Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


During Mardi Gras, New Orleans delivers the magic with revelry reaching its peak on Fat Tuesday (which falls 47 days before Easter, usually in mid- to late-February). Never been to the Big Easy during Carnival? Mardi Gras is so much more than booze and beads, though it offers plenty of both. If you’re heading to the Crescent City and want to earn some serious bragging rights, trick out your trip with these insider tips!

RELATED: 10 great places to dine in New Orleans

Catch all the parades, or be a part of one

Newbies might think there’s a Mardi Gras parade. But in reality, there are multiple parades over the course of a few weeks. The floats, balls and processions are put together by various krewes, or social organizations that each have their own theme and history. From massive super krewes like Endymion and Nyx to tiny marching clubs you can actually walk with, visitors should consult the Mardi Gras parade schedule and take advantage of free apps (like the WWL Parade Tracker) to create an agenda—ensuring you don’t miss any action.

Definitely wear a costume

Embrace Carnival’s transformative power and dress up! Whether it’s a suit with red beans hot-glued into intricate patterns or a getup purchased from a local costume shop (Mask Gallery or Uptown Costume and Dancewear are two solid resources), you’ll see costumes of all types during Mardi Gras. (Crunched for time? Simply grab a wig and a Perlis rugby shirt in purple, green and gold, the official colors of Mardi Gras.)

Forget beignets, try King Cake creations

Yes, the beignet is beloved in New Orleans, but since King Cakes reign supreme during Mardi Gras, seek out some creative Carnival confections while they last. You’ll find traditional cakes, plus unique slices, like the new-for-2020 “moon pie”-inspired King Cake at Gracious Bakery, or opt for a liquid dessert since King Cake drinks designed for adults are plentiful. (Blue Oak BBQ’s King Cake Daiquiri even comes garnished with a mini slice!)

Learn the history of Mardi Gras past

Need some context for all this craziness? Visit the free Mardi Gras Museum within historic Arnaud’s Restaurant (open 7 days a week during restaurant hours) or check out the famously intricate costumes of Mardi Gras Indians by appointment at the House of Dance & Feathers.

ALSO: Looking for lagniappes? Orbitz Rewards treats to you big perks, and it’s free to join!

Walk or bike if you can

New Orleans has become increasingly bike friendly with the opening of the Lafitte Greenway, connecting Armstrong Park to City Park, so avoid the inevitable Mardi Gras traffic snarls and walk or ride around town. (Left your wheels at home? Blue Bikes are stationed around the city for rent by the minute.)

Get up early on Mardi Gras day (really early)

Set your alarm: You don’t want to miss the elaborately costumed North Side Skull and Bone Gang waking up the neighborhood, a 200-year-old tradition and counting. (Head to the Backstreet Cultural Museum at 5am, which houses an amazing Mardi Gras Indian costume collection, to tag along.) Later, join up with the loosely organized Secret Society of St. Anne, whose members march on foot through the Marigny and French Quarter around 10am (you’ll know them by their elaborate costumes and hula hoops).

Pack a bug out bag

Bring an empty tote bag to every parade (for the beads and throws you want to keep), cash (to buy drinks or food on the street or to tip flambeaux, who carry flaming torches during the major parades), water (stay hydrated) and hand wipes (just trust us on this one).

Ride on a float

This is certainly a worthy bucket list experience if ever there was one. Picture yourself not in the street with throngs of other onlookers but on an actual Mardi Gras parade float, tossing beads and other goodies to the masses! Many krewes allow out-of-towners to ride along but the experience doesn’t come cheap, and slots fill up fast. Reach out to individual krewes well in advance for prices and availability.

Splurge on a Mardi Gras Ball

If you didn’t plan far enough ahead to join a krewe and roll in a parade as a bead-throwing member, you can still purchase tickets to some big extravaganzas, like the Zulu Coronation Ball (many are held at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center). And don’t be ashamed to wear comfy shoes with your tux or ball gown.

Catch as many coveted throws as you can

Beads are lovely, but scoring one of the collectible throws of Mardi Gras 2020 can make your trip truly memorable. What’s a throw? Basically any goody that’s thrown from a float: Think doubloons, cups, trinkets or toys. Aim to catch a decorated toilet brush from the Krewe of Tucks, for example, or a hand-glittered high-heeled shoe from Muses, or a doubloon, aka krewe coin, from Rex.

Embrace the risqué

Yes, most of Mardi Gras is (surprisingly) family friendly, but there are some suggestive-slanting spectacles on offer, too, particularly on Bourbon Street. The Bourbon Street Awards celebrate some of Carnival’s most outrageous drag and leather costumes with cash prizes, while the Greasing of the Poles is exactly what it sounds like, proving imagination is never in short supply during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Orbitz, app, iPhone, travel, deals

Tagged: New Orleans

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Alexis Korman

Alexis Korman

Alexis Korman

Latest posts by Alexis Korman (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *