Everything You Need to Know About Mardi Gras in New Orleans

For those visiting for Carnival Season, it's good to be aware of everything you need to know about Mardi Gras in New Orleans. From correctly pronouncing New Orleans like a local to knowing what to do when in NOLA and surviving Mardi Gras like a local, you can never be too prepared.  Here's what you need to know before you head to the boot state for the time of your life in the Big Easy.
everything you need to know about mardi gras in new orleans

Mardi Gras is a season, not just a day
People that aren’t familiar with Mardi Gras think it’s just a one day event, being Fat Tuesday, but that is wrong.  Mardi Gras is actually an entire season down in Louisiana and it lasts for weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday.  If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you’ll want to make sure you’re there at least for the weekend before Fat Tuesday as two of the city's biggest parades, Endymion and Bacchus, roll.
mardi gras balcony decor

Parades are an all day event
Even if the parade doesn’t start rolling until 4pm, you’ll want to get out there early to claim your spot.  If you’re planning a tailgating style event, you’ll need to set up early in the morning, and sometimes the night before.  The bigger the parade, the bigger the crowd.  It’s possible to show up right as the parade starts rolling, but you’ll be standing in the back of the crowd and may not be able to see the entire beauty of the floats.  It's also good to know that if it starts at 4pm and you're towards the end of the route, the parade won't get to you until later that night.  One of my favorite tools is the parade tracker app, which you can download on your phone and find the exact location of the parade!
endymion parade float

There’s more to Mardi Gras than the French Quarter
While the French Quarter (Bourbon St.) is a main attraction for people visiting for Mardi Gras and makes for a great place to people watch with blocks of bars and endless drink possibilities, the city has much more to offer.  If you want more of a hipster vibe with great music, check out the Marigny (Frenchmen St.) right outside the Quarter. Want one of the best places to catch parades? Try Uptown New Orleans along St. Charles Avenue.
st. louis cathedral new orleansnew orleans bourbon street

It's a family friendly event
Despite how the media likes to portray Margi Gras, it’s actually a family event as well.  The partying, flashing, and excessive drunkenness is mostly just a common occurrence on Bourbon Street.  For a calmer scene with families camping out on the neutral grounds (think tailgating) waiting for the parade, you’ll want to be Uptown or even outside the city in Metairie on Mardi Gras day.
mardi gras parade camp out

Flashing for beads really happens
And if you care to see it in action, you’ll need to be on Bourbon Street.  Ladies, (mostly tourists- locals rarely do this), will flash for beads thrown from a balcony.  This is NOT what you do when you are at a parade and want some beads.  Just don’t.  If you want beads, wave your hands in the air and you’ll be sure to get a catch.
mardi gras parade

You can catch just about anything
Beads are a popular throw, but the krewes have more than that.  Don’t be surprised if you go home with bags full of beads, cups, doublooms, stuffed animals, trinkets, and food.  
mardi gras parade catches

Drinking on the street is allowed
Mardi Gras is one big party.  From drinking to dancing in the streets, there's never a dull moment! If you order a drink in a bar, you’ll be asked if you want a to-go cup.  That means you can actually take your drink with you, to go! You can walk around the city with your drink in hand or even carry your ice chest full of beer if you please.  Just don’t bring glass or do anything dumb and no questions will be asked.
drinking on bourbon street

There are certain foods you can’t go without
If you eat two things this carnival season, let them be king cake, preferably from Randazzo’s and Popeye’s chicken.  They are New Orleans staples.  Nothing screams Mardi Gras like the locals more than a box of chicken on the parade route and a king cake!
randazzos king cake

Hotels are booked 1 year+ in advance
If you’re planning a trip down to New Orleans and want watch all the fun fro your own Bourbon Street balcony, you’ll need to plan as early as a year in advance as these go quickly.  It’s important to know that you won’t be able to see the parades such as Endymion and Bacchus from your room, since they don’t roll down that route, but if you’re wanting to watch a never ending, 24 hour party, this is for you.
new orleans french quarter balcony

It's all about having a good time
Louisianians love a good time and never miss out on a chance to celebrate or throw a party.  The people are extra friendly, so don't get caught off guard when strangers talk to you like they're known you forever, offer you a plate of food, or a beer.  We love to dance, drink, eat, and most importantly, laissez les bon temps rouler!
pat orbiens drink new orleans

Are you planning a trip for Mardi Gras or have you already been?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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