Is there anything cuter than the first time a little one yells, "Throw me something, mister!" or gets the piece of king cake with a plastic baby inside? We know some have the impression that Mardi Gras is an adult-only celebration, but we’re here to set the record straight. Mardi Gras is first and foremost for families and always has been. For generations, families have been bringing their ladders to parades so kids can catch throws, oohing and aahing at Mardi Gras royalty, pointing out Big Shot and the Boeuf Gras to the smaller ones, and dancing with the marching bands.
If you come with the family, you’d be smart to stay away from the French Quarter or Canal Street during Mardi Gras. Avoid the hard-core partiers and set up your stuff on St. Charles Avenue between First Street and Napoleon Avenue where the parade attendees are all families. Make sure you know where the bathrooms are. Close proximity to a port-o-potty is essential.
Mardi Gras can be crowded, so it's always a good idea to come up with a plan in the event that you get separated from your child, Write your last name and phone number on your children’s arms with an indelible pen, designate a location to meet in case you get separated, and instruct them to go to the police if they forget where you agreed to meet. Another thing: floats are massive and should be treated with the same respect as cars, so make sure children are aware and that they don't get too close to the side of a float to try to catch beads. Marching bands also require the full width of the road, so don't be surprised if a member of the team instructs you to get back to the curb. It's for your own safety so that you don't get hit by an instrument in passing.
Parades can get stalled and last longer than you anticipate. Come prepared with snacks, water, juice boxes, toilet paper, wet wipes, rain ponchos, sunscreen and bandages.
Want to catch lots of throws? Costume the kids – especially on Fat Tuesday. Families come in costumes like all the characters from the Wizard of Oz and as a family of dalmatians with grandma as Cruella Deville. We’ve also seen expectant moms dressed as Fabergé eggs and Humpty Dumpty. At parades before Mardi Gras day, it’s enough to dress your kids in Mardi Gras colors (purple, green and gold rugby shirts and hair bows). Also, make sure everybody’s wearing close-toed shoes, and pack layers so you can take off or put on accordingly.
There's more to Mardi Gras than gathering loot at parades. Take your children to the Carnival exhibit at The Presbytère on Jackson Square and explore two floors of Mardi Gras history, or visit Mardi Gras World and see how floats are made. Vue Orleans offers not only an astounding 360-degree view of New Orleans, but is also filled with local history that's highlighted in the indoor exhibit area. Educate your children on the history of Mardi Gras Indians, who debut elaborate suits on Mardi Gras Day.