A Beginner’s Guide to Mardi Gras

Raise your hand if going to NOLA for Mardi Gras is on your bucket list! Pretty much everyone? I though so. While this festival is undoubtedly one of the coolest experiences there is, it can also be a bit overwhelming on your first go round.

Why does Mardi Gras exist?

Though not essential to your enjoyment, it’s nice to know why everyone is celebrating. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” and is essentially an all-out party before the Christian celebration of Lent. While everyone else in America eats paczkis for a day, in New Orleans they throw a rager. Go figure.

How do I plan a trip to Mardi Gras?

If you’re asking this question about this year, forget it. New Orleans Hotels fill up months ahead of Mardi Gras, so it’s pretty much impossible to do last minute. I’d start in November or so to book hotels, and definitely end your trip on Fat Tuesday itself. After that, hightail it out of here, because this city takes a bit of time to recuperate.

Where do I go?

This is a big question, and one that people forget to ask. Where you go in New Orleans depends a lot on what you want from your experience. The French Quarter is where the “adults only” fun happens, and where a lot of the legends of Mardi Gras celebrations originate. If you want to avoid all that stuff, head to St. Charles Avenue, where you can see the Mardi Gras parades and enjoy the more family friendly celebrations.

What if I want to party?

Well you’ve definitely come to the right place. In my opinion, the best way to plan your partying at Mardi Gras is to not plan at all. Sure, you might have a couple places in mind, but spontaneous fun is what the festival is all about.

Is it crowded?

Oh yes. You’ll definitely want to plan your transportation ahead of time, and if you want to get a good spot for the parades plan on getting there at least 2 hours ahead of time. But hey, it’s the people that make Mardi Gras so fun after all!

What do I wear?

If you’re the kind of person who seeks out opportunities for costumery, look no further. You can get away with A LOT. Basically the more purple, green, and gold the better, and some people go all out with handmade feathery costumes and blinking bling as far as the eye can see. If that’s not your scene, just wear some Mardi Gras colors and sensible shoes and you will be just fine. Remember- the more spirited you are, the more likely the people on the floats will throw you Mardi Gras swag!

Do I have to flash people?

Does anyone ever have to flash people? No. And with the hundreds of public nudity arrests at Mardi Gras each year, I recommend that you don’t.