the Super Krewes (Orpheus, Bacchus and Endymion) rolling down the main thoroughfares of New Orleans with their enormous floats, celebrity guests and world-famous marching bands.