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There is so much to do down in NOLA during the Mardi Gras season. But don’t worry about feeling overwhelmed just remember to keep your itinerary simple and flexible, as the city does get busy. This may mean changing up your list of things to do. Make sure to do some research and figure what are the top attractions that you want to see.

Also, consider who you’re traveling with to attend Mardi Gras. If you’re traveling with children it’s a good idea to stay away from big party spots. If you’re traveling with friends or as a couple consider going bar-hopping along St. Charles Ave while watching the parades. Locals in the area know how to do Mardi Gras best. Here is a short guide on how to experience Mardi Gras 2020 like a local.

Table of Contents

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a vibrant and festive celebration that has a rich history and unique traditions. This guide will provide an overview of the origins of Mardi Gras, its evolution in New Orleans, and the significance of costumes, parades, food, music, and dance. Whether you’re planning to attend Mardi Gras in 2024 or simply want to learn more about this iconic event, this guide will give you a comprehensive understanding of the festivities and key takeaways to remember.

Key Takeaways

  • Mardi Gras in New Orleans has a long and storied history, dating back to French and Spanish colonial times.
  • The city of New Orleans is known for its unique Mardi Gras traditions, including elaborate parades and the participation of social organizations known as krewes.
  • Costumes and masks play a significant role in Mardi Gras, with traditional costumes representing different cultural influences and masks adding an air of mystery and anonymity.
  • Mardi Gras is not just about the parades and costumes, but also about the delicious food and drinks, including traditional dishes like gumbo and king cake, as well as festive cocktails like the Hurricane.
  • Music is an integral part of Mardi Gras, with traditional brass bands and jazz music creating a lively and energetic atmosphere for dancing and celebration.

History of Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Origins of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, meaning ‘Fat Tuesday’ in French, has its origins in ancient Roman festivals. It was later adopted by Christians as a period of feasting and celebration before the fasting season of Lent. In the early 18th century, French settlers brought the Mardi Gras tradition to New Orleans, where it has since become an integral part of the city’s culture and identity.

The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans took place in 1837, organized by a group of masked revelers. Over the years, the celebration grew in popularity and complexity, with various krewes forming to organize and fund the parades. Today, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a vibrant and extravagant event that attracts visitors from around the world.

To fully experience the magic of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, join us at Bayou Swamp Tours. Our knowledgeable guides will take you on an unforgettable journey through the history and traditions of this iconic celebration. Get ready to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Mardi Gras as we explore the vibrant streets of New Orleans during this festive season.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a vibrant and lively celebration that dates back centuries. It is a time when the city comes alive with parades, music, and festivities. The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced back to medieval Europe, but it has evolved into a unique and iconic event in New Orleans.

One of the highlights of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the elaborate and colorful costumes worn by participants. 

Costumes range from traditional designs to more contemporary and creative outfits. The use of masks is also an important part of the celebration, allowing people to hide their identities and fully immerse themselves in the spirit of Mardi Gras.

During Mardi Gras, the streets of New Orleans are filled with the sounds of music and the rhythms of dance. Traditional Mardi Gras music, influenced by jazz and other genres, sets the festive atmosphere. People gather to dance and celebrate, creating a sense of joy and camaraderie.

If you’re planning to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans, here are a few tips:

  • Arrive early to secure a good spot along the parade route.
  • Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking and dancing for hours.
  • Stay hydrated and pace yourself with the delicious Mardi Gras cocktails and beverages available.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an unforgettable experience that showcases the city’s rich culture and vibrant spirit. Join us at Bayou Swamp Tours to immerse yourself in the excitement and tradition of this iconic celebration!

Evolution of Mardi Gras Traditions

Mardi Gras in New Orleans has evolved over the years, adapting to the changing times while still honoring its rich history. One significant evolution is the inclusion of more diverse and inclusive themes in the parade floats and costumes. 

In recent years, technology has also played a role in the evolution of Mardi Gras traditions. Social media platforms have become a powerful tool for promoting and sharing the Mardi Gras experience. From live streaming parades to creating virtual costume contests, technology has allowed people from all over the world to participate in the festivities, even if they can’t be physically present in New Orleans.

As Mardi Gras continues to evolve, it remains a vibrant and dynamic celebration that embraces both tradition and innovation. The spirit of Mardi Gras lives on, bringing joy, excitement, and a sense of community to all who partake in this annual extravaganza.

Mardi Gras Parades and Krewes

One of the most anticipated events during Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the Krewe of Bacchus parade. Established in 1968, the Krewe of Bacchus is known for its extravagant floats and celebrity king. Each year, a well-known celebrity is chosen to reign as the Bacchus king, adding an element of excitement to the parade.

Another popular parade is the Krewe of Endymion. Founded in 1967, the Krewe of Endymion is one of the largest and most extravagant parades in Mardi Gras history. It features massive floats, marching bands, and throws that delight the crowds.

The Krewe of Zulu parade is another must-see event. Dating back to 1909, the Krewe of Zulu is known for its unique throws, including hand-painted coconuts. The parade also features vibrant costumes and lively music.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly parade, the Krewe of Orpheus is a great choice. Founded in 1993, the Krewe of Orpheus is known for its spectacular floats and celebrity riders. The parade route passes through the historic Garden District, providing a picturesque backdrop for the festivities.

Notable Mardi Gras Krewes

When it comes to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Krewes play a significant role in organizing and hosting the extravagant parades and balls. These Krewes are known for their elaborate floats, dazzling costumes, and lively performances that captivate the crowds. One of the most notable Krewes is the Krewe of Rex, which has been a prominent part of Mardi Gras since 1872.

The Krewe of Rex is renowned for its stunning royal colors of purple, green, and gold, symbolizing justice, faith, and power. This Krewe is responsible for the iconic Mardi Gras tradition of crowning the King of Carnival, a highly esteemed honor in the Mardi Gras festivities.

For a glimpse into the grandeur of the Krewe of Rex and other notable Krewes, take a look at the table below, showcasing their founding year and signature parade themes:

Krewe NameFounding YearSignature Parade Theme
Krewe of Rex1872Symbolism of Colors
Krewe of Bacchus1968Mythological Revelry
Krewe of Zulu1909African Heritage

Pro Tip: When attending Mardi Gras parades hosted by these Krewes, be sure to arrive early to secure a prime viewing spot and fully immerse yourself in the magic of Mardi Gras.

Role of Krewes in Mardi Gras

Krewes play a vital role in the celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. These social organizations are responsible for organizing and funding the extravagant parades and events that make Mardi Gras so unique. Each Krewe has its own theme and designs elaborate floats, costumes, and throws to entertain the crowds.

One of the most famous Krewes is the Krewe of Rex, which dates back to 1872. Rex is known as the King of Carnival and holds a prominent position in the Mardi Gras festivities. They select a King and Queen each year to reign over the parades and events.

Another notable Krewe is the Krewe of Zulu, which was established in 1909. Zulu is known for its vibrant and colorful costumes, including their iconic coconuts that are handed out as throws during the parades.

The Krewes not only bring excitement and entertainment to Mardi Gras but also contribute to the local community. Many Krewes engage in philanthropic activities and donate to various charities, making a positive impact on the city of New Orleans.

Mardi Gras Costumes and Masks

Traditional Mardi Gras Costumes

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is known for its vibrant and elaborate costumes. Traditional Mardi Gras costumes often feature bright colors, sequins, feathers, and masks. These costumes allow participants to fully immerse themselves in the festive spirit of Mardi Gras.

One popular costume element is the Mardi Gras Indian suit. These suits are handcrafted and adorned with intricate beadwork and feathers. They are a symbol of pride and heritage for the African-American community in New Orleans.

Another iconic costume is the Jester costume. Jesters are known for their playful and mischievous nature, and their costumes reflect this with vibrant colors and exaggerated features.

To fully embrace the Mardi Gras experience, many participants choose to wear costumes that represent their favorite Mardi Gras themes or characters. This allows them to showcase their creativity and individuality while joining in the festive celebrations.

If you’re planning to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans, don’t forget to put on your best costume and join in the fun!

Significance of Masks in Mardi Gras

Masks have always played a crucial role in the celebration of Mardi Gras. Masks allow revelers to embrace anonymity and transform themselves into different characters, adding an element of mystery and intrigue to the festivities. The tradition of wearing masks dates back to the early days of Mardi Gras in Europe, where people would wear masks to escape societal constraints and indulge in forbidden behaviors.

In addition to their symbolic significance, masks also serve a practical purpose during Mardi Gras. They provide a sense of protection and privacy, allowing individuals to fully immerse themselves in the revelry without fear of judgment or recognition. Masks come in various designs, ranging from simple half-face masks to elaborate full-face masks adorned with feathers, sequins, and other decorative elements.

To fully experience the magic of Mardi Gras, it is essential to embrace the tradition of wearing masks. Whether you choose a traditional mask or opt for a more contemporary design, wearing a mask adds an element of excitement and intrigue to your Mardi Gras experience. So, don’t forget to don your mask and join in the revelry!

In recent years, Mardi Gras costume trends have embraced a mix of traditional elements and modern creativity. Bold colors and elaborate designs continue to be popular, with many revelers opting for vibrant feathers, sequins, and beads to make a statement. Subtle emphasis is placed on incorporating local symbols and themes into costumes, such as fleur-de-lis, masks, and musical instruments.

To keep up with the evolving trends, some costume enthusiasts have started using LED lights and other innovative materials to add a touch of modernity to their outfits. This fusion of traditional and contemporary elements creates a visually stunning spectacle during the Mardi Gras festivities.

Here are some key trends in Mardi Gras costumes:

  • Feathered Headdresses: Feathered headdresses have become a popular accessory, adding height and drama to costumes.
  • Glitter and Sequins: Sparkling glitter and sequins are used to create eye-catching designs and add a touch of glamour.
  • Masked Revelers: Masks are an integral part of Mardi Gras costumes, allowing revelers to embrace anonymity and mystery.

Tip: When choosing a Mardi Gras costume, consider incorporating elements that reflect your personality and the spirit of New Orleans. Let your creativity shine and join in the festive atmosphere!

Mardi Gras Food and Drinks

Traditional Mardi Gras Foods

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is not just about the parades and costumes, it is also a time to indulge in delicious traditional foods. Gumbo is a staple dish during Mardi Gras, a hearty and flavorful soup made with a variety of ingredients such as seafood, sausage, and vegetables. Another popular dish is jambalaya, a spicy rice dish cooked with meat, vegetables, and Cajun spices. And of course, no Mardi Gras celebration is complete without king cake, a sweet pastry filled with cinnamon and topped with colorful icing. It is tradition to hide a small plastic baby inside the cake, and the person who finds it is said to have good luck for the year.

During Mardi Gras, many people also enjoy crawfish boils, where fresh crawfish are boiled with spices and served with corn and potatoes. It’s a messy but delicious way to enjoy the flavors of Louisiana. And for those with a sweet tooth, be sure to try the beignets, deep-fried doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar, a popular treat in New Orleans.

If you’re planning to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans, make sure to sample these traditional dishes and immerse yourself in the culinary delights of the festival.

Iconic New Orleans Dishes

When it comes to iconic New Orleans dishes, there are a few that stand out as must-tries. One of the most famous dishes is gumbo, a hearty stew made with a variety of ingredients such as meat, seafood, and vegetables, all cooked together with a flavorful roux. Another beloved dish is jambalaya, a flavorful rice dish that combines meat, seafood, and vegetables with spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and thyme. And of course, no visit to New Orleans would be complete without trying a po’ boy, a delicious sandwich filled with fried seafood or roast beef and served on a crusty French bread.

If you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to try a beignet, a deep-fried pastry dusted with powdered sugar. And for a refreshing drink, you can’t go wrong with a hurricane, a fruity cocktail made with rum, fruit juices, and grenadine.

Whether you’re a fan of savory or sweet, New Orleans has a dish to satisfy every craving.

Mardi Gras Cocktails and Beverages

At Bayou swamp tours, we understand that Mardi Gras is not just about the parades and costumes, but also about the delicious cocktails and beverages that are enjoyed during the festivities. One popular Mardi Gras cocktail is the Hurricane, a fruity and rum-based drink that is sure to get you in the party spirit. Another classic Mardi Gras beverage is the Sazerac, a strong and flavorful cocktail made with rye whiskey, absinthe, and bitters.

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic option, try the Mardi Gras Punch, a refreshing blend of fruit juices and soda that is perfect for all ages. And of course, no Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a glass of Champagne to toast to the good times.

Whether you prefer a traditional Mardi Gras cocktail or a unique creation, there’s no shortage of options to quench your thirst during the festivities. Cheers to a memorable Mardi Gras experience with Bayou swamp tours!

Mardi Gras Music and Dance

Traditional Mardi Gras Music

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is synonymous with vibrant music that fills the streets and sets the festive atmosphere. Jazz is the heart and soul of traditional Mardi Gras music, with its lively rhythms and improvisational melodies. Originating in New Orleans in the early 20th century, jazz has become an integral part of the city’s cultural heritage.

One of the most iconic Mardi Gras songs is the lively and energetic tune called ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. This song is often played by brass bands during Mardi Gras parades and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

To fully experience the joyous spirit of Mardi Gras, make sure to catch a live jazz performance during your visit to New Orleans. Many bars and clubs in the city feature talented jazz musicians who will transport you to the heart of the Mardi Gras celebration.

Here are some popular jazz venues in New Orleans:

Preservation HallFrench Quarter
The Spotted Cat Music ClubMarigny
Snug Harbor Jazz BistroFaubourg Marigny

Immerse yourself in the lively sounds of jazz and let the music guide you through the vibrant streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Influence of Jazz on Mardi Gras

The influence of Jazz on Mardi Gras cannot be overstated. Jazz music has been an integral part of the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans for decades. The lively and energetic rhythms of Jazz perfectly complement the festive atmosphere of the parades and parties.

Jazz originated in New Orleans in the late 19th century and quickly became synonymous with the city’s vibrant culture. The syncopated beats, improvisation, and soulful melodies of Jazz reflect the spirit of Mardi Gras, where spontaneity and joyous celebration are key.

Jazz bands play a central role in Mardi Gras parades, marching through the streets and entertaining the crowds with their infectious tunes. The sound of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and drums fills the air, creating an atmosphere of pure excitement and revelry.

Mardi Gras and Jazz are inseparable, with each influencing and enhancing the other. The vibrant sounds of Jazz bring the Mardi Gras experience to life, captivating both locals and visitors alike.

Mardi Gras Dance Styles

Mardi Gras is not just about the parades and costumes, but also about the vibrant and energetic dance styles that bring the celebrations to life. The dance styles of Mardi Gras are deeply rooted in the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans.

One of the most popular dance styles during Mardi Gras is the Second Line dance. This lively and rhythmic dance originated from African and Caribbean influences and is characterized by participants forming a line and dancing to the beat of brass bands. The Second Line dance is a true representation of the joy and spirit of Mardi Gras.

Another notable dance style is the Zydeco dance. Zydeco is a genre of music that originated in Louisiana and is heavily influenced by French, African, and Caribbean rhythms. The Zydeco dance is a lively and energetic partner dance that involves fast footwork and intricate movements.

To fully experience the Mardi Gras dance styles, make sure to join in the festivities and let the music guide your feet. Dance along with the locals and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Mardi Gras.


In conclusion, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a vibrant and exciting celebration that brings together locals and tourists alike. With its rich history, colorful parades, and lively atmosphere, Mardi Gras offers a unique experience that should not be missed. Whether you’re interested in the elaborate costumes, the delicious food, or the energetic music, Mardi Gras has something for everyone. So mark your calendars for 2024 and get ready to join in the festivities!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans?

Mardi Gras in New Orleans has a rich history that dates back to the early 18th century. It originated from the French Catholic tradition of celebrating before the Lenten season. The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans took place in 1837.

How long does Mardi Gras last in New Orleans?

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is not just a single day celebration. It is a season that lasts for several weeks, starting on January 6th, also known as Twelfth Night, and culminating on Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday.

New Orleans is famous for its Mardi Gras parades, with some of the most popular ones including the Krewe of Endymion, Krewe of Bacchus, and Krewe of Zulu. These parades feature elaborate floats, marching bands, and throws.

What is the significance of masks in Mardi Gras?

Masks have been a part of Mardi Gras traditions since the early days. They allow people to hide their identities and indulge in a sense of anonymity and freedom during the festivities. Masks also add an element of mystery and excitement to the celebrations.

What are some traditional Mardi Gras foods?

Traditional Mardi Gras foods include king cake, gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. These dishes are often enjoyed during Mardi Gras parties and gatherings, adding to the festive atmosphere.

What is the role of krewes in Mardi Gras?

Krewes play a significant role in organizing and participating in Mardi Gras parades and festivities. They are social organizations that plan and fund the parades, design the floats, and choose the themes for each year’s celebration. Krewes also select the royalty, such as the king and queen, who preside over the parades.

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