Mardi Gras is just around the corner! If you're headed to the Big Easy, follow these tips to make the most of your celebration.
The most popular time to visit New Orleans is the extended weekend before Mardi Gras (In 2019 that would be arriving no later than March 1 or 2 and staying through Ash Wednesday, March 6). Come then and you'll be sure to catch the most popular parades, like Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, Rex and all of the festive celebrations throughout the whole city.
Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday," is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Most visitors will plan to arrive no later than Saturday, March 2, 2019 in order to enjoy an extended weekend of festivities. Family Gras 2019 takes place Friday, February 22 - Sunday, February 24.
Go Early & Stake a Spot
Two popular parades with big and elaborate floats, Bacchus and Endymion, roll before Fat Tuesday. The crowds can be deep, so arrive early—hours early. The most festive site is at the foot of Canal Street near the river, where Rex and Zulu, two epic parades, cross. Crowds are kid-friendlier near the Uptown start, where parking is (a bit) easier, parades pass earlier, and families abound. If you can’t spare a week for the festivities, maximize your stay during Mardi Gras’ key hours from 12 a.m. Monday to 12 a.m. Tuesday.
Avoid the French Quarter & Be Crowd Savvy
If you're anywhere near Canal Street, be prepared to navigate through elbow-to-elbow crowds. It's a good idea to leave purses at home and to avoid carrying your wallet in your back pocket. Wear comfy shoes, but save your new sneakers for another trip — they may not look so new after a ramble through Mardi Gras streets.
Step on Doubloons!
Doubloons are the shiny coins tossed along with beads and stuffed animals from parade floats. Each bears the emblem of its krewe, and many people collect them. (They're also more storage-friendly than beads.) If you see one on the ground, step on it before you pick it up to avoid your hand ending up under someone else's foot!
You Never Know What They’ll Throw
Bathroom humor never grows old, as evidenced by the irreverent joy of Krewe of Tucks riders in their giant toilet bowl float! The screaming crowds line the street begging for their bathroom-themed throws, including monogrammed toilet paper, sunglasses shaped like toilets, mini-plungers, and more. In Shreveport, we love the Krewe of Highland, who throw Spam and hot dogs. Anyone can come home with beads. Only those in the know get miniature squirting toilets and dinner.
The Best Parades Aren’t Necessarily The Biggest
Thoth. Who? Thoth. The word Thoth rhymes with “close,” that is, if you happen to say “close” with a lisp. Not only does the Thoth parade look like they are having the most fun, but Thoth also has a higher-than-normal ratio of throws. The beads represent their Egyptian roots and are covered in hieroglyphics.