There is so much to experience in New Orleans, from exploring our many neighborhoods to stepping into the Louisiana wilderness. The city is also known for its many festivals, the most famous being Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a time when the entire city comes to life with both locals and tourists to celebrate the carnival season. The 2020 festivities are right around the corner and If you enjoy having a good time while watching parades, eating local cuisine, learning about NOLA history, and taking in the nightlife, then this is the festival for you. Many people believe Mardi Gras is all about partying, that is simply not true. Yes, if you are searching for some amazing nightlife you will find it here. However, Mardi Gras is also an experience for the entire family. Here is a list of some of the ways to enjoy this time-honored tradition.
Best Drinking Spots At Mardi Gras
What better way to watch a parade than with a drink in hand. Your best bet is to find a spot along St. Charles Ave between Napoleon and Canal Street. If you’re searching for a younger crowd, look no further than Fat Harry’s located right on the corner of St. Charles Ave and Napoleon. This is the perfect place to grab a large beer or cocktail. Want to experience some local history while sipping on a Bloody Mary? Head over to Columns Hotel for some historical charm and delicious mixed drinks. If you have time try the food! Learn more about the top spots to grab a drink at Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras For Families
Families have been participating in the Mardi Gras celebrations since the beginning. Children enjoy watching the parades with Krewes dressed in magnificent costumes performing on top colorful floats. The city does become very crowded during this time, so be prepared. It’s a good idea to stay away from the touristy areas when choosing a spot to hangout. Make sure to bring some bottled water and small snacks as it may be difficult to get food without a wait. Totally worth it, your family will have a blast! Read on to learn the best ways for families to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Do As The Locals Do During Mardi Gras
Here is the best way to experience Mardi Gras like a local. First, get the lay of the land around New Orleans by checking out the public transportation system. Many hotels will have maps available with attractions and streetcar schedules. Most information can also be easily found on Google Maps etc. Many visitors opt to walk or bike around the city because of the crowds. Next, you’ll need to dress the part. Don’t be afraid to wear crazy costumes and masks. There are plenty of costume shops that will provide you with the essentials. Finally, make sure to respect the city of New Orleans. This doesn’t mean you can’t party hard, just be mindful of the local laws. Contrary to popular belief it’s not customary to flash your bare chest when asking for Mardi Gras beads. Pro Tip: Download WDSU’s mobile app to your smartphone and track all the best parade routes. Learn more about how the locals celebrate Mardi Gras.
Krewes of Mardi Gras
A Krewe is a NOLA social group that organizes and participates in Mardi Gras parades and festivities. There are many different Krewes that are organized by seniority. The first group is ‘Royalty’ and consists of the krewes Rex and Zulu. Rex dates back to 1872 and has been an international symbol of Mardi Gras and New Orleans ever since. The Zulu Krewe is equally as important and has had some famous members, including Louis Armstrong. Another group is the ‘Super Krewes’ which is made up of Endymion, Bacchus, and Orpheus. Endymion is the largest Krewe and its name translates to the god of fertility and eternal youth. Bacchus was founded in the 1960s by a group of businessmen interested in reinventing some of the Mardi Gras festivities. Orpheus is a newer Krewe founded in the 1990s by a group of musicians, including Harry Connick Jr. Other groups are the ‘Walking Krewes & Parades’, ‘Rolling Parades’, and ‘Truck Parades’. Take a moment to learn about the great Krewes of Mardi Gras.
LGBTQ Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras and the city of New Orleans are LGBTQ friendly. The Krewe of Yuga founded during the 1950s is an openly gay group. Some in the gay community feel this group helped with igniting The Gay Rights Movement in the US. During the Mardi Gras celebrations, there are several gay carnival balls held by Krewes. Armeinius holds a ball to help keep the history of LGBTQ involved in Mardi Gras alive. Amon-Ra is an ancient Egyptian themed gay Krewe that throws an awesome party. Carnival balls aren’t the only LGBTQ focused events happening during Mardi Gras. There is a huge costume contest (with cash prizes) held right in the French Quarter and a friendly luncheon at Arnaud’s restaurant with various contests and prizes. You won’t regret a trip to Mardi Gras! Learn more about the different carnival balls held during Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras Throws
When you think of Mardi Gras, beads always come to mind. In fact, there are many different items spectators can catch while viewing the parades. Doubloons are a crowd favorite and first appeared in the 1960s. Make sure to watch out when these little pieces of treasure are being thrown. It’s also common to see decorative cups being thrown into the crowd. If you have the opportunity to see a collection of Mardi Gras cups you’ll notice a change in design from year to year. A less common item that many people seek is Zulu coconuts. You will only have the opportunity to get one during the Zulu Krewe parade and there is a limited number. Keep an eye out for other items such as sunglasses, purses, and even toilet brushes. Read on to learn about the items commonly thrown during Mardi Gras parades.
Experience Mardi Gras Anytime In New Orleans
After all the celebrations are over and the city reverts back to normal daily life there are still ways to experience the fun of Mardi Gras. First, stop by a Mardi Gras museum, such as Mardi Gras World which is popular among tourists. The museum is a working warehouse where many of the parade floats are constructed. Visitors are able to take a guided tour through the facility where you’ll have the opportunity to watch the float building process from start to finish. The warehouse is also home to thousands of authentic Mardi Gras costumes. A highlight of the tour is the chance to try on costumes while getting your photo taken. Next, take a Mardi Gras tour of New Orleans showcasing festival hotspots. There are plenty of walking, Segway, and bike tours located around the city. Another easy way to experience Mardi Gras year-round is by visiting costumes and mask shops. It’s so much fun to wander around the different shops discovering the traditions of Mardi Gras through clothing. There are shops located in both the French Quarter and Garden District, including Fifi Mahony’s and Bootsy’s Funrock’n. While you’re at it, stop in a Mardi Gras supply store. Tourists flock to these stores to pick up everything from colorful beads, wigs, and feathers. Read on to learn more about experiencing Mardi Gras anytime in New Orleans.
Top Must-do’s At Mardi Gras
There is so much to do in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras and this guide has provided you with a lot of information for planning your trip. So, to summarize here are the top must-do’s at Mardi Gras. Every itinerary should include the basics including bar-hopping along St. Charles Ave while watching the parades, dressing up in a crazy costume or wearing the official colors of Mardi Gras, and checking out the different Krewes. If you want to take it a step further try to catch beads, doubloons, or decorative cups during a parade throw. Finally, take a moment to learn about the history and culture of the festival by going to Mardi Gras World. Learn about more must-do’s while at Mardi Gras.
What Else Can You Do While Visiting NOLA
If you’re coming to NOLA for Mardi Gras don’t be afraid to take in other activities. Check out the famous above-ground cemeteries and go on a spooky ghost tour. Visit the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum located in the French Quarter. Home to lots of artifacts and modern-day Voodoo priests, it’s a great place to learn about the religion’s history and traditions. Finally, NOLA gets crowed during Mardi Gras, so many visitors will take a day to explore outside the city limits. The nearby Louisiana bayou is an awesome place to explore and take a swamp boat tour to discover the exotic wildlife.
Where To Stay During Mardi Gras
New Orleans is a major tourist destination with many options for accommodations. You’ll have the choice of quaint bed & breakfasts and luxury hotels. So, where is the best location to stay during the Mardi Gras celebrations? If you’re looking for a party scene, stay around the Bourbon Street area. Book a hotel with balcony access and watch all of the festivities below. The Lafitte Guest House is a boutique bed & breakfast located near the residential section of the French Quarter. Take advantage of shared balconies, great for larger groups or meeting fellow travelers. If you’re traveling on a budget consider the City House Hostel New Orleans located right around the corner from Bourbon Street. The hostel offers both shared and private dorms. This is a good option for anyone traveling solo to Mardi Gras. Keep in mind, this area becomes very crowded and is not recommended for families.
If you’re traveling with kids or prefer less partying look no further than the St. Charles Ave area. This is where many of the parades are held during the day. St. Charles Ave is home to many restaurants and hotels making it the perfect location for all types of visitors. If you want to experience some local history consider staying at the Grand Victorian Bed & Breakfast or Columns Hotel. Both buildings date back to the 1800s and allow guests the chance to step back in time. For budget travel, Best Western and Holiday Inn have several locations offering affordable deals. Mardi Gras is a busy time of the year for New Orleans, so book your accommodation as soon as possible. Read more about where to stay during Mardi Gras.
Where to Eat In New Orleans
New Orleans is a melting pot of food. There are so many different types of cuisine to taste while visiting the city. When visiting the city during Mardi Gras expect there to be waiting times for grabbing a table at most restaurants. It’s usually best to find quick eating options such as food trucks or cafes. Keep an eye out for food trucks such as La Cubana and Foodie Call. There are cafes scattered throughout the city making is super easy to grab a quick bite to eat. Most cafes have a selection of coffee/tea and sandwiches. Also, check out restaurants outside of the French Quarter where you’ll find fewer crowds. Some of the traditional New Orleans cuisine every visitor should order include gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, po-boys, and steamed crawfish. Finally, don’t forget to try king cake which is traditionally available during Mardi Gras. Read on learn about the traditional cuisine of NOLA and top spots to grab a bite to eat.