The following post is from a sponsored trip with New Orleans & Company. Head over to their page for all the Mardi Gras info you can need, including the Mardi Gras bucket list, Mardi Gras like a local, FAQs, etc. Hope we see you there next year!
It’s an iconic event that we’ve had on our bucket list for years. Parades, beads, glitter, costumes, dancing - Mardi Gras is one of the biggest parties in the world, and we finally understand the hype.
We just returned from a trip to New Orleans where we got to experience our first Mardi Gras parade, and it was everything we could have dreamed it would be! We had the TIME OF OUR LIVES - and the joy on our faces say it all!
But that being said, navigating the celebrations can be overwhelming. Choosing which parades to attend, knowing what to wear, where to stand… it’s a lot for newbies like us! So here are some tips and tricks that we learned from our first (and definitely not our last!) Mardi Gras:
PLAN YOUR TRIP ACCORDINGLY
We decided to visit New Orleans the last weekend in February, which happened to overlap with the very beginning of the Mardi Gras celebrations. The city was abuzz with preparations and Mardi Gras decor was everywhere, but crowds were minimal and hotels weren’t at capacity. The deeper into Mardi Gras that you get, the more crowded the city becomes and rates for hotel rooms can reach an all-time high. Mardi Gras “season” starts 12 days after Christmas, and then culminates the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. If it works with your schedule, we suggest planning your trip for early in the season, then you can explore a more mellow New Orleans, but still get to join in with the Mardi Gras festivities.
In terms of hotels, we recommend staying somewhere within walking distance of all the excitement. We stayed at Le Pavillon, a beautiful four star hotel in the Central Business District that is a 5 minute walk to the French Quarter (We’ll share more about our hotel in our next post!). It’s an even shorter walk to St. Charles Avenue, where many of the Mardi Gras parades roll through! We find it crucial to be close to all the action, but then be able to retreat to a cozy, quiet, and relaxing hotel.
KNOW WHICH PARADES YOU WANT TO SEE
Mardi Gras clubs (officially called “Krewes”) put on dozens of parades, and each one has a different theme. There’s “The Krewe of Iris”, which is the oldest all-female krewe, “The Krewe of Chewbacchus”, which is for lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and “The Mystick Krewe of Barkus”, a parade for pets, and so much more. (Head here to see a full list!)
We saw “The Krewe of Cork” parade, which celebrates food, wine, and a good time - three of our favorite things! The Krewe members wear wine-related costumes, toss necklaces with their cork logo, and are even accompanied by “wine police”, whose motto is “To serve and pour”!
THERE IS NO DRESS CODE
While we highly recommend dressing up for the theme of whatever parade you are attending (something we will definitely do next time), there are no rules when it comes to Mardis Gras! People wear whatever they want, and it makes for some glorious people watching.
Wear comfortable shoes, and if your parade is in the daytime, double check the weather. When we were there it was warm (and humid), so light, loose layers were perfect. Since the timing and weather of Mardi Gras changes year to year, it could chilly and cold, so be prepared! We also suggest stopping by the French Market beforehand, and purchasing some beads to throw around - that’s half the fun! And while we’re on the topic of throwing beads...
MARDI GRAS IS FAMILY FRIENDLY!
That’s right - there were kids everywhere! Mardi Gras can have an “adults only” reputation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. At The Krewe of Cork there were all ages, and the little ones were having a blast watching the parade go by. We were incredibly impressed with how family friendly the entire afternoon was - it felt like one big neighborhood block party! (There are a few adult themed parades, most notably the “Krewe de Vieux”, so just be aware of the themes ahead of time - if your kiddos are in tow.)
FIND A BALCONY
Ask any seasoned Mardi Gras attendee, and they’ll say that the best way to view a parade is from above! It’s people watching at its finest, and throwing beads from a balcony is so much fun. We watched The Krewe of Cork from the balcony at Arnaud’s, but we’ve also heard great things about the event space Bourbon Vieux on Bourbon Street. A ticket will get you access to their large wrap-around balcony, gourmet cuisine, and a premium open bar. In our opinion, that is truly the way to go!
Mardi Gras can feel overwhelming for a first timer, but it doesn’t have to. Order a Mint Julep to go from Napoleon House, throw some glitter on your face, and get ready for the biggest, most eclectic block party you’ve ever seen… chances are you’ll want to make it a yearly tradition!