What to do, eat, drink, and wear to survive and thrive at your first Mardi Gras!
Growing up in Louisiana, you look forward to Mardi Gras all year long. The weekends full of joyful parades and delicious food are something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. The intensity of Mardi Gras can be intimidating for non-locals, so I’ve listed my best tips and tricks for the festivities below, but most importantly laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll)!
How to Party like a Local
The main attraction of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the parades, and there are many of them throughout the month to choose from. I recommend using a website like this one to keep track of the schedule and routes of all the parades. All of the krewes, the groups that put on each parade, build spectacular floats, but Krewe of Iris (the largest all female Krewe!), Krewe of Endymion, and Krewe of Zulu are at the top of my list. As far as location goes, all the tourists will flock to the French Quarter, particularly Bourbon Street, so stay in Uptown to party like the locals. Be careful not to go too far East though, unless you’re looking for a Tulane fraternity party. Keep in mind that the parades are an all-day affair followed by drinking and dancing late into the night, so be sure to pace yourself!
New Orleans’s Best Eats (and Drinks!)
We can’t talk about New Orleans without talking about food. It can be easy to get swept up in the energy of the parades and totally forget to eat, but that would be a sin in the Big Easy. If you haven’t tried crawfish before, you absolutely must have some when celebrating Mardi Gras, and they won’t be hard to find. Don’t worry, any locals around will be happy to show you how to peel them! Poboys are also a New Orleans staple and a hardy meal to fuel you for the long nights partying. My personal favorites are from Mother’s and Domilise’s. For dessert, enjoy a slice of King Cake. Arguably the most famous King Cake in New Orleans comes from Sucré Bakery, but any bakery in the city will be serving them up this time of year. (I’d just avoid the grocery store variety.) New Orleans’s most iconic cocktail is the Hurricane, a concoction of tropical juices and lots of rum. The most famous hurricane is served at Pat O’Brien’s bar in the French Quarter, but you can order them at most bars throughout the city. Be careful – they taste like fruit punch, but hurricanes tend to sneak up on you. Drink responsibly!
Dress for the Occasion
When it comes to wardrobe, anything goes! The official colors of the holiday are purple, green, and gold, but you will see all shades of the rainbow along the parade routes. Go all out with sequins, feathers, rhinestones, whatever eccentric accoutrement you can find – I promise you’ll fit right in. Word to the wise, your footwear choice will be the most important fashion decision you make. Pick something comfortable enough for standing, walking, and dancing all day, but not your favorite pair of shoes. Between spilled drinks and the often muddy parade routes, the odds they make it out of New Orleans scot-free are slim to none.