Thinking of taking a trip to Mardi Gras? These tips are here to let you know all you need to about travel to this amazing, unique festival.
1. Mardi Gras Is A Family Affair And A Religious Holiday
One of the things that people tend to be the most shocked by when attending Mardi Gras for the first time is all of the children that they see at the event. I often hear them exclaiming, “I can’t believe all of the kids that are here!” Although Mardi Gras might have a reputation of being somewhat seedy, this misconception is mainly driven by misbehaving and drunk tourists who are not used to the special type of partying that takes place in New Orleans. First of all, Mardi Gras, which translates as “Fat Tuesday” in French, is actually only one day and is the culmination of a Carnival Season that lasts for an entire month. In Lousiana, it is a statewide public holiday.
The month-long Carnival is a street party and alcohol, sweets, and meat-fueled feast that take place before the liturgical Lenton season, which is a 40-day time period that takes right before Easter Sunday. This event is widely celebrated across South America and Europe, with some of the most famous and largest festivals occurring in Barranquilla, Colombia; Barcelona, Spain; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The best-known version in North America is the Carnival in New Orleans, although there are public Carnival celebrations s well in other cities of the American South including Mobile Alabama and Key West, Florida.
2. Carnival Veterans Party Long Instead Of Hard
Since Mardi Gras is the final day of a party that lasts for an entire month, any skilled local and veteran of the event will avoid drinking an entire keg in one night. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of drinking that occurs. On any particular day of this month-long celebration, a visitor of Carnival may take in one, two, or three concerts, go to several parties, and see a few parades. Some basic planning is required for this, and locals know they need to moderate the amount of alcohol that they drink over a long time period. It isn’t necessary to go on a binge since there are drinks readily available everywhere and at all times of the day and night. If you lose your buzz at 6 am, you can always stop at one of the Bloody Mary stands that you can find on just about any downtown street corner (and the city streets have pop-up drink stands as well). The most important thing of all is to make sure to pace yourself. You definitely don’t want to spend thousands of dollars in New Orleans to experience the world-famous Mardi Gras if you aren’t going to be able to remember any of it later.
3. You Can Wear Anything You Want
It is hard to pinpoint what the dress standards are. Some people spend thousands of dollars on traditional and elaborate robes and masks. Sometimes, the Mardi Gras Indians spend a hold year hand-gluing their suits. But then there are the frat boys in onesie penguin costumes and golf pants. Everything is welcome at Mardi Gras. When you are at the parade, just make sure to keep your clothes on. The “show off your boobs” thing was born on Bourbon Street and died there – remember, this is a family event. However, house parties are an entirely different story. Clothes might or might not be optional at them, depending on the ones you go to. Just do everyone and yourself a favor and keep yourself contained until you get to the party.
4. It Is The Great Free Show In The World
If you visit New Orleans and someone attempt to sell you a “Mardi Gras ticket,” walk away as fast as you can. There is no such thing as Mardi Gras tickets. All of the parades are public affairs that social clubs put on. They spend the entire year preparing for that one special day. Millions of dollars are spent on the event every year, free of charge for the greater good of everyone. Philanthropic goals are also fulfilled by many Carnival clubs, which are officially called Krewes. If you would like to purchase a ticket to something truly great, there are many concerts that are held around the clock in numerous venues and music halls throughout New Orleans. If you really want to plunk down some cash, purchase a ticket to a Carnival Krewe Ball. Each parade has its own final destination, and usually, that is a huge party. For example, the Krewe of Endymion hosts one of the largest parties inside of the Lousiana Superdome.
5. Some Of The Mansions Lining The Parade Route Welcome You In
The idea of walking uninvited into a formal party sounds very uncivil to most Americans. However, during Carnival, some of the most extravagant and largest parties around – complete with smorgasbord buffets and open bar selections – are held in some of the grandest antebellum mansions. They are open to everyone, as long as you behave yourself. Don’t assume that all parties are open, but if there is an open door or open gate, you can always check. Private parties might have a doorman or you would be asked to leave. However, don’t worry, there is sure to be another party a couple of doors down for you to enjoy.
6. Don’t Bend Over To Pick The Beads Up
“Do watcha wanna” is one of the famous slogans of Mardi Gras – unless that involves wanting to pick up a string of beads from the floor. That is gross and keep in mind that while the celebrations are in full spring the streets are not in the cleanest conditions. You could also end up in the path of a parade float headed your way. Stock up on your carnival gear, order now so you have plenty!
7. Visit Uptown
Most New Orleans hotels are located in two main neighborhoods, the Central Business District (CBD) and the world-famous French Quarter. Those neighborhoods are fairly convenient, but not the best areas to watch parades from. The traditional route starts uptown, around 3.5 miles from Canal Street and up along St. Charles Avenue. Although the downtown area of Canal Street has a tendency to be over-drunk and overcrowded, the further you go up the street, the more its true pageantry really comes to life. Crowds are more spread out, house parties are nearby, and the barricades that can make life miserable downtown have all but disappeared. The streets are more open here and parade-goers can get up close to the carnival floats to have a better chance at getting some of the most valuable “throws.”