10 Things You Need to Know About Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras parade

Written by Alexia Dellner

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is something that everyone should experience at least once. But all of the parades, throws, flowing alcohol and crowds can be a little daunting. Read these top ten tips to make sure that your Mardi Gras experience is safe, cheap, hassle-free and most importantly, fun!

This year the Mardi Gras celebrations run from January 29th – Fat Tuesday on February 12th.

With your New Orleans accommodation booked and this list of Mardi Gras safety tips and advice under your belt, you can laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll)!

1. Do I need tickets for Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras New OrleansNope, attending Mardi Gras is free! There’s a reason why it’s known as The Greatest Free Show on Earth…

However if you don’t want to catch the parades from the street and would rather hang out on the grand stands with bleacher seating on St. Charles Avenue, you could purchase tickets here. Tickets cost from $10 and include private access to portable restrooms.

2. Is Mardi Gras safe?

Yes! But use normal precautionary measures when attending a crowded event – watch out for pickpockets, don’t expect prim and proper manners from everyone, and don’t bring or wear anything you’re overly precious about – there’s a good chance it will get spilled on! And remember that throwing items such as beads, stuffed animals and cups is all part of the fun!

3. Where is the best cheap place to stay for Mardi Gras?

Accommodation along Canal Street and The French Quarter are popular with party-goers, but rooms here can be hard to find. Other options could be found across the lake in Mandeville. Check out our full listings for cheap hotels in New Orleans.

4. What’s a krewe?

A Krewe is the organisation that puts on the parades, balls and other events for Mardi Gras. The oldest parading krewe has been around since 1872!

And if you really want to fit in like a local, get to know these Mardi Gras terms as well…

Mardi Gras beads and throwsThrows: Trinkets that are passed out or thrown from the floats by the riders in the parade. Throws can include beads, plastics cups, and doubloons (metal coins thrown by the krewes with the krewe’s insignia).

Balls: Get your head out of the gutter! Mardi Gras balls are formal and private affairs, hosted by the krewes after the parades, and invite only!

Rex: Rex is the name of the oldest parading krewe in New Orleans who stage the city’s largest parade on Mardi Gras Day. It is ALSO the name of the king of the carnival, who is elected by the krewes every year. The identity of Rex is made public on Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras. Being chosen Rex is a huge honour, as is being chosen as Rex’s consort – the “Queen of Carnival.”

5. Are there any banned items at Mardi Gras?

Careful what you throw – rubber balls, hard balls, wooden handled objects, condoms or similar items, dolls with explicit sexual organs, candy apples, ice cream or food products requiring freezing or refrigeration, and canned and boxed foods are all strictly prohibited.

6. What other Mardi Gras rules should I know about?

Despite what you may have seen on TV, nudity is illegal in New Orleans so don’t be tempted to show your goods in exchange for beads!

Many of the policemen will be riding around on horses, but do not pet the horses unless you have asked for permission.

Lastly, don’t pee in the street. If a police officer spots you, you will be arrested.

7. What should I wear to Mardi Gras?

Make sure to wear comfortable clothing – this means no open toed shoes (unless you don’t mind getting your toes trampled on) and a couple of layers as evenings can get chilly.

Many people like to dress up for Mardi Gras, either by wearing the traditional colours of purple, gold and green, doning a mask, or putting on more elaborate costumes like the one below. Don’t worry too much about what to wear though – the most important thing is to be comfortable and to make sure your belongings are safe!

Mardi Gras costumes

8. What are the toilets like at Mardi Gras?

Be prepared to queue for a porta potty or pay $1 or $2 to use a restaurant bathroom. Many churches and schools in the vicinity of parade routes also sell “potty passes.”

9. How do I get around and how much does transport cost at Mardi Gras?

Catching a bus or a streetcar is probably the most convenient way to get around town during the festivities. Single passes cost $1.25 with an extra $0.25 for transfers. Be aware however that routes are subject to change when the parades are on. Check out the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority website for more info.

If you’re looking for a taxi, heading to a major hotel is probably your best bet. You could also call a cab (or ask a bartender to call one for you), since flagging taxis down on the street can be tough.

10. Where’s the best place to party?

The entire city turns into one giant party during Mardi Gras season, so you should be able to find a good time all over the city! Most of the parties revolve around the parades, so be sure to check out the parade schedule here.

Otherwise head to the French Quarter or Bourbon Street, where a rowdy party is pretty much happening all day and night long.

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Thanks to Larry Johnson, infrogmation, Mark Gstohl and Redfilter25 for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under Creative Commons at the time of posting.

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