ūüáļūüáł New Orleans Mardi Gras

New Orleans Mardi Gras is the biggest and best party in the United States. It is full of parades, parties and 600 years of carnival tradition that date back to Medieval Europe and followed France to her colonies in the USA. Here is everything you need to know about attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

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    Your Guide To New Orleans Mardi Gras ‚Äď Everything You Need To Know!

    New Orleans Mardi Gras¬†is one of the world‚Äôs biggest parties and the celebration that made New Orleans famous!¬†Mardi Gras¬†in New Orleans¬†is more than just one day of partying! It is an entire season of celebrating that leads up to¬†Mardi Gras Day¬†‚Äď a day that is an insane culmination of¬†the carnival season, where 1.5 million people descend on the city to take part in this wild celebration!

    New Orleans is a party town that doesn’t stop celebrating from Halloween right up until Lent. Houses all over the city are decorated for half a year with giant pumpkins, which transform into Thanksgiving, Christmas and then Mardi Gras decorations. This already vibrant city increases tenfold during Mardi Gras with parades, parties, balls, floats, beads, lots of feasting and drinking and non-stop mayhem and merrymaking that everyone in the city is a part of. 

    Mardi Gras is celebrated in other major cities along the Gulf Coast like Mobile, Alabama and Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi in addition to all the major cities in the state of Louisiana. However, none of these cities comes close to the sheer carnival grandeur and merrymaking that is seen in New Orleans. New Orleans is a celebration that you must add to your bucket list.

    When is Mardi Gras New Orleans?

    When is Mardi Gras? The thing about Mardi Gras is that it is always unpredictable, including its date! The date of Mardi Gras depends on the moon. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the vernal equinox and Mardi Gras takes place 41 days before Easter Sunday. Easy-peasy to figure out right. Mardi Gras can be as early as 3rd February or as late as the 9th March.

    When is the 2023 New Orleans Mardi Gras? In 2023, the New Orleans Mardi Gras will take place on Tuesday February 21, 2023. 

    The New Orleans Mardi Gras Season officially begins on the feast of the Epiphany which is January 6th or the twelfth day of Christmas. This day is famous in the Catholic religion for symbolizing when the wise men visited Jesus. New Orleans officially culminates at midnight on Mardi Gras Day as Lent officially begins. 

    How long does Mardi Gras last? Whilst the New Orleans Mardi Gras Season officially begins on the 6th January with an exclusive masquerade ball. The majority of celebrations are concentrated in the two weeks prior to Mardi Gras Day.

    What is Mardi Gras?

    New orleans mardi gras

    New Orleans is home to the most famous Mardi Gras in the world! What is Mardi Gras? Mardi Gras is a season-long party period where millions of people around the world take part in some sort of public celebration which is usually a street party or parade.

    Mardi Gras is associated with the Catholic tradition of celebration before the onset of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is a Catholic term that is the official name for the day before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. What does Mardi Gras mean? Mardi Gras is the French word for Shrove Tuesday.

    Historically, Mardi Gras is a festival of gluttony and debauchery because Shrove Tuesday was the last chance one had to drink and eat rich food, essentially ‚Äėfatten up‚Äô before¬†Lent. Lent was historically 40 days of sacrifice and intense fasting before Easter.

    Is Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras the same day? Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday and Pancake Tuesday and Carnival are all different names for the same day. It just depends on which country you are in, as different countries use different names.

    New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades

    In the lead up to New Orleans Mardi Gras about 80 parades roll through the Greater New Orleans area. Over 2000 Mardi Gras Parades have been held in New Orleans since 1857.

    Each of the parades has band members, dance groups, clowns, floats, motorcycles, and thousands of participants. 

    Each Krewe will select a theme and then create their parade around that theme through music choice, float decoration, tailored costumes etc.

    Mardi Gras Parade themes have generally been taken from legends, geography, myths, stories or history. Some of the most popular parades are famous for their satire and social and political commentary. The parades by the Super Krewes are much larger in size.

    The parade route for most of the parades in¬†New Orleans rolls down St. Charles Avenue.¬†¬†¬†Only small ‚Äúwalking parades‚ÄĚ are able to stroll through the French Quarter due to its narrow streets.

    What are Krewes?

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    If you’ve ever been to the New Orleans Mardi Gras and wondered who are the people that ride the floats. They are the members of Krewes. Krewes are the heart and soul of New Orleans Mardi Gras, and an important part of a tradition that is old as the New Orleans Mardi Gras itself. Krewes date back to early days of Mardi Gras in New Orleans in the 1800s.

    Krewes are private non-profit social clubs who are responsible for organizing all the official New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations. All 70+ parades that occur during Mardi Gras and masquerade balls and parties, are organized and funded by the Krewes.

    Today, New Orleans Mardi Gras has dozens of Krewes each with their own traditions.  Krewes work on a new theme each year and have floats designed based on that year’s theme. Even their (by invitation only) lavish Mardi Gras Balls carry out the yearly theme.  The Captain and Officers of any given Krewe work year-round on making their parade outstanding for the locals and visitors to enjoy.

    Rex Krewe ‚Äď The King of Mardi Gras

    The Krewe of Rex is the oldest, and still plays a major role in Mardi Gras celebrations to this day. Rex was funded by wealthy prominent citizens of New Orleans back in 1872. The King of Rex becomes the official King of New Orleans Mardi Gras. Interestingly Rex is Latin for King.

    The Rex Parade is an annual attraction of New Orleans Mardi Gras and is considered a centerpiece of the carnival because of the Krewe’s rich and colorful themes, their original costumes and elaborately hand-decorated and hand-painted floats. 

    Rex Krewe is responsible for most of the original Mardi Gras traditions, including the official colors, as well as the collectible doubloon coins (introduced by Rex in 1960).

    Mardi Gras Indians

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    Mardi Gras Indians are another unique New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition. These New Orleans Tribes were formed by the African American communities in the mid-1880s. Who in the earlier years were excluded from the celebrations and used to have their own celebrations mocking the krewe royalty.

    The African American Krewes decided to honor the native Indian tribes who used to help shield runaway slaves. The Mardi Gras Indian Krewes dress in elaborate feathered costumes to honor the native Americans.

    There are over 50 Indian tribes in New Orleans who each have their own chief and hierarchy. The Indians grace the streets of New Orleans in a friendly competition over which chief is the prettiest. The tribes have names like the Golden Eagles, Flaming Arrows, the Yellow Pocahontas etc.

    Super Krewes

    There are several parades that locals have named Super Krewes because their floats are much bigger, with state-of-the-art lighting and hold as many as 3 times the number of krewe members than traditional floats.   Their parades end by the floats actually rolling through either the Superdome or the Convention Center where their Gala or Extravaganza is held with thousands of their friends, family and other ticket holders in attendance. 

    The Super Krewe Parades start the Saturday before Mardi Gras Day and begin with the Krewe of Endymion (Saturday before Mardi Gras Day) and the Krewe of Bacchus (Sunday before Mardi Gras Day). This new tradition began in the 1960’s and several more fall into this category. Endymion always has celebrities as their Grand Marshall as well as headliner entertainment at their after party.  Krewe of Bacchus always has a celebrity reign as their King.

    The Zulu Krewe

    While the Rex Krewe is considered carnival royalty and often called the official King of Mardi Gras. There is actually another Krewe that is considered carnival royalty and that is the Zulu Krewe.

    The Zulu Krewe were created in 1916 and were the first Krewe dedicated solely to the African American population of New Orleans.

    Prior to this the African-American community found that they were not allowed to join the predominantly white-only Krewes. The Zulu Krewe changed all that and finally provided an opportunity for the African American population to participate in Mardi Gras.

    Mardi Gras Balls and Parties

    Every year more than a hundred Carnival Balls are held in New Orleans. The majority of balls are invitation-only, however a select through are open to the public.  Mardi Gras balls have been around since Louisiana was a French colony and originally were exclusive events that could only be attended by New Orleans high-society.

    High-society balls are very aristocratic. There is no such thing as a ticket and if you’re not a member you can’t attend. These balls are full of rituals and traditions. Debutantes are also introduced to society during the ball.

    Super Krewe Balls were also created so that all members of society could attend Mardi Gras Balls. The three super krewes known to put on the best balls are Bacchus, Orpheus, and Endymion. The Krewe of Endymion hosts their ball after the parade and features celebrity performers and tens of thousands in attendance.

    New Orleans Mardi Gras 2023 Schedule

    Every year New Orleans Mardi Gras season has around 100 parades that run from January 6 all the way through to Mardi Gras Day. So even if you are not around on Mardi Gras Day, you will be able to catch a parade whenever you visit. 

    Here is the full New Orleans Mardi Gras 2023 Parade Schedule for the full New Orleans Mardi Gras 2023 carnival season: 

    Friday January 6, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe of Joan of Arc ‚Äď 7:00pm
    • Soci√©t√© des Champs Elys√©e ‚Äď 7:30pm

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Phunny Phorty Phellows ‚Äď 7:00pm
    • Funky Uptown Krewe ‚Äď Following

    Saturday, January 7, 2023

    Covington

    • Fools of Misrule ‚Äď 6:00pm

    Saturday, January 14, 2023

    Mandeville

    • Mande Kings Day ‚Äď 2:00pm

    Sunday, January 22, 2023

    New Orleans East

    • Krewe of Nefertiti 12:00pm

    Saturday, January 28, 2023

    Marigny

    • Krewe of Chewbacchus 7:00pm

    Friday, February 3, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe Boheme 7:00pm

    Saturday, February 4, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe du Vieux ‚Äď 6:30pm
    • Krewedelusion ‚Äď Follos

    Slidell

    • Krewe of Bilge ‚Äď 12:00pm
    • Krewe of Slidellians ‚Äď 1:00pm
    • Krewe of Perseus ‚Äď Follows
    • Krewe of Poseidon ‚Äď 6:00pm

    Sunday, February 5, 2023

    Metairie

    • Krewe of Little Rascals ‚Äď 12:00pm

    Marigny

    • ‚Äėtit Rex ‚Äď 4:30pm¬†

    Pearl River

    • Krewe of Lions Club‚Äď 1:00pm

    Friday, February 10, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe of Cork ‚Äď 3:00pm

    Metairie

    • Krewe of Excalibur ‚Äď 6:30pm
    • Krewe of Symphony ‚Äď Follows¬†

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Oshun ‚Äď 6:00pm¬†
    • Krewe of Cleopatra ‚Äď Follows
    • Krewe of Alla – Follows

    Mandeville

    • Krewe of Eve ‚Äď 7:00pm

    Saturday February 11, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe of Cork ‚Äď 3:00pm

    Metairie

    • Magical Krewe of Mad Hatters ‚Äď 5:00pm

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Pontchartrain ‚Äď 1:00pm¬†
    • Krewe of Choctaw ‚Äď Follows
    • Krewe of Freret ‚Äď Follows
    • Knights of Sparta ‚Äď 5:30pm
    • Krewe of Pygmalion – Follows

    Sidell

    • Krewe de Paws of Olde Towne ‚Äď 10:00am
    • Krewe of Titans ‚Äď 6:30pm

    Madisonville

    • Krewe of Tchefuncte ‚Äď 1:00pm

    Covington

    • Krewe of Olympia ‚Äď 6:00pm

    Chalmette 

    • Knights of Nemesis ‚Äď 1:00pm
    • Abita Springs
    • Krewe of Push Mow ‚Äď 12:00pm

    Sunday February 12, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe of Barkus ‚Äď 2:00pm

    Metairie

    • Krewe of Atlas ‚Äď 4:00pm

    Uptown New Orleans

    • The Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale ‚Äď 11:00am¬†
    • Krewe of Carrollton ‚Äď Follows
    • Krewe of King Arthur ‚Äď Follows

    Sidell

    • Krewe of Dionysus ‚Äď 1:00pm

    Tuesday February 14, 2023

    West Bank

    • The Culinary Queens of New Orleans ‚Äď 6:00pm

    Wednesday February 15, 2023

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Druids ‚Äď 6:15pm¬†
    • Krewe of Nyx ‚Äď 6:45pm

    Thursday February 16, 2023

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Knights of Babylon ‚Äď 5:30pm¬†
    • Knights of Chaos ‚Äď Follows
    • Krewe of Muses ‚Äď Follows

    Friday February 17, 2023

    French Quarter

    • Krewe of Bosom Buddies ‚Äď 11:30am¬†

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Hermes ‚Äď 5:30pm¬†
    • Krewe d‚ÄôEtat ‚Äď 6:30pm
    • Krewe of Morpheus ‚Äď 7:00pm

    Sidell

    • Krewe of Selene ‚Äď 6:30pm

    Saturday February 18, 2023 

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Iris ‚Äď 11:00am¬†
    • Krewe of Tucks -12:00pm

    Westbank

    • Krewe of NOMTOC ‚Äď 10:45am¬†

    Mid-City

    • Krewe of Endymion ‚Äď 4:15pm

     Bush

    • Krewe of Bush ‚Äď 9:00am¬†

    Kenner

    • Krewe of Iris ‚Äď 6:00pm

    Sunday February 19, 2023

    Metairie

    • Krewe of Athena ‚Äď 5:30pm¬†
    • Krewe of Pandora – Follows

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Okeanos ‚Äď 11:00am¬†
    • Krewe of Mid-City -Follows
    • Krewe of Thoth ‚Äď 12:00pm
    • Krewe of Bacchus ‚Äď 5:15pm

    Monday February 20, 2023

    Metairie

    • Krewe of Centurions ‚Äď 6:30pm¬†

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Proteus ‚Äď 5:15 pm
    • Krewe of Orpheus -6:00pm

    Mardi Gras Day РTuesday February 21, 2023 

    Metairie

    • Krewe of Argus ‚Äď 10:00am¬†

    Uptown New Orleans

    • Krewe of Zulu ‚Äď 8:00am¬†
    • Krewe of Rex -10:00am
    • Krewe of Elks Orleans ‚Äď Follows
    • Krewe of Crescent City ‚Äď Follows

    Covington

    • Covington Lions Club ‚Äď 10:00am¬†
    • Krewe of Covington ‚Äď Follows

    Folsom 

    • Krewe of Folsom ‚Äď 2:00pm¬†

    Lacombe 

    • Krewe of Chahta ‚Äď 1:00pm¬†

    Saturday February 25, 2023 

    Mandeville

    • Krewe du Pooch ‚Äď 12:00pm

    Sunday February 26, 2023 

    Covington

    • Krewe of Mardi Paws ‚Äď 2:00pm

    What are the Best Mardi Gras Parades

    There are more than 80 New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades held on different days during the New Orleans Mardi Gras Season. The Rex and Zulu Parades held on Mardi Gras day are two of the most popular parades that one must see when attending New Orleans Mardi Gras. 

    Krewe du Vieux Parade¬†is a very popular¬†parade¬†that is very satirical and political in nature, and features elaborate¬†floats.¬†Endymian¬†is a hugely popular¬†parade¬†from one of the biggest ‚Äėsuper krewes‚Äô¬†that must be seen.¬†

    Krewe of St. Anne & Krewe of Julu Parades, are two wacky parades full of wild characters in weird costumes. The Krewe of Muses throws hand-designed glittery shoes of all shapes and styles to delight the crowd.

    Why not check out some of the awesome all-girl krewe parades like the Cameltoe, Lady Steppers, Pussyfooters and the Sirens, who are always famous for incredible costumes and dance moves.

    There are plenty of small and quirky¬†parades¬†that are worth attending like ‚Äėtit R…ôx¬†which features mini-floats¬†that are hand pulled. Then there is the¬†Krewe of Barkus¬†that features marching dogs. Also, there is a sci-fi themed¬†parade¬†by the¬†Krewe of Chewbacchus.

    You can look at the different parade routes for each Krewe here, or alternatively download the parade tracker app.

    Zulu Parade & Rex Parade

    On the official Mardi Gras day is the peak of celebrations and features two of the most popular parades, the Zulu and Rex Parade. Starting with the Zulu Parade which began as a satirical parade that poked fun at the early white-only krewes.

    The Zulu Parade¬†is famous for their ‚ÄúMardi Gras Throws‚ÄĚ. Every year¬†Zulu¬†riders load hundreds of hand decorated¬†coconuts¬†onto their¬†float.¬†The Zulu Coconut¬†is the coveted¬†Mardi Gras throw¬†that everyone wants.

    Following the Zulu parade is the Rex Parade which has over 600 male riders parade down the French quarter of New Orleans. The Rex Parade is the highlight of New Orleans Mardi Gras, and has been ever since it first began.

    The Rex Parade features the most elegant designs and amazing wooden wagon floats that are still built the traditional way.  They also have a long tradition of selecting amazing themes.

    Mardi Gras Indian Parade

    Mardi Gras Day¬†is also when the¬†Mardi Gras Indians Parade.¬†The¬†parade¬†attracts crowds of thousands who follow the different¬†tribes parade¬†through their respective neighborhoods. Eventually all the¬†tribes¬†meet up with each other for ‚Äúbattle‚ÄĚ.

    Mardi Gras Indians tribes wear the most amazing elaborate hand-made feathered costumes and colorful beads inspired from traditional Native American clothing. The tribes battle with each other through showing off their costumes. As well as performing songs and threatening dances.

    Fun things to do in New Orleans

    What are Mardi Gras Throws?

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    What are throws? Throws are the name for anything that is thrown into the audience, from the parade float riders, as a gift to the audience. So much time, effort and creativity go into creating these amazing throws. They make a memorable and unique souvenir. 

    If you have ever wondered what’s up with the Mardi Gras beads? When you are a spectator at a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade, you must be prepared to be showered with items! One thing all Mardi Gras Parades have in common is that the Krewe riders will throw trinkets to the crowd. The most famous throw is of course the Mardi Gras beads.

    Krewe¬†members throw items ranging from colorful¬†Mardi Gras beads, doubloons,¬†toys, plastic cups and more. This was done to symbolize the rich sharing their wealth. The¬†Zulu Krewe¬†throws¬†coconuts¬†which are considered to be the highest prize thrown in¬†New Orleans Mardi Gras. In recent years, many Krewes have created their ‚Äúsignature‚ÄĚ throws such as hand decorated high-heel shoes from the Krewe of Muses, hand bejeweled sunglasses from the Krewe of Iris and the list goes on!

    IMPORTANT…bring some type of tote bag to the parades with you as you will need it to haul everything you catch to bring home as souvenirs.

    Where to Watch the New Orleans Mardi Gras?

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    You have a few choices for watching the Mardi Gras Parades. First you can join the crowds and watch from the street. You could also watch from some of the purpose-built grand stand seating that has been set up along the parade route. You can also view the parades from many of the balconies that line the parade routes.  And if you are unable to be there in person, then watch from the comfort of your own home. There are several websites that offer live viewing of the parades and parade cams such as nola.com. On Mardi Gras Day there are some TV stations that will cover the parades.

    Watch New Orleans Mardi Gras from a Balcony

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    Historic buildings, with beautiful iron wrought balconies, line many of the parade routes. Iconic images of New Orleans Mardi Gras are often of party goers filling these balconies, while the streets are filled below. The most well-known New Orleans Balconies are found on Bourbon Street, situated in the French Quarter including Bourbon Vieux, Cat’s Meow or Bourbon Cowboy.

    The best thing about watching Mardi Gras parades from a balcony is that not only will you have a great view of the parades, but you will also have the ability to access restrooms, but you can have some space from the large crowds and be able to sit down and purchase food and drinks easily. During the popular parades the balconies will sell packages, which sell out quickly, most packages will also include food and drinks.  

    It should be noted however, that in recent years the large motorized parades no longer go down Bourbon Street because it is too narrow. However, there are still many iconic parades that make their way down. This area is also party central for Mardi Gras and the bars and streets are filled with revelers.

     Some good options to consider:

    • Courtyard By Marriott¬†‚Äď Located on St. Charles Ave, this popular hotel offers many balcony rooms overlooking the parades, which are even close enough that you may even be able to catch some throws¬†
    • Holiday Inn Express New Orleans¬†‚Äď Located right on Lee Circle on St. Charles Ave. This hotel has many rooms that look onto the parades. They also have their own viewing area.
    • InterContinental New Orleans¬†‚Äď They offer many rooms on St. Charles Ave that have great views of the parades, they also have public viewing stands available.¬†
    • JW Marriott¬†‚Äď Situated on Canal St, they offer many rooms with full balconies that you can easily view the parades.¬†
    • Lafayette Hotel¬†‚Äď Sitting on St. Charles Ave, they offer many rooms that watch over the parades.¬†

    New Orleans Parade Grandstands

    If big crowds aren’t your thing, but you want to be close to the action, then book a seat in one of the grandstands that are built along the parade routes. This is a very popular option so you have to book in advance. Seats can also be pretty pricey for the more popular parades, but worth it for the views they provide. While sitting in the grandstands makes it harder to catch throws, they do offer restrooms. 

    Some of the grandstand locations are:

    • Canal Street Parade Stand: Floats make their way down Canal Street on their parade route. It is generally a more relaxed area to watch the parades. The Sheraton offers grandstands for guests outside.¬†
    • Lafayette Square at St. Charles: The elevated grandstands found here provide great views. It is one of the best areas to watch with kids. You also have a better chance here to catch some throws. There are two options in Lafayette Square, and another two at the intersection of Poydras and St. Charles.¬†

    Street Locations for New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades 

    You have to watch at least one parade from the street for an authentic Mardi Gras experience. It’s free, you are in the best position to catch the throws and there is always a great atmosphere. The downside is that you will be on your feet for prolonged periods of time and that access to one of the portable restrooms can be difficult in some of the locations. 

    You can watch the parades from anywhere along the parade routes. Some parade routes go for miles, so you will have plenty of options to find a good spot. However, for the most popular parades, the best viewing spots will fill up quickly, with people claiming their spots hours in advance. Some people will even bring little ladders to stand on, to see the parades better. 

    Some of the best New Orleans parade viewing locations include: 

    • Lee Circle ‚Äď This is the only traffic circle in New Orleans and most major parades go around it. It offers a great view of the parades going up and down St. Charles and is right next to the Holiday Inn.
    • Polymnia & St. Charles ‚Äď This is a hectic place to watch the parades, but is considered prime parade viewing real estate to catch the big parades. It is the place to go if you want a lively atmosphere. Not for the faint of heart, it will be rowdy and crowded.¬†
    • Canal Street ‚Äď Many parades will head down Canal Street after leaving Lafayette Square. We recommend staying on the east side of the street, otherwise you may get stuck once the parade begins. The intersection near St. Charles is probably one of the hottest spots to be.¬†
    • St Charles Ave ‚Äď Most parades run down here so it‚Äôs a great place to wander down and find a location.
    • Tchoupitoulas and Gravier: If you want to catch the Muses Parade, then this is the best location to be. The Windsor Court Hotel is a great place to stand, sitting right on the parade route.¬†
    • Napoleon and St. Charles
    • Jackson at St. Charles
    • Tchoupitoulas near Poydras
    • St. Charles at Poydras
    • Garden District and Magazine Street
    • French Quarter ‚Äď This is one of the best places to be during Mardi Gras and one of the most popular spots. However, it is not family friendly. People here are usually pretty drunk, rowdy, risqu√©, so it is pretty much adults only viewing.¬†

    The French Quarter also called Vieux Carré

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    The French Quarter is a charming historic section of New Orleans. This is where most of the Mardi Gras action will be held particularly on Bourbon Street. The neighborhood has beautiful European architecture and the buildings feature colorful exteriors.

    The more traditional parades march through here. If you’re lucky you may even get invited to watch the action from above on some of the balconies that run along Bourbon Street. 

    Bourbon Street is the heart of the French Quarter and that is where most of the Mardi Gras madness takes place, which is the main reason most of us want to attend Mardi Gras anyway. 

    At midnight on Mardi Gras Day, hundreds of Police Officers arrive in Bourbon Street on horseback or walking, to ‚Äúclose‚ÄĚ the carnival. This tradition is known as the ‚ÄúBourbon Street Closing‚ÄĚ, this practice historically was the symbol to end carnival season, as the start of Lent began. In modern times, it just forces people to go indoors for a while and off the streets to continue their partying.¬†

    How to Dress for Mardi Gras?

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    Fun Mardi Gras fact is that in New Orleans it is a law that all parade participants who ride a float must wear a mask or they are breaking the law. This Mardi Gras tradition was created to allow people to escape their social class and mingle with whoever they want.

    If you are wondering, what kind of Mardi Gras outfit should I wear? On Mardi Gras Day a costume is a must and anything goes (as long as all your private parts are covered). It can be comical or whimsical, it doesn’t matter but if you don’t dress up then you will look out of place.

    If you are attending one of the Mardi Gras Balls then you should dress up for the event as most have a fancy-dress requirement. Also make a note that it is still pretty cold in New Orleans during Mardi Gras so dress warm.

    When planning your costume, remember comfortable shoes are a MUST, as you will be doing a lot of walking and standing…parades do go on for hours!

    What are the Mardi Gras Colors?

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    One look at the topping of the King Cake and you see that the New Orleans Mardi Gras colors are purple which symbolizes justice, gold which symbolizes power and green which symbolizes faith.

    These colors were chosen by Rex Krewe back in 1872 to honor the Russian Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov who visited New Orleans to celebrate carnival and the local people of New Orleans were required to display these colors.

    Where to stay for New Orleans Mardi Gras?

    When it comes to where to stay for New Orleans Mardi Gras, this can be a challenge. New Orleans is extremely busy and popular during Mardi Gras, so availability is low, and prices are high! Book your hotel as soon as possible, because they do book out quickly.

    You will want to stay as close to the parades as possible. That way, you can easily walk to and from the celebrations, and you also have easy access to your own bathrooms, or a nice place to take a place from the crowds. Once the floats hit the roads it can be difficult to get around the city, with limited taxis and massive traffic jams.

    The majority of people are interested in seeing either the Uptown or French Quarter parades. A good rule of thumb is to stay close to St Charles or Canal streets, as it will make it so much easier for you to get around. Other good streets are Royal Street, Decatur and Magazine.

    Here are the Top Hotels On or Near the Parade Route:

    • Courtyard By Marriott¬†‚Äď Located on St. Charles Ave, this popular hotel offers many balcony rooms overlooking the parades, which are even close enough that you may even be able to catch some throws
    • Holiday Inn Express New Orleans¬†‚Äď Located right on Lee Circle on St. Charles Ave. This hotel offers many rooms that look onto the parades. They also have their own viewing area.
    • InterContinental New Orleans¬†‚Äď They offer many rooms on St. Charles Ave that have great views of the parades, they also have public viewing stands available.
    • JW Marriott¬†‚Äď Situated on Canal St, they offer many rooms with full balconies that you can easily view the parades.
    • Lafayette Hotel¬†‚Äď Sitting on St. Charles Ave, they offer many rooms that watch over the parades.
    • Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter ‚Äď Located on Bourbon Street you may be able to book a balcony room.
    • Hotel Monteleone ‚Äď This is a city landmark that has been operating since 1886. It embodies historic New Orleans and is only a block away from Bourbon Street.
    • The Quisby ‚ÄďClose proximity to the parades, this chic hotel sits on St Charles Avenue where all major parades pass by.
    • Pontchartrain Hotel – This grand hotel faces the parade route on St. Charles Avenue
    • Ace Hotel New Orleans ‚Äď This hotel is only a quick walk to most of the major parade routes. Its Three Keys music venues also host amazing parties and performances through the Mardi Gras season.
    • 1896 O‚ÄôMalley House‚Äď This is the place to be for the Endymion Parade.
    • Royal Sonesta Hotel: Located on the ever-popular Bourbon Street and has balconies. It embodies NOLA‚Äôs iconic Parisian Architecture.
    • Astor Crowne: Located on Bourbon Street offers stunning views of the festivities below

    For hotels located close to the¬†Uptown parades¬†with a ‚ÄėNew Orleans¬†feel‚Äô stay at The Prytania Park, Prytania Oaks and the Queen Anne Hotels, which are all located in the historic¬†Lower Garden District, close to¬†parades.

    If you are struggling to find good options in the Lower Garden District, the Garden District or the French Quarter then don’t panic! There are still plenty of other great options. Look around Uptown, the Warehouse District or the Central Business District. For a quieter but still exciting experience consider Faubourg Marigny and the Baywater neighborhoods. New Orleans is a fairly small city and a great place to walk around when the weather is nice.

    Check out some great accommodation deals on Booking.com for New Orleans here.

    New Orleans Mardi Gras for the Family

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras is a family-friendly event that is full of family picnics and BBQs lined up along St. Charles Avenue. Children come out to watch the parades and float riders have plenty of toys and stuffed animals to hand out to the kids.

    The only place to avoid with kids is the French Quarter as that is party central, but no full-size parades pass by there anyway. The Garden District portion of St. Charles is a family friendly area. You may also want to consider taking the kids to the parades in suburban areas like Metairie. And remember to always bring large bags for the kids to catch all their throws. 

    What is a King Cake?

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    New Orleans Mardi Gras is filled with lots of time-honored traditions like the¬†King Cake.¬†The New Orleans King Cakes¬†come from their French counterparts.¬†The King Cake¬†is basically a decadent cinnamon coffee cake shaped in a circle or oval decorated with¬†purple, green, and gold¬†sugar icing. There is the traditional ‚Äúplain‚ÄĚ cake but now there are lots of specialty cakes with elaborate ‚Äústuffing/fillings‚ÄĚ.¬† ¬†

    Hidden inside every King Cake is a tiny plastic baby. When the King Cake is cut up, whoever receives the piece with the baby must throw the next party (or at least buy the next cake to be shared at the office). New Orleans sells over 750,000 king cakes including 50,000 which are ordered online and shipped outside New Orleans.

    New Orleans Mardi Gras Tickets

    How much does it cost to go to New Orleans Mardi Gras? One of the greatest things about New Orleans Mardi Gras is that it is FREE to attend all the parades. However, if you want to sit on the grandstands or watch from one of the balconies, then you will have to purchase tickets. 

    For Grandstand tickets you can go here. For balcony tickets you can look at some packages here. 

    What is the History of New Orleans Mardi Gras?

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    The origins of Mardi Gras date back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome who used to throw wild celebrations centered around the winter and spring solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes. After the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, these celebrations merged with the church’s teachings about the birth of Jesus.

    When the influence of the Roman Catholic Church spread across the world, carnival spread with it. The celebrations spread to France who has been celebrating carnival for centuries. It was the French that brought Mardi Gras to their colonies in Louisiana at the turn of the 17th century.

    The first official US Mardi Gras occurred in Mobile in 1703, and arrived in New Orleans shortly after its founding in 1718. About a century later New Orleans Mardi Gras had established krewes, street parades, a carnival King and had begun the tradition of throwing colorful beads to the crowd.

    Krewe Membership

    Most Krewes are open to the public and offer open membership. Several Krewes are from various organizations like the firefighters, teachers etc. But some of the Krewes are highly exclusive and secretive. These secret societies have been part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans since day one.

    The majority of Krewes charge a yearly membership fee and require their members to participate in fundraisers and other events to raise money. All the money these Krewes raise goes into the construction of floats, costumes and purchase of throws.

    How to get to New Orleans?

    • By Plane: You can fly to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). It takes around 30 ‚Äď 45 minutes to get from the airport to the New Orleans CBD or French Quarter.
    • By Car: Drive to New Orleans via I-10, I-55, U.S. 90, U.S. 61, or even across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway on LA 25, then US 190.
    • By Bus: Greyhound and Megabus service New Orleans from Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave.
    • By Train: Amtrak trains service the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal which is located at 1001 Loyola Ave, in the Central Business District.
    • By Ship:¬†It‚Äôs not generally considered ‚Äútransportation,‚ÄĚ but it is possible that you can cruise to or from the Port of New Orleans.

    Book your Hotel and Flight for the New Orleans Mardi Gras

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    Best things to do at New Orleans Mardi Gras

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    The New Orleans Mardi Gras is the biggest and best party in the entire United States. We have put together some of our top suggestions to ensure you have the best time at New Orleans Mardi Gras: 

    1. Watch the Parades: This is the best thing you can do during New Orleans Mardi Gras. New Orleans is famous for their colorful parades where you can catch free throws. Each krewe puts on a parade, with the best parades happening on Mardi Gras Day. The best thing is they are free to attend!
    2. Bourbon Street Parties: This is where you will find the locals. People head here to party on the streets. All the bars, clubs and restaurants along the way are filled with revelers. There is lots of rowdiness, lots of drinking and having a good time. Not a place for the kids though! 
    3. Eat some King Cake: This is essentially a New Orleans Mardi Gras right of passage. You have to eat this delicious and colorful cake. They only come out during Mardi Gras and they always contain a little plastic baby hidden inside. The rule is that whoever finds the baby in their cake slice, has to throw the Mardi Gras party the following year. 
    4. French Quarter ‚Äď The French Quarter is party central. It is absolutely bustling and wild during Mardi Gras. Many of the most iconic parades head through here. There are always great street parties. Lots of drinking and rowdy behavior happens here, so it is the place to be for some risqu√© revelry.¬†
    5. Collect Throws РNew Orleans is famous for the throws. Every year krewe members throw gifts from the parade floats from toys, to beads to sweets. Collecting throws is one of the highlights of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There are some super unique items that you can catch.  Do a little research on what throws are passed out by different krewes, so you can make a bucket list of which ones you want to collect during New Orleans Mardi Gras. 
    6. Celebrate in the bar ‚Äď The bars are a big part of Mardi Gras and are some of the best places to celebrate. The bars in the French Quarter serve the best drinks and create awesome atmospheres to celebrate.
    7. Flambeaux ‚Äď Flambeaux is an iron pole, used to light the parades on the Mardi Gras route. This is a long-standing tradition that started before electricity. It is an amazing tradition to watch and exciting to see these walkers carrying the hot flames.¬†
    8. Lundi Gras: This is a fun celebration that features live music and fireworks.
    9. Bacchus Street Party & Parade ‚Äď Taking place the Sunday prior to Mardi Gras Day, watch the Bacchus Parade which is followed by an epic street party with live music throughout the day.¬†
    10. Mardi Gras Balls ‚Äď These balls are famous for their appeal and exclusivity. Only krewe members are able to attend the most prestigious ones. However, there are a few that sell tickets so if you can attend it‚Äôs a great tradition to experience.¬†
    11. Enjoy some Jazz ‚Äď New Orleans is the home of jazz, so no trip is complete without experiencing the sultry, smooth music. There are plenty of amazing jazz venues and popular bars with jazz nights you can attend. But the streets will also be filled with jazz musicians during Mardi Gras.¬†
    12. New Orleans Delicacies РNew Orleans is famous for food! There are so many good restaurants and local delicacies that you can try during Mardi Gras.  
    13. Caf√© du Monde ‚Äď This is without a doubt the most famous caf√© in New Orleans. It is famous for its chicory blended coffee and its beignets which are incredibly delicious. It is a popular place though, so you may have to queue up. However, it is open 24 hours a day, so you can head there anytime day or night.¬†

    Top Things to Do and See in New Orleans

    mardi gras carnival new orleans

    While New Orleans is consumed with Mardi Gras celebrations during this time of year, there are still so many amazing things to do and see in the city. 

    We have put together a list of some of the best things to do in the city and its surrounding. 

    1. Go on a Tour of New Orleans

    This is highly recommended! This is a historic city with so many sights and sounds. There are plenty of city tours that are worth doing such as:

    2. Jackson Square

    Soak up the atmosphere in Jackson Square, a historic park, surrounded by historic buildings, that sits in the French Quarter. This square has been at the center of public life in New Orleans for hundreds of years and is one of the best places to hang out. The Square is always frequented by musicians, painters, street performers, tarot readers and psychics. 

    Jazz music fills the air here and there is always a fun and lively atmosphere. This place embodies the spirit of New Orleans more than anything else. However, it is not just one of the prettiest parts of New Orleans but it is historically important too. It was in Jackson Square that the French handed over New Orleans in the historic land sale in 1803, which saw the USA double in size overnight. 

    3. Visit Mardi Gras World & the Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture

    If you are interested in the history and effort that goes into Mardi Gras then these are two places you will want to visit! Mardi Gras World is a living workshop where the giant Mardi Gras floats are built and stored. Mardi Gras is an essential part of life in New Orleans and seeing all the Mardi Gras Paraphernalia will really help you appreciate the hard work, creativity and scale of this event. 

    If you are more interested in the clothes and history of Mardi Gras, then definitely take a trip to the Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture. Here you will learn more about the traditions and what goes into making costumes for the event. You are also allowed to play in the ‚Äúcostume closet‚ÄĚ, where you can try on loads of costumes and take photos.¬†

    4. Go on a New Orleans Cemetery Tour 

    This might seem a little strange, but exploring the New Orleans cemeteries is actually one of the top tourist attractions. New Orleans was built on a swamp which made burying people difficult. The city’s solution was above ground graves. It is a little spooky and ghoulish, but this experience is unique to New Orleans. You will also learn more about the Voodoo culture of New Orleans and can visit famous local figures who have been laid to rest. Even actor Nicolas Cage has a grave, where he plans to be buried. 

    In order to visit St Louis Cemetery, you have to be part of a tour with a guide who is licensed to visit the cemeteries. Check out some options below. 

    5. Steamboat River Cruise

    If you want to do something pretty special during your time in New Orleans, we highly recommend taking a Steamboat Cruise down the Mississippi River. It is such a wonderful way to spend a few hours. You can enjoy some live jazz music, or book a dinner cruise and enjoy a three-course meal accompanied by drinks. The views over the city and river are quite remarkable and it is truly a special way to enjoy your New Orleans adventure. 

    6. Visit a Plantation

    Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, you will find the famous River Road, which is home to numerous beautiful plantation homes. The closest are Ormond and Destrehan Plantation. Oak Alley is one of the most famous and visited plantations of all time, you would most likely recognize it from . They can be visited as a day trip from New Orleans, by car or taking a tour. 

    There are several tours to choose from including: 

    7. Take a Swamp Tour

    New Orleans is built on a swamp, and taking a Swamp Tour is one of the most popular tourist activities in New Orleans. You have several options to explore the swamps, by airboat, pontoon or even kayak if you’re brave enough. Airboats can travel in shallower waters, and are smaller so you can visit more remote areas in the swamp. They can be loud though, so if you are looking for a more peaceful options then a pontoon is your best bet.¬†

    These tours are a lot of fun and can see the local alligators up close and personal, as well as the other Louisiana wildlife.

    8. Visit the National WWII Museum

    While this might not be in the spirit of Mardi Gras, this attraction is worth visiting. It is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, so much so that Congress even named it the official WWII Museum of the United States. It is extremely extensive and you would need a few hours to explore it properly. It has beautifully curated exhibits which really bring the realities of WWII to life. 

    9. Explore New Orleans Spooky Side

    In addition to the cemeteries, there are loads of other spooky activities that you can enjoy. There are other spooky tours and activities you can pass in. They say that New Orleans has a large ghost population, so in addition to the cemeteries you can visit lots of voodoo shops, explore the local vampire vulture and even visit the museum of death. 

    10. Enjoy the local Cajun and Creole food!

    If you are a foodie, you will love New Orleans! No trip to New Orleans is complete without trying many of the local dishes and delicacies. From crawfish etouffee, po’ boys, maque choux corn, gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, the list goes on. You can even try alligator if you are adventurous. You can even visit the French Market, which is a large marketplace where the vendors sell all manner of foods and souvenirs.¬†

    Top Tips & Things to Know For New Orleans Mardi Gras

    1. Plan your trip as soon as possible! ‚Äď Mardi Gras is popular and people book accommodation and parade grandstands/balconies months in advance. You should plan your trip and reserve your accommodation as soon as possible.¬†
    2. Go Early ‚Äď Parade routes might look empty or stretch for miles but they fill up quickly and if you don‚Äôt go early, you can be stuck behind five rows of people. Many people will camp out hours before the parade starts, even overnight to stake out the best spots.
    3. Respect everyone around you ‚Äď Yes Mardi Gras is about having fun, but don‚Äôt get so drunk that you act like an obnoxious, sassy or rowdy individual. Definitely don‚Äôt urinate in public because these things will get you arrested. ¬† ¬†
    4. Dress in Costume ‚Äď Feel free to embrace your imagination and dress as crazy as you like. Most people will deck themselves head to toe in green, purple and gold; the New Orleans Mardi Gras official colors. You might feel left out if you don‚Äôt dress up.¬†
    5. Throw catching ‚Äď People love jumping about to catch the throws. Crowds can get overly excited trying to catch the throws and you may even see a tug-o-war trying to claim the throw. Be vigilant that you don‚Äôt get pelted when the riders toss the throw.
    6. Check the weather ‚Äď It can actually be quite cold at this time of year, so plan accordingly. You might need to layer your clothing or even wear some sunscreen.¬†
    7. Learn about the history of New Orleans Mardi Gras ‚Äď Familiarizing yourself with the history of Mardi Gras and all the centuries old traditions like the Krewes, Mardi Gras Indians as known more about Mardi Gras will greatly enrich your experience. When you know more about each of the Krewes, you can better plan what parades you want to see, or what throws you want to catch.

    What is the weather like for the New Orleans Mardi Gras?

    Be warned that New Orleans can be quite cold during Mardi Gras. It can also be quite warm, even hot at times. The weather can be extreme and change from one day to the next. So, you might need to layer your clothes in the morning or evening, and remove those layers during the day. We suggest checking the weather for that day and being prepared. 

    What happens if there is bad weather for the New Orleans Mardi Gras? The New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades will still continue in bad weather. Officials will only postpone the weather if there is severe weather. 

    It All Ends at Midnight

    Yes, just like Cinderella the fun ends at exactly midnight on Mardi Gras night! As the clock strikes twelve all the celebrating finishes. This is because Midnight is the official start of Lent. But don’t worry because you will probably be ready for bed after the full day of craziness that engulfs New Orleans on Mardi Gras!

    If you are struggling to find good options in the Lower Garden District, the Garden District or the French Quarter then don’t panic! There are still plenty of other great options. Look around Uptown, or the Warehouse District or the Central Business District. For a quieter but still exciting experience consider Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater neighborhoods. New Orleans is a fairly small city and a great place to walk around when the weather is nice.

    Carnivaland recommends tours, events and accommodation based on our extensive experience and knowledge of them. We may earn affiliate commission from affiliate links in this article. Read more about our policy.

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