Mardi Gras New Orleans is probably one of the biggest parties in the world. Louisiana Mardi Gras, sometimes referred to as “Carnival”, has been celebrated in New Orleans since the early 1800s as a way to party to excess before lent begins on the Christian Calendar Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras New Orleans usually takes place from on Fat Tuesday (usually in February) and lasts for 10 days. The parades occur two weeks before the Mardi Gras celebration, so plan in advance to get the best of this amazing festival.
Mardi Gras New Orleans was a huge party even n the beginning, but as time went by many other traditions were instituted, like the introduction of the parades and the lavish floats in 1857. The “Krewes” were formed and exist to this day as organizations that build floats and throw beads and other gifts to the crowd during the Mardi Gras parades. The Krewes were also known to hold elaborate private parties and masquerade balls during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Very few Krewes allow the public to buy tickets to their balls; they are mostly private parties, so if you can find a friend that has tickets to one of these balls its well worth the experience.
These traditions have continued to this day at Louisiana Mardi Gras, where you can see elaborate costumes, amazing floats, and catch different “throws” like cups, plastic beads, candies and other trinkets. The parades range from small and suburban to the large and lavish. There are even performers and marching bands. The elaborate performances by the Krewes have made Louisiana Mardi Gras one of the best known parties in the world.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans has recently gotten the reputation for being a scene of nudity and debauchery during this festival. This can be true, but only in the French Quarter and especially on Bourbon Street. This “flashing” of skin to get beads has become a problem lately, and is technically illegal. You can get arrested for this type of public display. However, the crowds are huge and the police cannot see everything, so it is best to keep children away from the French Quarter and Bourbon Street during the festival. You can watch the craziness from the safety of a balcony at one of the several Bourbon Street hotels. Known for their party atmosphere, Bourbon Street hotels have balconies overlooking the action and can provide a safe recluse from the hordes of people milling below. If you want to book Bourbon Street hotels for Mardi Gras in New Orleans it is recommended to do so at least a year in advance. Some Bourbon Street balconies are sold out five years in advance! Also check out vacation packages to New Orleans for this festival, as these packages can offer good discounts, when booked in advance.
Despite the recent headline making debauchery associated with New Orleans, Mardi Gras has typically been a family event. There are plenty of parades away from the Bourbon Street adult fare and are excellent places to take children to catch candy beads and watch the exciting floats go by. It is extremely crowded, so if you take your family to Mardi Gras, make sure you make plans to have a meeting place in case anyone gets separated from the group. You can also dress up in costume with the entire family to view the fun!
During Louisiana Mardi Gras, don’t forget to try the king cake. A sweet dough shaped in a circle, it’s brushed with colorful icing in the Mardi Gras purple green or gold motif, with plastic baby (representing the Christ child) wrapped inside.