PHOTO: Assorted Mardi Gras beads. (Photo via Flickr/Mark Gstohl)
On February 28, it’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana! Get out your purple, green and gold and enjoy parades in the street, as well as festivals and, of course, food.
Have patience: “Mardi Gras is a day, Carnival is the season, and it is a citywide celebration,” said Kim Sayatovic, Belladeux Events in New Orleans, Louisiana. “There are many street closures, and thus it takes much longer to get anywhere and everywhere. Getting annoyed won’t get you anywhere any faster.”
Be prepared: Arrive early to stake out a good spot. “For a more family-friendly vibe, head towards uptown for a spot on St. Charles Avenue,” said Vicki Bristol of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Bring a folding chair to avoid being on your feet for long periods of time. Also, come prepared with food and drink as it’s tough to get around during parades.”
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Walk, bike or utilize public transportation: “Check the Regional Transit Authority app (RTA GoMobile) to see how public transportation might be impacted,” said Bristol.
Be aware: “Do not publicize your specific location and high valuable items you are traveling with via social media,” said Justin Tysdal, CEO of international travel insurance company Seven Corners. “Make sure close friends or family members are aware of your travel schedule and invest in travel insurance for extra protection and peace of mind.”
Take it all in: Hilton New Orleans Riverside's lead concierge, Annie Seeger has several suggestions of things to see while you are here. “Admission is free at the Mardi Gras Museum, part of Arnaud’s Restaurant located at 813 Bienville Street,” she said.
“Also, Mardi Gras Indians parade the streets of Treme early in the morning on Mardi Gras Day. “Spy boys” aka “Flag Boys” roam the streets looking out for other tribes of Indians. Mardi Gras Skeleton gangs roam the streets early on Mardi dressed as skeletons with big bones in their hands knocking on doors telling people to wake up; it’s Mardi Gras.
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Seeger explained that by appearing as the walking dead, the bone men remind people—young and old—to live well while they're alive. “As the words on their aprons say, “You next!” Sometimes they dance in a circle and chant “You better get your...life together, next time you see us...it's too late to try!” Not everyone welcomes these early morning knockings.
Enjoy parade fun: “The first weekend there are a handful of parades a little off the beaten path,” said Noel Minturn, Chief Concierge at Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. “Over in the Marigny/Bywater neighborhood, the Krewe of tit Rex (tit is a Cajun word for small) and the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus roll on Saturday. The Micro Krewe of tit Rex has taken the opposite approach of the Super Krewes with their larger than life floats and made their floats about the size of a shoebox. And sci-fi fans of all ages will love the Krewe of Chewbacchus. On Sunday the all-dog parade of the Krewe of Barkus rolls in the French Quarter.”
Bring a backpack: “This can double as your carry-on, but you want to make sure you have a place to store items while you are watching parades,” said Sayatovic. “Make sure you keep handy wipes and toilet paper in it. Parade routes are in some residential areas, and there is sometimes nothing more than a portable restroom to use. It should also include a lightweight rain coat; a small portable charger, a hat and sunglasses and the address to your hotel, friend’s house or your rental. Drinking happens, and sometimes you need help remembering the address.”
Check the weather: “This will help you dress and plan accordingly for cold or hot temps, and rain,” said Bristol. “Wear comfy shoes and consider donning purple, green and gold, the colors of Mardi Gras!”