Mardi Gras in New Orleans is nothing like you have ever experienced. For those of you in the dark, Carnival season starts on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and will last until Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. As many of my Alabama friends like to consistently point out, Mobile is the birthplace of America’s Mardi Gras. Well, that might be true, but New Orleans has perfected the art of celebrating Carnival. New Orleans will host on average a million visitors from across the globe the week leading up to Mardi Gras. From costuming to parties, parades to Jell-o shots, Mardi Gras is a marathon. Preparation is key.
1. Weather: It’s always unpredictable around here. It could be 72°and sunny or 30°and rainy. Have layers, sunscreen and don’t forget an umbrella.
2. Costuming: Anything from tutus to body paint goes. The crazier the better. If a full-blown costume isn’t your jam, at least know your colors and wear something in purple, green or gold.
3. Walking: It’s pretty much unavoidable. From parking a half mile away, to party hopping, or strolling down the Avenue to take in all the sights, you will be doing some walking. Find a pair of shoes that are comfortable and can be thrown away at the end of the season.
4. Alcohol: It’s going to happen so pace yourself. Don’t be that person who had too much fun pregaming and miss out on the actual parades. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. Recovery will not come easy, but it will help it along. That and some Advil.
5. Bathroom: Naturally this comes next. Just don’t pee in public. I don’t have official stats, but I’m pretty sure this is the #1 reason people get arrested during Mardi Gras. There are plenty of places to go. The City has gotten better over the years of providing public port-o-potties. I won’t even pretend that these are the cleanest, but they are available. There are plenty of churches and restaurants that charge a nominal fee to use their bathroom. Some advice: It’s always best to keep an extra roll of TP and sanitizer handy.
6. Food: This is not the week to start your diet. There is nothing healthy about Mardi Gras. While New Orleans is known for its food, now is not the time to experience its glory. Restaurants on the route are often serving a limited menu that can be served in a timely manner. Remember, it’s a marathon. You won’t last long on just alcohol. Feed yourself. McDonald’s is my savior for cheap, easy, quick and curing a hangover.
7. Beads: For the Love of Pete, don’t pick them up off the ground, don’t wrestle a 5-year-old for them or snatch them from someone else. There is plenty to go around and after all, it’s a piece of cheap plastic that cost a penny. You may however pick doubloons off the ground. Simply stomp on the doubloon to stake your claim.
8. Bourbon Street: Do it at least once. It’s crowded, chaotic and full of debauchery. But should be experienced. Just remember, 50,000 other people have the same idea, who are probably drunker than you.
10. Have Fun: Enjoy yourself. Know that Mardi Gras is family friendly along the St. Charles Avenue parade route. Respect the children along the route. Get to know the locals. They’ll probably share their food and beer with you.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!