The parades, the parties, and the fun that can be had in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season are legendary. From crazy costumes to riders on floats throwing cheap plastic beads and hand-decorated throws to all-day parties along “the Avenue”, Carnival season in New Orleans brings out the best in people.
2022 will definitely be a celebration the city hasn’t seen since maybe the 2006 Carnival season, which was the first post-Hurricane Katrina. Locals are excited to get out and enjoy the marching bands, dance krewes, and revelry associated with the parades.
However, there are things one should know before coming to the Crescent City ready to party it up for a weekend.
Mardi Gras is often referred to as the season that celebrates Carnival. It starts on the 12th night, which is always January 6. Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday. Other cultures refer to the season as “Carnival” and many of us locals do as well. However, a lot of people make it easy by referring to the season as “Mardi Gras”.
#2 The parades that are normally written about and shown on TV encompass two weekends leading up to Ash Wednesday. However, there are other parades that roll throughout the city prior to those last two weekends and are extremely fun to attend.
It all starts January 6th with Phunny Phorty Phellows and the newest parade, Funky Uptown Krewe. Krewe du Vieux hits sometime between the 6th and the first weekend of parades. Then the final push hits two weekends prior to Mardi Gras.
There are zero parades that roll down Bourbon Street. In fact, none of the parades with floats go through the French Quarter those last two weekends of the season. However, it’s still a hub of fun.
You can catch some walking parades in the weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday and there are several groups who parade around in costume on Mardi Gras. Just be prepared to do some walking to get to the actual float parades.
We wear clothes here in New Orleans. I know you’ve seen the videos and photos of women pulling their tops up (or down) for beads or shots. But for the locals, we don’t do that.
We smile, wear fun tops that usually have some version of purple, green, and gold in them, throw on hats to shield us from the sun and/or rain, and wave at the floats as they pass in hopes of getting the “good” throws.
We also do costumes here, especially at Mardi Gras. Anything goes, really, but the more creative, the better. From crazy wigs and headpieces to full-on top-to-bottom costumes, there are tons of possibilities for costuming during the season.
Throws, as we call them, are what riders on the floats toss out to the crowd. The people riding on the floats are doing their best to offload their loot along the way.
They spend A LOT of money on these throws, which includes beads, stuffed animals and the specialty throws that the various krewes are known for. But knocking down people to catch the throws is not cool and could lead to injury.
Yes, you can walk down the street and carry your drink throughout the city. Just as for a “go cup” at a bar and finish your drink on your walk to your next destination. Just don’t carry said open drink into your vehicle. Take a ride-share, taxi, pedicab, streetcar, bus or just walk to your next spot.
Comfy shoes are key. I never understand women who wear heels during Mardi Gras. You are standing for hours and walking miles on any given parade day. Also, don’t wear flip-flops on Bourbon Street. You have no idea, and don’t want to know, what you are stepping in.
Scout your parade location to make sure a bathroom is nearby. Do NOT relieve yourself on someone else’s property, including the wheel of a car. Many bars and some homes charge a few bucks to use the restroom so be sure to have some cash with you.
Remember, as much fun as you are having during the parades and your trip here, there are still many of us who live here and often our places are just upstairs from where you are partying. I have a rule of thumb, if you don’t do it back home, you shouldn’t do it here.
There are so many more interesting things about the parades that go beyond the throws. From the artists who put the floats together to the marching krewes and the marching bands, there is a culture in every parade that is unique to that particular krewe. Be sure to ask a local when you are here for more details!
The season is a marathon, not a sprint. The best advice I can offer is to pace yourself on food, alcohol, and walking around the city. There is so much to see and do and you are not going to be able to do it all. But the key component to Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Fun!
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