Mardi Gras - The Basics

Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

"Throw me something, Mister!"

It's the SECOND most popular request you'll hear yelled at Mardi Gras... I probably don't need to tell you what the most popular one is, but it starts with "Show us your..."! So what "something" do all these crazy people want thrown at them?

Beads, of course! Mardi Gras beads come in dozens, if not hundreds, of designs. The more extravagent have pendants dangling from them, while the traditional beads come in three colors- purple, gold, and green. But whatever the design or colors, the beads are the most sought-after souvenir in town.

The fact that you can exchange these beads for a flash of flesh may in part explain their appeal. Not that we're trying to encourage immorality, but it's become a Mardi Gras tradition for women to show their appreciation on receiving a string of beads by showing a little skin. A word of caution however- this is generally OK in the French Quarter, but it'll get you arrested in other parts of town.

Another warning: in your hurry to pick-up beads thrown by the Krewes, don't blindly reach down to grab them. You'll likely pull back several broken fingers. Mardi Gras is known for huge crowds of highly intoxicated people. You don't want to count on their noticing your fingers beneath their feet.

WHAT IS MARDI GRAS? Technically, Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday. This changes every year, as it's based on Easter. This year it is March 1st. Carnival begins every year on January 6, which is also known as Twelfth Night. This is also when the first of the parades begins. Krewes from all over greater New Orleans have parades, so you don't have to go to the French Quarter to see one.

The Carnival and parades ends at midnight on Mardi Gras Day, and Bourbon Street is cleared of revellers. By the way, this isn't the time to try the cops. They're tired- tired of the crowds, tired of the noise, tired of the hours. Don't antagonize them.

Nudity & a Family Event If you're bringing children to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and want to watch a parade, it's best to avoid the French Quarter. Metairie and the other parishes outside Orleans have parades that are more family-oriented, and aren't nearly so crowded with out-of-town partiers.

During Mardi Gras season many visitors to town quickly shed their inhibitions, and public flashing and nudity will occur. This is particularly true along Bourbon Street, but you'll see it throughout the Quarter during Carnival, so be prepared- bring plenty of beads!

Miscellaneous Plan on being pushed, crowded, stepped on, and soaked with beer. If you're planning on coming to Mardi Gras and can't take all of that in stride, you might want to stay home. And bring comfortable shoes.

Parking is always in short supply, so you'll end up parked a long distance from where you want to be. Also keep in mind that all of that spilled beer puddles up in the street, and you're going to be stepping in it. Leave the expensive shoes at home or in your hotel.

Finding a bathroom can be a nightmare during Mardi Gras. Most businesses require you to buy something before using their facilities, and even then you'll wait in a line. There are portable bathrooms setup at various locations, but the lines at these are even longer. Part of the fun of Mardi Gras is finding a out-of-the-way bathroom and keeping it quiet!