Mardi Gras 2019 is right around the corner, and for many novice parade-goers, the famous New Orleans event can appear overwhelming. Where to go? What to do? Preparing for this widely loved event can prove difficult without the proper knowledge.
With traveler safety and satisfaction in mind, Tripshock New Orleans, the premier activity booking service that on the Gulf Coast, has prepared the Do's and Don'ts for a successful Mardi Gras.
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DO Plan Around the Must-See Mardi Gras ParadesMany first-time parade attendees expect to see only one parade, but Mardi Gras is composed of multiple parades and events. Make sure to plan your vacation around the following must-attend parades (krewes) leading up to Fat Tuesday!
- Thursday - KREWE OF MUSES - Female centered parade popular for throwing shoes
- Friday - KREWE D’ETAT - Parade of Politic Satire
- Saturday - KREWE OF ENDYMION - Parade centered on local Louisiana culture
- Sunday - KREWE OF BACCHUS - One of the largest parades, known as a "Super Krewe" for florescent floats and celebrity grand marshals
- Monday - KREWE OF ORPHEUS - Musical parade founded by New Orleans' own Harry Connick Jr.
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DO Arrive Early for Every Parade and EventTo experience the full Mardi Gras, arrive early in the week to scope out the surroundings and make a plan for parade days. Arrive at the parades early for the best spots, and to assure a collection of parade "throws". Most importantly, wake up early on Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday is the Mardi Gras main event, and when the two largest carnival krewes hit the streets. The day starts with the Krewe of Zulu, the city’s oldest African-American parade, proceeded by the Krewe of Rex! For a full list of Parades and scheduled times, visit the 2019 Mardi Gras Homepage.
DO Eat SomethingNew Orleans is known as the "City of Chefs", find out why during your Mardi Gras vacation! Plenty of vendors will attempt to sell over-priced street fare along the parade routes, but the real food is just around the corner, at one of the many local restaurants. Start the morning with an order of beignets (crispy, fried square donuts covered in powdered sugar) and fresh made croissants. After exploring, take a lunch break at a local eatery for a muffaletta or po' boy sandwich stuffed with fresh Gulf seafood prepared with creole seasonings (Creole is a uniquely New Orleans cuisine that highlights spices and heat). Gumbos, chowders, soups, and more amazing creole dishes make for a palette-pleasing dining experience. Before your trip is over, be sure to chow down on some King Cake, a staple desert of the Mardi Gras celebration! Find the top food tours in New Orleans online!
DO Experience New Orleans Outside the French QuarterThe French Quarter is a Mardi Gras mecha, with many of the largest parades taking place on popular French Quarter streets. But Mardi Gras is a city wide celebration, with smaller parades and festivities taking place in Mid-City, Faubourg Marigny, and Bywater. Venturing outside of the French Quarter can lead to a unique New Orleans experience. Tourist traps are mainly confined to the French Quarter, so exploring these different neighborhoods can potentially expose visitors to more traditional dining and drink options, and classic New Orleans shops and culture.
Also remember, New Orleans fun doesn't stop at Mardi Gras, plenty of activities and day-trips run through the parades and offer a temporary reprieve from the heavy crowds. Visit historic New Orleans Plantations, ride on a fully-functional steam boat for dinner and dancing, or book a haunted history tour among many other attractions!
DO Prepare the ChildrenMardi Gras is mostly a family-friendly affair, but it's necessary to educate your children on parade etiquette. Never reach in front or beneath a float for parade "throws", and never climb trees or utility poles for a better view. If a child is lost or separate from his/her group, be sure they know to report to the nearest police officer for help and never speak to strangers. Some parades are more "adult" than others, it is best to stick to day time parades to avoid explicit content or drunken mayhem.
Worried about finding fun things to do for the kids? Check out dozens of Kid-Friendly Activities in New Orleans!
DO Plan for EmergenciesA large majority of visitors will experience a safe and happy Mardi Gras, but there is always the potential for danger. Shootings and other disasters have been known to take place, and preparing an emergency plan is always recommended. Decide on a predetermined meeting place, and keep a cell phone or walkie-talkie handy to remain in contact with your group. As always, avoid people that appear dangerous or severely impaired from drinking or substance abuse.
DON'T Waste Money on French Quarter Tourist TrapsLike most major events, Mardi Gras has its share of tourist traps including price gouging souvenir shops, street vendors, and swag salesman. Beads and other Mardi Gras essentials will coat the streets and sidewalks following any given parade, so be wary when a swindling but suave street walker attempts to lay a dozen strings of beads around your neck and charge big bucks for the service. Over-priced gifts are a dime a dozen in French Quarter shops, traveling a short distance from the parade routes can yield similar New Orleans mementos for half the price. Don't allow yourself to be taken advantage of during Mardi Gras, save your money for delicious drinks, dining, and activities like river cruises, segway tours, and history tours.
DON'T Stay on Bourbon Street Past Midnight on Fat TuesdayA little known fact for beginner Mardi Gras partiers is that on midnight of Fat Tuesday, the New Orleans Police Force ride horseback from one side of Bourbon St to the other in an attempt to thin the heavy crowds. Regardless of this crowd control technique, the night doesn't need to end at midnight. Ask around for pubs and cocktail lounges open past 12, or take the party to one of New Orleans' other lively late-night districts.
DON'T Make Yourself a Target For CrimeLike any major city, crime is a reality in New Orleans. To avoid becoming a potential victim, think twice before venturing into unknown parts of the city, or traveling in dim or unlit areas on foot. Keep belongings on your person at all times, and park in well-lit, designated parking areas. Avoid confrontation, and keep your wits about when approached by strangers; it is impossible to know if a person is dangerous and could pose a threat.
DON'T Bring Your PetsAlthough it may seem like a great idea to bring along the beloved family dog, a Mardi Gras parade is no place for a furry friend. Loud noises erupt from all directions, and packed crowds leave very little space to stand. With children screaming, "throws" soaring through the air, and very few places to take refuge, even the most stable pets will struggle to remain calm. To forgo injury or strain on pet or human, leave Spot at home!
DON'T Ruin the Fun for OthersOver a million travelers visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras each year, and each person arrives expecting the same brilliant experience as the next. Avoid the following all-too-common behaviors to keep Mardi Gras 2019 a fun and positive happening for everyone!
- Lampposts are for lamps only. Climbing lampposts, street signs, trees, or other structures is not-permitted, not to mention impolite. Instead bring a step ladder to the Mardi Gras Parades, it's safe and legal!
- Surly Mardi Gras attendees get away with a lot - underage drinking, lewd behavior, public boozing - but public urination is a one-way ticket to a jail cell. Save #1 for a public restroom, or pay a small fee at many schools, churches, shops, and restaurants to use their bathroom facilities.
- One of Mardi Gras' most infamous traditions is the "showing of skin", or as most know it, "flashing". While mostly a night-time Bourbon Street activity, some New Orleans guests don't quite know where to draw the line. The Uptown and Mid-City parade routes, especially mansion-lined St. Charles Avenue, are family-friendly areas, and vulgar or obscene behavior is not tolerated. Use common sense to avoid angry locals or already-pestered police officers.
- Throws (nick-nacs and treats thrown from parade floats) are for catching, not throwing! Resist the urge to relive your peewee football quarterback days, and leave the throwing to famous New Orleans Saint "Drew Brees".
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- Andy Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide; 2018