It is less than a month before Mardi Gras which starts on February 16 this year so it is time to start making your plans for New Orleans. I asked my friend Dave who used to live in New Orleans while he worked for the New Orleans Hornets what people should know before they go to Mardi Gras and he sent me this list:
1. Stay out of the French Quarter. Certainly, that is the most controversial recommendation but Mardi Gras can be more than just the “Girls Gone Wild” New Orleans version. If all you want is boobs and beads then the French Quarter is for you. No parades go to the French Quarter as it is way too crowded. It is said that at midnight the police “clear the crowds” before Ash Wednesday signaling the end of Carnival and Mardi Gras, but Bourbon Street never closes, so it is only a myth you’ll be able to see shattered at 12:05 when the crowds reappear.
2. See as many parades as you can. Find a list of the parades and the parade routes at nola.com. The parades are fun and very family-friendly.
3. Endymion (Feb 13) is the best parade to see. This parade has more floats and more celebrity guests. Endymion is named after the Olympian God of Fertility and Eternal Youth. The parade bills itself as “the largest non-military parade in the world”. Inexpensive strings of beads and toys have been thrown from floats to parade-goers since at least the late 19th century and the motto of the Endymion Krewe (the organization that puts on a parade or a ball) is “Throw ’til it hurts!”. Young Kids always get the most loot thrown to them.
New Orleans Power Pass for sightseeing.
4. On Mardi Gras itself (Feb 16) the parades start at 8 AM, but if you’re out there by 10 AM, you should be able to get a good spot after Zulu and before Rex. The parades will go all day long.
5. If you go to the Zulu parade (8 am Feb 16), they hand out decorated coconuts… they don’t throw them. You have to walk right up to the floats to get them.
6. Barkus (Feb 7) is the dog parade, which is hysterical.
7. If you are attending the parades on Mardi Gras buy or bring lawn chairs, or be prepared to stand for a long time.
8. The big Parades (Muses, Tucks, Bacchus, Orpheus, Endymion, Rex) will have very big crowds. For the other parades, you should be able to get a good spot either along St. Charles or near the end in the Warehouse District. There will be a lot of families and big crowds farther Uptown on St. Charles. Endymion has a different parade route.
9. If you have a car, eat in the suburbs on Mardi Gras. If not, bring your own food as it is a pretty impossible day to go out to eat.