It’s carnival season again, y’all. If it’s your first time to New Orleans, make it a fun, safe, and memorable experience with our tips for the famed Mardi Gras parades.
Arrive Ahead of Schedule
Mardi Gras season in New Orleans in crazy. Repeat, crazy. The addition to the population from tourism and rerouting traffic due to parades exacerbates road congestion and makes parking a nightmare. You’ll need plenty of time to navigate your way to your parade route. Once you find a spot be prepared to wait. It may seem as though the parade route is empty but be assured that if you abandon your spot it will quickly be claimed by someone else. Crowds for Mardi Grad parades appear in the blink of an eye and tend to be packed tightly, so once you find a spot up front keep it. Most people usually bring along a cooler and chairs for comfort while they wait.
Know How You’re Getting Around
Public transportation in New Orleans is usually good during the off-season but during Mardi Gras the rules change a bit. The bus lines and streetcars operate on different schedules and are typically full to the point where there may not be enough seats for everyone who is waiting to ride. Your accommodation might have a shuttle to take you closer to the parade routes but don’t count on it to get you back home; they are also often on limited schedules due to traffic. A car is both good and bad for a Mardi Gras-goer. With a car you know that you will have a ride waiting for you when you’re finished catching beads but the downside is finding a place to park it. During Mardi Gras weekend parking in the French Quarter is closed to everyone but residents with special parking passes. Commercial parking is available but it tends to fill up quickly and can be expensive. A bicycle is always a good option, just be sure to lock it up when you’re not using it even if it’s right next to you.
Some Parade Rules
New Orleans has recently overhauled their parade season rules. And, yes, they are serious about them. First off, you may not have ladders, grills, coolers, or any other personal effects closer than six feet to the curb. Also, note that there is a ban on roping off parade territory. This also goes for the neutral ground (medians) and sidewalks. If you’re planning on going Uptown for a parade keep in mind that parking rules have changed and that you may no longer park on Napoleon or St. Charles on either side of the medians starting up to two hours before the parade. Please also remember to watch your fingers when going after parade throws. If something drops to the ground step on it with your foot to claim it then bend down and pick it up when all the commotion stops or else you might end up knocked over or getting your hands trampled.
You may consume alcohol openly in New Orleans but only from a cup or can. Publically drinking from glass bottles of any kind is a finable offense. Do NOT take your children to the French Quarter for a parade. It’s understood that the family friendly areas are outside of the Quarter and that most of the risqué behavior and revealing costumes will occur inside.
Let the Good Times Roll
Dress up! Mardi Gras is a great time. Even people-watching is exciting. You will see people from all over the world dressed in every type of costume that you can imagine. Join in on the fun and make a costume for yourself! Remember that weather in February can shift from cold to warm and back again in a single day and it often rains.
Make a sign for yourself. If it’s your first Mardi Gras or you are from out of town or it’s your birthday, whatever the case may be, make a sign for it. The folks on the float want to know what you’re up to and want to make sure you have a good time, especially if you are from out of town. We promise you’ll get plenty of goodies.
For more information on parades and their routes visit http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/schedule.html