Think Mardi Gras is just beer, beads, and Bourbon Street? You need to keep reading. Locals (and those in the NOLA) know that Mardi Gras isn’t just something the city puts on for visitors –it’s a celebration put on by locals for locals and you just happen to be invited. We love the company.
With more than 40 large and small parades in Orleans Parish alone, it helps to have a game plan. Here are some tips on how to experience Mardi Gras like you live here.
Each year, Carnival season kicks off on Twelfth Night (Jan. 6). If you want to celebrate with locals, hit one of the parades that roll on Twelfth Night – Joan of Arc in the French Quarter or Phunny Phorty Phellows along the streetcar route Uptown – or check out the ones on the weekends leading up to Mardi Gras Day, including Chewbacchus and Krewe du Vieux. The earlier parades are just as much fun and tend to be less crowded than ones later in the season. Plus, if you get started earlier, you also have an excuse to sample even more varieties of King Cake. Check out our guide to early Mardi Gras here for even more ways to experience the season closer to the start.
Parade like a pro. Take a look at the routes online ahead of time and keep track of parade progress with an app like WDSU’s Parade Tracker.
Locals often watch parades in the same spot each year. Head to the route a little early to scope out a good spot near a restroom and to set up your chairs, ice chests, ladders, whatever. (Here’s the rule: Try to keep your stuff at least 6 feet from the curb). Getting to know your neighbors is often as much fun as the parade itself.
Travel by car, streetcar, bus, and taxi is often disrupted during Mardi Gras. Be prepared for a lot of walking or try renting a bike. You can track public transit disruptions at www.norta.com.
What do we do? We love to dress up. Brightly colored wigs, tutus, and or sequins are always fun. Whether you’re wearing a full costume, or just a mask, hat, or wig, you’ll fit in best if you get into the Mardi Gras spirit. Anything purple, green, or gold will do the trick.
Learn about Mardi Gras traditions ahead of time so you know what’s going on. For instance, if you want to catch beads like a local, yell out “Throw me something, mister!”
With weeks of festivities, there’s no reason to overdo it on any one day. Make sure to eat right and stay hydrated throughout the celebrations. Know your limits. Yes, people bring kegs and full bars to the parade route. Enjoy and be smart.
Hey, there are kids around. Please be respectful. We get that racy entertainment that happens in the French Quarter – it's a good time for the right crowd. But outside the Quarter it’s all about families, relaxing, and enjoying life.
Want to make sure your Mardi Gras is truly one for the books? There are certain things you just have to experience. From the Greasing of the Poles on the Friday before Mardi Gras to paying your respects to the canine royalty of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus, here are 17 must-dos to truly get the most of the Mardi Gras experience.