Mardi Gras is not limited to beer, beads, and Bourbon Street. This celebration isn’t just staged for visitors; it’s a heartfelt local affair, and you’re warmly invited to join. The city cherishes the company.
Amidst over 40 grand parades in Orleans Parish alone, having a strategic approach to making the most of your time in the Crescent City is the best idea. Here are some of The Travel Addict’s tips on embracing Mardi Gras as if you’re a local.
In the past few years there has been an uptick in crime in New Orleans. We don’t want to discourage people from traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or having a great time but realistically, people need to be safe. Stay with the crowds.
Don’t walk down dark alleys. Especially with expensive camera gear. Stay where there are people. Having a companion to check in with is always a wise idea, especially for those new to the experience.
If you’re exploring the French Quarter at night during Mardi Gras, take precautions to protect your belongings. Secure your wallets effectively, considering that even front pockets may not be safe.
Opt for durable, comfortable shoes that can handle potential dirt. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and skip carrying a purse. If you’re staying in a French Quarter hotel, ensure you have a bathroom pass or wear your wristband. Given the prevalence of valuable smartphones, be cautious of theft, especially while walking and texting. Keep your phone safely tucked away whenever possible.
If you are watching parades, don’t run into the street to get throws. Especially don’t step between or near floats that are moving. You don’t want to ruin your fun with an injury before the party starts.
Setup A Meeting Place
With the streets filled with thousands of people, the risk of separation is high. Establish a clear meeting point in case of anyone getting lost. Avoid relying solely on mobile devices, as service can be unreliable in large crowds, and phones may run out of battery. Always bring a backup phone charger in case you are out all day and your phone battery runs low.
Be Prepared for Crowded Streets
The Mardi Gras crowds, particularly along the parade routes, are immense and pose a challenge for navigation. If you’re considering casually finding a spot on a balcony in the French Quarter to capture the festivities from above, think again. Access to space in those buildings and on balconies is pre-booked, often requiring a substantial investment.
Arrive early to get your spot on parade routes. We’re talking 2-4 hours early if you want a spot for a large group, especially in the Uptown area of the parade route. Go early and make friends and have fun.
One way to get a seat on the parade route is to buy tickets on the bleacher sections of the grandstand on St. Charles Avenue.
Pack Your Patience
Many tourists come to the Big Easy for the first time for Mardi Gras from all over the world. Things don’t move quickly here. It’s unlike the East Coast or other big cities. The pace is different. People are incredibly friendly and happy, for the most part, but patience is key.
Mardi Gras Is A Month Long Celebration Across New Orleans
Mardi Gras isn’t just a one-day affair—it’s on February 13th this year. The celebrations last for weeks before that. Leading up to Mardi Gras day, there are parades with giant floats all over town, along with over the top balls, extravganzas and concerts. It’s kind of magical, and there are plenty of opportunities for fun for the whole family.
Mardi Gras is Much More Than Bourbon Street
Mardi Gras is a huge industry in New Orleans, and its impact and influence can be seen all over the city. Not just on Bourbon Street. Mardi Gras extends far beyond the festivities on Bourbon Street. It’s actually very family-friendly. People come out with their entire families to watch the parades, where school bands march and play.
There are concerts, and people love dressing up in costumes. New Orleans is the only place I have visited where it is normal for people to have full costume closets and crafting rooms to make throws and costumes for Mardi Gras. No costume is too wild or crazy.
During the pandemic when Mardi Gras was cancelled, people started putting on porch concerts to support local musicians and hired float builders to create custom installations for their homes. They’ve kept this new tradition going since 2021 and there are houses all over town that have sort of been transformed into static house floats. Take some time for a long walk or drive to see this unique Mardi Gras experience.
On the actual Mardi Gras day many of the tourists have left town and it is a day for locals to dress up and join their favorite krewes to celebrate the holiday. As they say “Everywhere else it’s just a Tuesday but in New Orleans it’s Mardi Gras.” It’s a real holiday with no school or work commitments when locals can let loose and enjoy the day.
Remember Mardi Gras is a marathon and not a sprint. Amidst weeks of celebrations, there’s no need to go overboard on any single day. Prioritize proper nutrition and stay well-hydrated during the festivities. Be mindful of your personal limits. While it’s true that some individuals bring kegs and full bars to the parade route, relish the experience but pace yourself.
Last But Not Least Have Fun!
There’s a reason millions love Mardi Gras and come back to New Orleans year after year. It’s really about immersing yourself and forgetting your troubles. A lot of people come here year after year and meet their families and friends. It’s a tradition.
It’s really that special, and you can’t fully appreciate it until you experience it for yourself. It’s the one season of the year when you can dress up as anything imaginable. There are contests for costumes in every part of the city, and the crowd-watching is as much fun as the parades. Have that phone ready for picture taking. You’re going to want to share the creativity.