With Mardi Gras coming up on February 5, travelers have one more reason to book a New Orleans vacation. In fact, some of this year’s parades have already begun. So with so much to do, I wanted to get the inside scoop on the best ways to enjoy Mardi Gras. I talked to Renee Saussaye at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau to get some tips, and this is what she shared with me:
The three most popular parades to watch are the "super krewe" parades that happen the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Mardi Gras Tuesday. They are put on by the krewes of Endymion, Bacchus and Orpheus and typically feature celebrities. This year, Kevin Costner will be lead Endymion and Harry Connick Jr. and the coach of the New Orleans Saints will lead Orpheus.
"Throws" — the metal coins, cups and necklaces tossed from the floats — turn Mardi Gras parades into audience-participation events. (Please read tip #5 before grabbing some of the swag.)
And here are the CVB’s top tips for people who travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras:
1. Bathrooms: Especially if you have children with you, figure out where the nearest facilities are. Port-o-lets are placed in various locations, but lines are usually very long. To use the restrooms in restaurants and bars, you need to purchase something. Don’t expect just to walk in without getting stopped. A local group has written a popular song about this dilemma entitled "No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day."
2. Sunscreen: Bad sunburns can be had in New Orleans even in February, so make sure to bring and use sunscreen.
3. Folding chairs. Unless you will be viewing parades from a balcony or grandstand, you might want to bring folding chairs/stools with you. Standing all day long can be very exhausting. Of course, if you bring them, you have to carry them. If you are planning on just viewing parades, it’s a great thing to have. If you aren’t planning to go back to your hotel before you walk around the Quarter, you won’t want to lug them with you.
4. Water. It can get quite warm standing in the sun and watching parades and unless you want to spend a fortune on soft drinks for the kids, bring some bottled water with you.
5. Don’t reach down with your hands to pick up beads or doubloons, you could end up with a broken finger. Step on whatever you see with your foot first. Downtown, on St. Charles and Canal especially, do not cross barricades to pick up throws. Friendly police often will kick throws to the crowd; they are tough on barricade-busters, though.
6. Driving/parking/barricades: Police block traffic from major parade routes well before the parades. Allow extra time to arrive and find parking. On foot, take care not to cross police barricades. Especially on Canal Street, crossing a barricade may get you anything from a stern lecture from a police officer to manhandling or even arrest.
7. Comfortable shoes: You will be doing lots of walking and standing during your time at Carnival so make sure your feet are well taken care of. Your shoes will get covered with beer, dirt and other fun things so you may want to get a pair that you don’t mind throwing away when the party is over.
Related Orbitz resources:
Christie Crawford is a market manager for Orbitz. Her advice to anyone attending Mardi Gras is: "Check your inhibitions at the door and enjoy it for what it is … the greatest free party on the planet."