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Mardi Gras In New Orleans: An Offbeat First Timer Guide


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Noell Barron



Welcome to the vibrant and lively world of Mardi Gras in New Orleans! This annual celebration, known for its colorful parades, extravagant costumes, and lively street parties, is a cherished tradition deeply rooted in the city’s culture. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned reveler, Mardi Gras in New Orleans offers an experience like no other.


Steeped in history and tradition, Mardi Gras dates back centuries and has evolved into a grand celebration embraced by locals and tourists alike. From the ornate floats and masked marchers to the soul-stirring music and tantalizing aroma of Cajun cuisine, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a sensory adventure that captures the spirit and essence of the city.


Throughout this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the history of Mardi Gras, offer insider tips and guidance on planning your trip, share the must-see events and parades, and provide invaluable insights into the traditions and customs that make this celebration truly unique. Prepare to immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Mardi Gras and discover why it holds a special place in the hearts of New Orleanians.


Whether you’re drawn to the lively atmosphere of Bourbon Street, the cultural richness of the French Quarter, or the delicious flavors of Creole and Cajun cuisine, New Orleans has something for everyone. So grab your beads, put on your mask, and get ready to experience the magic of Mardi Gras in the Big Easy!


History of Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras has a long and storied history in New Orleans, tracing its roots back to the early French settlers in the 18th century. The traditions and customs of Mardi Gras were brought to Louisiana by French explorers, and they have been celebrated ever since.


The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans took place in 1837, organized by a group of students known as the Mistick Krewe of Comus. This marked the beginning of organized parades and lavish balls that would become synonymous with Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Over the years, Mardi Gras in New Orleans has evolved and grown, incorporating elements from various cultures and traditions. The African-American community played a significant role in shaping Mardi Gras, bringing their own unique style and musical traditions to the celebrations.


Despite a hiatus during the Civil War and World War II, Mardi Gras in New Orleans rebounded and continued to thrive, becoming the grand spectacle it is today. The city’s diverse population, including Creole, Cajun, and Caribbean influences, has contributed to the rich and vibrant tapestry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


One of the most iconic symbols of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the Mardi Gras Indians. These vibrant and intricately costumed groups pay homage to the Native American tribes who harbored escaped slaves in the city. Their elaborate feathered suits and carefully crafted headdresses are a testament to their creativity and artistry.


Throughout history, Mardi Gras in New Orleans has remained a quintessential celebration of life, joy, and community spirit. It is a time for people to come together, regardless of their background or social status, and revel in the spirit of unity and camaraderie.


Today, Mardi Gras in New Orleans attracts millions of visitors from around the world, all eager to experience the magic and excitement of this unique cultural celebration. From the splendid and exuberant parades to the lively street parties and stunning costumes, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a feast for the senses and a testament to the city’s vibrant spirit.


The Origins of Mardi Gras

The origins of Mardi Gras can be traced back to ancient Roman and pagan traditions, long before it arrived in the New Orleans. The celebration of Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is deeply rooted in the Catholic Church calendar and is considered the final day of revelry before the start of the somber season of Lent.


The concept of a carnival-like celebration before the fasting period of Lent can be found in ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks and Egyptians. However, it was the Romans who popularized the festival of Saturnalia, which was a week-long period of revelry, feasting, and merrymaking. The Saturnalia festival included parades, masquerades, and a general suspension of social norms.


As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, church leaders sought to incorporate existing pagan festivals into the religious calendar. This was done in an effort to ease the transition from pagan practices to Christian ones. The period leading up to Lent became a time of indulgence and excess, known as “Carnival,” derived from the Latin words “carne vale,” meaning “farewell to meat.”


With the arrival of Christianity in Europe, the traditions of Carnival were merged with Christian beliefs, and Mardi Gras became an integral part of the religious calendar. In France, Mardi Gras celebrations became particularly lavish and elaborate, spreading to their colonies, including Louisiana.


In 1699, French explorers led by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville arrived near present-day New Orleans and named the spot “Pointe du Mardi Gras” in honor of the festive holiday. From that point on, Mardi Gras festivities became deeply embedded in the culture of Louisiana.


Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans blended the traditions brought by French settlers with influences from various cultures, including Spanish, African, and Native American. This fusion of cultures gave rise to the unique and vibrant Mardi Gras celebrations that continue to be celebrated in the city to this day.


While Mardi Gras celebrations have evolved over time, the underlying themes of indulgence, merriment, and revelry remain constant. Each year, as the season of Lent approaches, people across the world come together to celebrate this joyous and festive occasion, marking the end of winter and the arrival of spring with a burst of color, music, and communal celebration.


Today, Mardi Gras in New Orleans stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage and resilient spirit of the city. It serves as a reminder of the importance of coming together to celebrate life, embrace diversity, and indulge in the joys of being human.


Planning Your Trip to New Orleans

Planning a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras requires careful preparation to ensure you make the most of this incredible celebration. Here are some essential tips and steps to consider when planning your trip:


1. Choose the right time to visit: Mardi Gras in New Orleans typically takes place in late February or early March, but the exact dates vary each year. Check the official Mardi Gras calendar to determine the exact dates of the parades and events you want to attend.


2. Book your accommodation in advance: With the influx of tourists during Mardi Gras, accommodation options in New Orleans can fill up quickly. It’s advisable to book your hotel or rental well in advance to secure the best location and rates.


3. Pack for the occasion: New Orleans weather in late February can be unpredictable, so pack a variety of clothing options. Be prepared for both warm and chilly temperatures, as well as the possibility of rain. Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes for walking and celebrating in the lively streets.


4. Research parade routes and schedules: Familiarize yourself with the parade routes and schedules to plan your itinerary accordingly. Certain parades may have unique themes or traditions, so choose the ones that align with your interests.


5. Consider purchasing tickets for exclusive events: While many Mardi Gras parades and events are free to attend, there are also exclusive balls and parties that require tickets. If you’re interested in attending these special events, it’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance as they can sell out quickly.


6. Familiarize yourself with Mardi Gras etiquette and traditions: Understanding the customs and etiquette of Mardi Gras will enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture. Learn about the significance of throws, the proper way to catch and collect them, and the respectful way to interact with float riders.


7. Plan for downtime: Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be an intense and exhilarating experience. Be sure to schedule some downtime to rest and recharge. Take breaks between parades, explore the city’s other attractions, or simply enjoy the local cuisine.


8. Stay safe: Like any large festival, it’s essential to prioritize your safety during Mardi Gras. Be mindful of your belongings, stay in well-lit areas, travel in groups when possible, and follow the guidance of local authorities and event organizers.


New Orleans during Mardi Gras is a unique and unforgettable experience that combines rich cultural traditions, vibrant music, and a contagious atmosphere of celebration. By planning ahead and immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant energy, you’ll create lasting memories and fully embrace the spirit of this incredible event.


Booking Accommodation in New Orleans

When planning your trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, one of the most crucial aspects is booking accommodation. With the influx of visitors during this time, it’s important to secure your lodging well in advance. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect place to stay:


1. Start your search early: As soon as you decide to attend Mardi Gras, begin looking for accommodation options. The earlier you start, the more choices you’ll have and the better chance you’ll have to find a place within your budget and preferred location.


2. Consider staying in the French Quarter: The French Quarter is the heart of Mardi Gras festivities, with many parades and events taking place in or near this iconic neighborhood. Staying in the French Quarter puts you right in the midst of the action and allows for easy access to major attractions.


3. Look for hotels with Mardi Gras packages: Some hotels in New Orleans offer special Mardi Gras packages that include perks like balcony views of the parades, access to exclusive events, and shuttle services. These packages can enhance your Mardi Gras experience and provide added convenience.


4. Consider alternative lodging options: If hotels in the French Quarter are fully booked or exceed your budget, explore alternative accommodations such as bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, or nearby neighborhoods like the Marigny or Garden District.


5. Pay attention to proximity to parade routes: Research the parade routes and check how close your potential accommodation is to the parades you plan to attend. Being within walking distance of the parade routes can save you time and make it easier to navigate the festivities.


6. Read reviews and compare prices: Before making a decision, read reviews from previous guests to get a sense of the quality and service of the accommodation. Additionally, compare prices across different websites or platforms to secure the best deal.


7. Consider transport options: If you opt for accommodation outside of the French Quarter, consider the transportation options available to get to and from the festivities. New Orleans has a reliable public transportation system, including streetcars and buses, which can provide convenient access to the city center.


8. Stay connected: Check if Wi-Fi is available in your chosen accommodation, as staying connected can be helpful for navigating the city, checking parade updates, and sharing your Mardi Gras experiences with friends and family.


Remember, during Mardi Gras, New Orleans experiences a surge in tourism, so prices may be higher and availability limited. Being proactive and planning ahead will increase your chances of finding the perfect accommodation for your Mardi Gras adventure. With a comfortable place to rest and recharge, you’ll be ready to fully embrace the vibrant spirit of this incredible celebration.


Transportation in the City

Getting around New Orleans during Mardi Gras requires some strategic planning, as the city experiences increased traffic and road closures during the festivities. Here are some transportation options to consider for a smooth and hassle-free Mardi Gras experience:


1. Walking: New Orleans is a walkable city, and during Mardi Gras, walking may be the easiest and most convenient mode of transportation, especially if you’re staying in the French Quarter. Many of the parades pass through the streets of the French Quarter, making it easily accessible by foot.


2. Public transportation: New Orleans has a reliable and extensive public transportation system, including streetcars, buses, and the Canal Streetcar Line. Public transportation can be a cost-effective way to get around the city during Mardi Gras. Be sure to check the schedules and routes in advance, as there may be changes during the festival.


3. Ride-sharing services: Services like Uber and Lyft are widely available in New Orleans and can be convenient for getting around, especially during peak times. Just be aware that ride prices may be higher during Mardi Gras due to increased demand.


4. Biking: New Orleans is a bike-friendly city, and renting a bicycle can be a fun and efficient way to navigate the streets during Mardi Gras. Numerous bike rental facilities are available throughout the city, offering a unique perspective and the freedom to explore at your own pace.


5. Car rental: If you prefer the flexibility of having your own vehicle, renting a car can be an option. However, keep in mind that parking can be challenging, especially near the parade routes and in popular areas like the French Quarter. It’s advisable to book a parking spot in advance or consider accommodations with parking facilities.


6. Taxis and pedicabs: Taxis are readily available in New Orleans, and using a taxi service can be a convenient way to travel between different parts of the city. Additionally, pedicabs, or bicycle rickshaws, are a unique mode of transportation that can be found in popular areas and can offer a fun and eco-friendly way to get around.


7. Plan for road closures: During Mardi Gras, many roads are closed to accommodate parades and festivities. It’s essential to plan your routes in advance and be aware of any road closures or detours. Utilize navigation apps or check the city’s official Mardi Gras website for updates on road closures and alternate routes.


8. Be patient and allow extra time: Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be a bustling and crowded event. It’s important to allow extra time for travel, as traffic may be heavier than usual. Patience is key, and preparing for possible delays will help ensure a stress-free transportation experience during Mardi Gras.


By taking advantage of the various transportation options available and being mindful of road closures and traffic patterns, you can navigate the city with ease and fully enjoy the vibrant festivities of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Weather and What to Pack

When preparing for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it’s important to consider the weather conditions and pack accordingly. The weather in late February can vary, so here’s what you should keep in mind:


1. Weather conditions: The weather in New Orleans during Mardi Gras can range from chilly to mild. While temperatures during the day can be pleasant, evenings can become cooler. It’s advisable to check the forecast in the days leading up to your trip for the most accurate information.


2. Layers are key: Packing clothing that can be layered is essential. This allows you to adjust your attire throughout the day as temperatures fluctuate. T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, and light jackets are all great options for flexible layering.


3. Comfortable footwear: Comfortable shoes are a must, as Mardi Gras often involves a lot of walking and standing. Opt for sturdy and supportive footwear that will keep you comfortable throughout the day, especially if you plan on participating in parades or joining the street celebrations.


4. Rain protection: New Orleans can experience rain showers during Mardi Gras. Bring along a compact umbrella or a waterproof jacket to keep you dry. It’s also a good idea to pack a small backpack or bag cover to protect your belongings from potential rain.


5. Accessories for sun protection: The sun can still be intense during Mardi Gras, even if the temperatures are cooler. Don’t forget to pack sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Staying hydrated is also essential, so consider bringing a refillable water bottle.


6. Costumes and masks: Mardi Gras is an occasion to dress up and embrace the festive spirit. Pack costumes, masks, or accessories that reflect your style and personality. Be aware of any restrictions or guidelines for costumes at specific events or parades.


7. Personal items: In addition to your clothing, consider bringing essential personal items such as prescription medications, personal hygiene products, and any necessary medical supplies. It’s also a good idea to have a small first aid kit on hand for minor injuries.


8. Portable chargers and devices: With the use of smartphones for navigation and capturing memories, it’s important to have portable chargers or extra batteries to keep your devices powered throughout the day.


Remember, packing light and efficiently will make your Mardi Gras experience more enjoyable. Consider the activities you plan to participate in and pack accordingly. By dressing comfortably and being prepared for various weather conditions, you’ll have a fantastic time celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Understanding the Mardi Gras Season

Mardi Gras is not just a single day of celebration but a season that begins weeks before the actual Fat Tuesday. Understanding the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans is key to fully immersing yourself in the festivities and traditions. Here’s what you need to know:


1. Epiphany and Twelfth Night: The Mardi Gras season officially kicks off on January 6th, known as Twelfth Night or the Feast of the Epiphany. This date marks the biblical arrival of the Three Wise Men to visit the Baby Jesus. It is on Twelfth Night that the first parades and parties begin.


2. King Cake: The King Cake is a traditional pastry associated with Mardi Gras. It is often oval in shape and decorated with colored sugar to represent the festive spirit. Hidden inside the cake is a small plastic baby figurine, and the person who finds it is said to have good luck and is responsible for hosting the next King Cake party.


3. Krewe and Carnival Balls: The Mardi Gras season is marked by the formation of Krewes, social organizations responsible for organizing the parades and balls. These private balls are extravagant and exclusive events where royalty is crowned and celebrated. Attending a Krewe or Carnival Ball gives you a glimpse into the glamorous side of Mardi Gras.


4. Parades and Floats: The hallmark of Mardi Gras are the parades with their extravagant floats, masked riders, and colorful throws. Various Krewes organize their parades, each with its own theme and unique traditions. The parades wind through the streets of New Orleans, attracting crowds of revelers who eagerly catch the throws, which include beads, doubloons, and other trinkets tossed from the floats.


5. Lundi Gras and Proteus: The day before Fat Tuesday, known as Lundi Gras or “Fat Monday,” is when the final parades take place. The most iconic parade on this day is the Krewe of Proteus, the second-oldest Krewe in New Orleans. Its captivating floats, adorned with mythological and historical themes, are a sight to behold.


6. Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras Day: The culmination of the Mardi Gras season is Fat Tuesday itself. This is the final day of indulgence before the start of Lent. On Mardi Gras Day, numerous parades take place throughout the city, each with its own unique flair and tradition. It is a day filled with music, dancing, costumes, and feasting as locals and visitors come together to revel in the joyous spirit of the celebration.


Understanding the Mardi Gras season helps you appreciate the depth and richness of the traditions and customs associated with this vibrant celebration. From the symbolism of the King Cake to the majesty of the Krewe balls and the excitement of the parades, immersing yourself in the Mardi Gras season allows you to fully embrace the festive spirit that permeates the entire city of New Orleans.


Important Dates and Events during Mardi Gras

As the Mardi Gras season unfolds, there are several important dates and events that you should mark on your calendar to make the most of your experience in New Orleans. Here are some key dates and events to keep in mind:


1. Twelfth Night (January 6th): The official start of the Mardi Gras season, Twelfth Night is marked by festivities and the first parades and parties. It is a vibrant and energetic kickoff to weeks of celebration.


2. Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc (January 6th): This medieval-themed parade in the French Quarter celebrates Joan of Arc, the patron saint of New Orleans. It features horse-mounted knights, colorful costumes, and a rich historical atmosphere.


3. Krewe du Vieux (January/February): Known for its irreverent and satirical take on current events, Krewe du Vieux is one of the city’s most iconic parades. It winds its way through the French Quarter, Marigny, and the Faubourg Marigny neighborhoods.


4. Endymion Extravaganza (Saturday before Fat Tuesday): The Endymion parade is one of the largest and most popular parades of Mardi Gras. It culminates in the Endymion Extravaganza, a grand party featuring live music, entertainment, and elaborate floats at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.


5. Bacchus Sunday (Sunday before Fat Tuesday): The Krewe of Bacchus hosts a spectacular parade known for its celebrity grand marshals and elaborate floats. It attracts large crowds and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.


6. Zulu Lundi Gras Festival (Monday before Fat Tuesday): The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club holds its annual Lundi Gras Festival, featuring live music, food, and entertainment at Woldenberg Park. It’s a great opportunity to soak in the festive atmosphere before the grand celebrations of Fat Tuesday.


7. Rex Parade and Ball (Fat Tuesday): The Rex parade is one of the highlights of Mardi Gras, featuring the iconic King of Carnival. Following the parade, the Rex Ball takes place, an exclusive and elegant event attended by maskers and dignitaries.


8. Mardi Gras Indians Parade: The Mardi Gras Indians, with their elaborate handmade costumes, showcase their vibrant cultural traditions and pay tribute to Native American heritage. Their parades are spontaneous and not on a fixed schedule. Keep an ear out for their music and follow the crowd to witness this unique spectacle.


These dates and events represent just a fraction of the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans. Part of the magic of Mardi Gras is exploring and discovering the diverse range of parades, parties, and spontaneous celebrations that take place throughout the city. Embrace the spirit of adventure, immerse yourself in the festivities, and get ready for an unforgettable experience during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Navigating the Parade Routes

Understanding the parade routes and finding the best spots to enjoy the parades is essential for an optimal Mardi Gras experience in New Orleans. Here are some tips for navigating the parade routes:


1. Plan ahead: Familiarize yourself with the parade schedules and routes ahead of time. Study the maps and mark the specific locations and time slots for the parades you wish to attend.


2. Arrive early: Parades can attract massive crowds, so arriving early will ensure you get a good spot along the route. Popular areas, such as the French Quarter and St. Charles Avenue, tend to fill up quickly. Consider arriving several hours before the scheduled parade time to guarantee a prime viewing spot.


3. Bring essentials: Be prepared for a long day by packing essentials such as snacks, water, blankets, and folding chairs. This will provide comfort and sustenance while you wait for the parade to pass by.


4. Pick the right spot: Consider your preferences when choosing a spot. If you enjoy the energy and revelry of the crowds, position yourself near hotspots with lively street parties. Alternatively, for a more relaxed experience, seek out quieter sections along the parade route.


5. Observe parade etiquette: Remember to be respectful of others around you. Avoid blocking the view of those behind you by keeping larger items, such as chairs or coolers, towards the back. Be mindful of children and those with disabilities, allowing them to have a clear view as well.


6. Catching throws: Get ready to catch throws from the parade floats by having a bag or bucket to collect your “throws.” Be aware that reaching onto the street is prohibited, so wait for the float riders to toss the throws to you. It’s customary to shout “Throw me something, mister!” to catch their attention.


7. Watch for ladder seats: Along the parade route, you may notice ladder seats, which are small elevated platforms for better viewing. These are typically reserved and owned by local families. Respect their space and avoid standing directly in front of the ladder seats.


8. Stay safe: Though Mardi Gras is a joyful celebration, it can also be crowded and hectic. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially when navigating larger crowds. Keep an eye on your belongings, and if attending with a group, establish a designated meeting point in case you get separated.


Navigating the parade routes requires some planning and coordination, but the experience of witnessing the colorful floats, catching throws, and immersing yourself in the festive atmosphere is well worth the effort. With these tips in mind, you’ll be prepared to make the most of the parades during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Choosing the Best Parade for You

With numerous parades taking place during Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to attend. Each parade offers its own unique atmosphere, themes, and traditions. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best parade for you:


1. Parade themes: Parades in New Orleans often have distinctive themes, ranging from mythical creatures to historical events. Consider your interests and preferences – whether you’re drawn to whimsical floats or cultural showcases – and choose a parade that aligns with your passions.


2. Family-friendly versus adult-oriented: Some parades cater specifically to families with young children, offering a more subdued and family-friendly atmosphere. These parades often have earlier start times and focus on entertainment suitable for all ages. On the other hand, certain parades have more adult-oriented themes and may feature edgier humor or adult content.


3. Parade size and grandeur: Parades in New Orleans vary in size and grandeur. Large-scale parades like Endymion and Bacchus boast extravagant floats, celebrity appearances, and large crowds. Smaller parades, while more intimate, can offer a more relaxed experience with closer proximity to the floats and marchers.


4. Timing and logistics: Take into account the timing and logistics of the parades. Consider the day, time, and duration of the parades. Be aware of road closures and plan accordingly, especially if you have other activities or events scheduled around the same time.


5. Location along the route: The parade route spans different areas of New Orleans, including the French Quarter, St. Charles Avenue, and the Marigny neighborhood. Each location offers a distinct atmosphere. If you prefer the excitement and energy of lively street parties, the French Quarter may be the ideal choice. If you seek a more relaxed viewing experience, St. Charles Avenue may suit you better.


6. Local recommendations: Seek advice from locals or frequent Mardi Gras attendees. They can offer insights into their favorite parades and share their experiences, helping you make an informed decision based on insider knowledge.


7. Multiple parades: Consider attending multiple parades to get a well-rounded Mardi Gras experience. This allows you to immerse yourself in different themes, witness a variety of floats, and catch a wider range of throws.


8. Explore beyond the main parades: While the larger parades often receive the most attention, don’t overlook the smaller, neighborhood-based parades. These intimate processions offer a glimpse into the local community’s creativity and traditions, allowing you to connect on a more personal level.


Ultimately, the best parade for you is a matter of personal preference and interests. Whether you seek the grandeur of large parades or the community spirit of smaller processions, Mardi Gras in New Orleans offers a diverse array of options to choose from. Embrace the excitement, immerse yourself in the festivities, and create lasting memories as you revel in the joyous spirit of Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras Throws and Collectibles

One of the most iconic and cherished traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the exchange of throws – the trinkets, beads, and collectibles that parade riders toss to spectators. These coveted items have become symbols of the celebration and serve as cherished mementos for attendees. Here’s a closer look at Mardi Gras throws and collectibles:


Beads: Beads are undoubtedly the most sought-after and ubiquitously thrown item during Mardi Gras. These strings of colorful plastic beads are tossed from the floats as a sign of goodwill and celebration. Catching and collecting beads have become a significant part of the Mardi Gras experience, with attendees proudly displaying their haul around their necks.


Doubloons: Doubloons are aluminum or wooden coins bearing the emblem or logo of the participating Krewe. They have become prized collectibles during Mardi Gras, often featuring intricate designs and unique artwork. Doubloons are highly sought after, and avid collectors carefully trade and preserve these valuable tokens of the festivities.


Specialty Throws: In addition to the traditional beads and doubloons, parade riders often throw a wide variety of specialty items unique to their specific Krewe. These can include custom-made medallions, cups, magnets, keychains, toys, and even hand-decorated shoes. These specialty throws add an extra layer of excitement and collectability to the Mardi Gras experience.


Mardi Gras Cups: Reusable plastic cups have become a popular collectible during Mardi Gras. Krewe members and parade riders often toss these cups, adorned with colorful designs and the Krewe’s logo or theme, to eager spectators. Collectors take pride in amassing a diverse collection of these functional and decorative cups.


Masks and Costume Components: As part of the festive atmosphere, some parade riders and groups may throw masks or costume components to the crowd. These can range from elaborate feathered masks to unique accessories that can enhance your own Mardi Gras attire. Catching and wearing these coveted items adds to the joy and whimsy of the celebration.


Mardi Gras Collectibles Market: Mardi Gras throws and collectibles have become collectible items in their own right. Collectors and enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the Mardi Gras collectibles market, where vintage throws, unique finds, and limited-edition items are sought after. Specialty shops and online platforms offer a wide range of treasures for those looking to expand their Mardi Gras collections.


Mardi Gras throws and collectibles serve as tangible reminders of the vibrant and festive atmosphere of New Orleans during this special celebration. Whether it’s the colorful beads, unique doubloons, or custom-made items, each throw represents a joyful exchange between float riders and parade attendees. So, as you join in the revelry and excitement, keep your eyes open and ready to catch these cherished mementos of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Costume and Mask Ideas

One of the most thrilling aspects of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the opportunity to dress up and embrace the festive spirit with elaborate costumes and masks. Whether you’re looking to stand out in a crowd or blend in with the revelers, here are some costume and mask ideas to inspire your Mardi Gras ensemble:


1. Classic Harlequin: Embrace the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold by crafting a classic Harlequin costume. Incorporate diamond patterns, ruffled collars, and jester-inspired accessories for a nostalgic and whimsical look.


2. Masquerade Mystery: Tap into the mystique and allure of Mardi Gras by donning a glamorous masquerade-inspired costume. Choose a stunning mask, pair it with an elegant gown or suit, and accessorize with feathers, sequins, and beads for a touch of extravagance.


3. Historical Figures: Pay homage to the rich history of New Orleans by dressing up as a notable historical figure. Consider iconic characters like Marie Laveau, a famous Voodoo priestess, or Jean Lafitte, the legendary pirate. Research the history of the city and find inspiration for a historically accurate costume.


4. Royalty and Courtiers: Embrace the grandeur and opulence of Mardi Gras by dressing up as royalty or courtiers. Create a regal costume with flowing robes, ornate headdresses, and sparkling accessories. Be the king or queen of the festivities and revel in the admiration of your peers.


5. Creatures and Folklore: Let your imagination run wild by channeling mythical creatures and folklore. Transform into a mystical creature like a mermaid, fairy, or dragon. Incorporate vivid colors, fantastical accessories, and whimsical makeup to bring your creature of choice to life.


6. Carnival Clown: Embrace the playful and comedic side of Mardi Gras with a colorful carnival clown costume. Create a unique and whimsical look with oversized clothing, brightly colored wigs, exaggerated makeup, and oversized props like comically large shoes or a colorful umbrella.


7. Group-themed costumes: Coordinate with friends or family to create a group-themed costume, such as a deck of playing cards, characters from a famous movie or book, or a musical band. Group costumes add to the excitement and can enhance the overall visual impact during parades and celebrations.


8. DIY and Handmade: Get creative and craft your own unique costume and mask. Let your imagination guide you as you experiment with fabrics, accessories, and materials to create a one-of-a-kind ensemble. Personalize your costume to reflect your individual style and celebrate your own creative spirit.


Remember, Mardi Gras is a time to celebrate individuality and self-expression. Whether you opt for a traditional costume or a whimsical character, the key is to embrace the vibrant spirit of the festivities and immerse yourself in the joyous atmosphere of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Mardi Gras Etiquette and Traditions

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is steeped in rich traditions and customs that contribute to the vibrant and joyous atmosphere of the celebration. Understanding and adhering to Mardi Gras etiquette will ensure that you have a respectful and enjoyable experience. Here are some key etiquette tips and traditions to keep in mind:


1. Respect parade boundaries: It is essential to respect the designated viewing areas and parade boundaries. Refrain from stepping onto the street or obstructing the parade route, as this can disrupt the flow of the floats and pose safety concerns.


2. Be considerate of others: Mardi Gras draws enormous crowds, so it’s important to be mindful of those around you. Be courteous, share space, and avoid blocking the view of others. Allow children and those with disabilities to have unobstructed views.


3. Respect float riders: When catching throws from float riders, remember to express gratitude and show respect. Cheer them on, offer a friendly smile, and say “thank you” when receiving throws. Avoid reaching onto the street or harassing riders for throws.


4. Follow the Mardi Gras motto: The unofficial motto of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” which means “let the good times roll.” Embrace the spirit of celebration, be open to new experiences, and join in the revelry with enthusiasm.


5. Embrace costumes and masks: Wearing vibrant costumes and masks is a cherished Mardi Gras tradition. Embrace the festive atmosphere by dressing up and adding to the colorful ambiance. However, avoid wearing offensive or culturally insensitive costumes.


6. Don’t take offense: Mardi Gras humor can be irreverent at times, with float riders and parade-goers engaging in satire and political commentary. Understand that this is part of the Mardi Gras tradition and may not reflect personal beliefs. It’s best not to take offense and instead enjoy the lighthearted spirit of the celebration.


7. Respect private property: Mardi Gras doesn’t give license to disregard private property. Avoid trespassing or damaging property while pursuing throws or participating in festivities. Stick to designated public spaces and respect the boundaries of local residents.


8. Clean up after yourself: Help maintain the cleanliness and beauty of New Orleans by disposing of trash and litter responsibly. Use provided trash bins or carry a small bag to collect your own waste. Taking care of the city ensures that future generations can continue to enjoy the Mardi Gras tradition.


By observing Mardi Gras etiquette and respecting the city and its traditions, you contribute to the overall experience and help maintain the festive and welcoming spirit of the celebration. Embrace the customs, be considerate of others, and immerse yourself in the unique and joyous atmosphere of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Safety Tips for Enjoying Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a lively and exhilarating celebration, but it’s important to prioritize your safety and the safety of those around you. Here are some essential tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable Mardi Gras experience:


1. Travel in a group: Whenever possible, travel with a group of friends or family members. There is safety in numbers, and sticking together will help ensure everyone’s well-being.


2. Stay in well-lit areas: Stick to well-lit, populated areas, especially when moving around at night. Avoid dark or isolated streets and alleys that may pose safety risks.


3. Be mindful of your belongings: Keep a close eye on your personal belongings at all times. Use bags with secure closures, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items. Keep important documents, such as ID and passport, safely stored.


4. Stay hydrated: It’s easy to lose track of time and forget to stay hydrated during the excitement of Mardi Gras. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and ensure your well-being.


5. Pace yourself with alcohol consumption: Mardi Gras is known for its lively parties and festive spirit, often accompanied by alcohol. Drink responsibly and pace yourself to avoid overconsumption and its potential consequences. Know your limits and be aware of how alcohol may affect your judgment and safety.


6. Use licensed transportation services: If you need transportation, opt for licensed services like taxis or ride-sharing apps. Be cautious when accepting rides from strangers and avoid unmarked or unofficial transportation options.


7. Respect local authorities and event organizers: Follow the guidance and instructions of local authorities and event organizers. They are there to ensure your safety and the smooth functioning of the festivities.


8. Stay aware of your surroundings: Be mindful of the people around you and stay alert to your surroundings. Trust your instincts and, if you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable, move to a more secure location or seek assistance from law enforcement officers.


9. Have a designated meeting point: Establish a designated meeting point with your group in case you get separated. Choose a well-known landmark or a recognizable location that everyone can easily find.


10. Follow COVID-19 guidelines: Stay informed about any COVID-19 guidelines or restrictions that may be in place during Mardi Gras. Follow public health guidelines, such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing, to ensure the safety of yourself and others.


Remember, your safety is paramount during Mardi Gras. By being vigilant, using common sense, and taking precautions, you can enjoy the vibrant festivities while keeping yourself and those around you secure. Have a fantastic and safe Mardi Gras experience in New Orleans!


Exploring New Orleans Beyond Mardi Gras

While Mardi Gras is undoubtedly an incredible celebration, New Orleans has much more to offer beyond the festivities. Take the opportunity to explore the city and discover its rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse attractions. Here are some suggestions for experiencing New Orleans beyond Mardi Gras:


1. French Quarter: Explore the iconic French Quarter, known for its narrow streets, historic architecture, and lively atmosphere. Stroll down Bourbon Street, enjoy live music in the jazz clubs, indulge in delicious cuisine, and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture.


2. Garden District: Take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque Garden District, known for its well-preserved antebellum mansions and charming tree-lined streets. Admire the unique architectural styles and visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, one of the city’s oldest cemeteries.


3. Preservation Hall: Experience the soulful sounds of jazz at Preservation Hall, an intimate venue renowned for its authentic live jazz performances. Witness firsthand the rich musical heritage for which New Orleans is famous.


4. National WWII Museum: Immerse yourself in the compelling history of World War II at the National WWII Museum. It is the largest WWII museum in the U.S. and offers a comprehensive and immersive experience through exhibits, multimedia presentations, and personal accounts.


5. New Orleans Museum of Art: Appreciate the art and culture of New Orleans at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). The museum showcases a diverse collection of art, including works from renowned artists and exhibits featuring regional and international art movements.


6. New Orleans Cuisine: Sample the mouthwatering cuisine that New Orleans is famous for. Indulge in traditional Creole and Cajun dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets. Explore renowned restaurants and local eateries scattered throughout the city.


7. Mississippi River Steamboat Cruise: Embark on a classic Mississippi River steamboat cruise and soak in the timeless charm of the riverfront. Enjoy scenic views, live music, and delicious food as you glide along the mighty Mississippi.


8. Street Performers in Jackson Square: Visit Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter and be captivated by talented street performers. From musicians and magicians to fortune-tellers and artists, the vibrant ambiance and eclectic performances make for a memorable experience.


New Orleans has a unique charm that goes beyond Mardi Gras. Take the time to explore the city’s neighborhoods, indulge in its delectable cuisine, and immerse yourself in its rich cultural heritage. From historic landmarks to vibrant cultural experiences, New Orleans offers a wealth of attractions that will leave you enchanted long after Mardi Gras has passed.


Must-Try Foods and Drinks of New Orleans

A visit to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without indulging in its vibrant culinary scene. The city is renowned for its unique and flavorful dishes influenced by Creole, Cajun, and French cuisines. From delectable seafood to iconic desserts, here are some must-try foods and drinks of New Orleans:


1. Gumbo: A quintessential Louisiana dish, gumbo is a hearty soup made with a flavorful roux, vegetables, and a combination of meats or seafood. Each gumbo has its own twist, but common ingredients include shrimp, crab, chicken, sausage, and okra.


2. Po’ Boys: Sink your teeth into a classic New Orleans sandwich, the Po’ Boy. Traditionally filled with fried seafood, such as shrimp or oysters, and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo, it’s a delicious and satisfying meal.


3. Jambalaya: Jambalaya is a flavorful rice dish made with a mixture of meats such as sausage, chicken, and shrimp, and a generous medley of vegetables and spices. It’s a one-pot wonder that embodies the rich flavors of Louisiana.


4. Beignets: A trip to New Orleans is incomplete without trying these iconic powdered sugar-dusted pastries. Beignets are deep-fried dough, typically square-shaped, served hot and fresh with a hot cup of coffee at the famed Café du Monde.


5. Crawfish: If you visit during the crawfish season (usually spring), don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in a crawfish boil. These small freshwater crustaceans are boiled with spices and served alongside potatoes, corn, and sausage. Its spicy, messy fun!


6. Muffuletta: Originating from the Italian community in New Orleans, the muffuletta is a substantial sandwich made with a round loaf of sesame bread, layered with Italian cold cuts, cheese, and a tangy olive salad. It’s a flavor-packed delight.


7. Sazerac: Considered the official cocktail of New Orleans, the Sazerac is a potent mix of rye whiskey or cognac, absinthe, sugar, and bitters, often garnished with a lemon twist. It’s a smooth and complex libation that embodies the city’s cocktail culture.


8. Pralines: Treat your sweet tooth to New Orleans’ famous pralines. These confections are made with sugar, butter, cream, and pecans, resulting in a creamy, nutty, and utterly indulgent treat.


New Orleans is a food lover’s paradise, and these are just a few of the many delicious dishes and drinks to experience. Embrace the rich flavors, vibrant spices, and diverse culinary traditions of the city as you savor the unique and unforgettable tastes of New Orleans.


Iconic Street Performers and Artists to Look Out For

Exploring the streets of New Orleans offers more than just beautiful architecture and delicious food—it’s also an opportunity to encounter some incredibly talented street performers and artists. From musicians to magicians, here are a few iconic performers to look out for:


1. Street Musicians: New Orleans is renowned for its vibrant music scene, and you can find talented street musicians captivating crowds throughout the city. Keep an ear out for lively jazz bands, soulful blues guitarists, energetic brass ensembles, and talented solo performers. They add to the city’s unique atmosphere and provide a soundtrack for your Mardi Gras adventure.


2. Dancers and Second Line Parades: Second lines are spontaneous and lively parades that often break out on the streets of New Orleans. Led by brass bands, these parades draw both locals and visitors who joyfully join in, dancing and celebrating. Look for these spirited processions and channel your inner dancer as you march along with the crowd.


3. Living Statues: Throughout the French Quarter, you may encounter living statues who pose as immobile figures, expertly embodying the characters they portray. These talented artists create awe-inspiring visuals, often with intricate costumes and remarkable attention to detail. Keep an eye out for these mesmerizing performers who seem to effortlessly come to life as you pass by.


4. Fortune Tellers: Explore the unique mystique of New Orleans by visiting one of the many fortune tellers who set up shop in Jackson Square or the French Quarter. These intuitive practitioners offer tarot card readings, palmistry, and other forms of divination, providing an intriguing glimpse into the city’s mystical side.


5. Portrait Artists: Capture a piece of New Orleans in a unique and personal way by having your portrait sketched or painted by a talented local artist. You’ll find these artists scattered throughout Jackson Square and the French Quarter, capturing the city’s vibrant spirit and creating beautiful mementos of your visit.


6. Magicians and Illusionists: Prepare to be amazed by the incredible sleight of hand and mind-boggling illusions presented by street magicians. These captivating performers magnetically draw in crowds with their skillful tricks and leave onlookers in awe.


7. Fire Breathers and Jugglers: Keep an eye out for daring fire breathers and fearless jugglers putting on thrilling street shows. Watch them manipulate flaming torches or skillfully juggle objects in mesmerizing displays of talent and showmanship. These performers provide an exhilarating spectacle on the streets of New Orleans.


New Orleans is a hub of artistic expression, and these talented street performers and artists contribute to the city’s vibrant and lively atmosphere. Take a moment to appreciate their craft and immerse yourself in the incredible talent showcased on the streets of the Big Easy.



Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a celebration like no other. From the vibrant parades and colorful costumes to the lively music and mouthwatering cuisine, the city comes alive with an electric energy that is impossible to resist. As you plan your trip to experience this unique cultural extravaganza, take into account the history, traditions, and etiquette that define Mardi Gras in New Orleans.


Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the city by exploring beyond the festivities. Discover the charm of the French Quarter, revel in the melodies of jazz, and indulge in the diverse culinary offerings that New Orleans is famous for. Take time to appreciate the street performers and artists who add a captivating touch to the already vibrant streets.


While having fun, ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Be mindful of parade boundaries, stay aware of your surroundings, and follow local guidelines and instructions. By doing so, you can fully enjoy the festivities while promoting a respectful and positive atmosphere.


New Orleans is a city of warmth, resilience, and celebration. Whether it’s your first time experiencing Mardi Gras or you’re returning to immerse yourself once again in its magic, drink in the essence of New Orleans and let the spirit of Mardi Gras wash over you.


As beads fly through the air, music fills the streets, and the spirit of camaraderie takes hold, you’ll find yourself swept up in the joy and energy that define Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Let go of inhibitions, embrace the colors, and join in the revelry. Laissez les bons temps rouler – let the good times roll!