Thousands of people gather in New Orleans every year for the biggest party in the country – Mardi Gras.
If you’re planning to be one of these people for the first time in your life, you shouldn’t go unprepared. In order to get the full experience, there are some things you should know. But after you visit once, you’ll be coming back every following year.
First of all, you should know why Mardi Gras is so sacred for New Orleanians. Mardi Gras is the last bash before Lent. Being the day before Ash Wednesday, for Catholics, it is the last day to enjoy yourself, eat, drink and party your face off. But since one day of partying simply wouldn’t be enough, New Orleans makes a whole season out of it. The Carnival season starts on January 6th, but the actual parades begin two weeks before Mardi Gras Day.
In order to catch the parade, you will have to get out of the French Quarter, since not many parades go through this part of town. Wherever you choose to be, plan your parade in advance because if you end up at the end of the route, you may have to wait for an hour or two for the floats to arrive.
The fun is down in the crowd, but if you want something more comfortable you can stay out of it and in a hotel or restaurant. Just know that a hotel with a street balcony can be incredibly difficult to find and if you do find one, it’s quite pricy. A restaurant would be a better option, especially since the parade can last for hours. So you can enjoy your meal and your view at the same time. There are also numerous public balconies where you can get a spot to watch from above and throw beads.
When participating more closely and being out in the street, there are a few things you must consider, especially if you’re bringing your kids. Choose wisely when it comes to daytime and nighttime parades, as it may get pretty late until the nighttime ones. If you’re really enthusiastic about the parades, you can camp out overnight to save your spot, as many parade-goers do, but keep your patience and only take up the spot you need. Don’t get easily upset, because other visitors are trying to get the best possible view, just like you. Stay in good spirits and remember you came to have fun. If you’re camping, don’t forget to bring food and something to drink, you will need it. And make sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
One of the signature signs of Mardi Gras parades are throws from the floats. Beads are the most common ones, but you can also snatch doubloons (coins with the Mardi Gras theme of the year) and small toys. Feel free to catch these, but consider sharing afterwards with kids that didn’t get the opportunity to catch something, especially if you get a toy and don’t have a child of your own.
However, when it comes to catching beads and toys, you should have fun but also protect yourself and especially your children. When the beads hit, it can get pretty painful. The throwers try to be gentle when they spot children, but still, protect your kids and make sure to bring wagons. Wagons are an excellent idea for your stuff and the beads you’ve snagged. Also, if your kids get tired, they can rest in the wagons and you can drag them to your car after the parade.
Another Mardi Gras trademark are costumes.
People are making the most of the party and that includes some of the craziest masks and costumes you will ever see. If you’re a party animal, be one of these people. You can buy a mask there or bring something you already have in your closet. Make it cheerful and comfortable. If things get a little too crazy, young people (especially girls) might start showing a bit more skin. Don’t get carried away, as you can even get a ticket for such conduct.
And remember, the party ends at midnight. As Fat Tuesday ends, and Lent begins, don’t expect the party to continue and it’s best to leave before midnight to avoid the crowds.
So, go and get crazy but don’t forget to stay positive and patient. Mardi Gras is before anything else a family-friendly event and you should always keep that in mind.