After stuffing ourselves with turkey on Thanksgiving and spending all our money on Christmas presents, Americans prepare for another yearly celebration. Thousands of people, of all ages, head to New Orleans for the yearly celebration of Mardi Gras. Yes, Mardi Gras has went from the stereotypical booze fest to something that has strong ties to not only New Orleans but the rest of American.
Before I go into some tips for surviving Mardi Gras, let us do a little history lesson so everyone can know the meaning and roots of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Fasting of the Lenten season.
Whether you are a first time visitor or go every year, here are a few tips that may make your Mardi Gras experience run a little smoother.
It is very important to stay hydrated by drinking water and lots of it. During Mardi Gras, you will either do a lot of drinking or a lot of walking, and if you are doing Mardi Gras right then you will do a lot of both. It is easy to get dehydrated and not even realize it until you are hungover the next day. Alcohol is plentiful and Bourbon Street is long, so before you know it you have gone hours without drinking any water.
Wear Shoes You Do NOT Care About
Mardi Gras is crowded, very crowded. You will go for hours and hours with getting absolutely no personal space. Also, the streets are very dirty with trash and a variety of unidentifiable liquids. This is not a good recipe for keeping shoes clean. It is best to wear shoes you really would not have an issue with disposing after Mardi Gras.I would bring very expensive or new shoes, to walk up and down Bourbon Street. Comfort is key so go with a pair of very comfortable sneakers because you will do a lot of walking.
Map Out Parade Routes And Times
Parades are some of the most joyous and festive part of Mardi Gras. Be sure to keep an eye on the parade routes and time of the parades. If you are not attending, this can make it difficult to navigate around the French Quarter. Streets are blocked off, some restaurants are closed, and the sidewalks can get very crowded.
Parades are not only done in the French Quarter. A quick Google search can show the many parades and where to show up. All the routes are not as crowded as the French Quarter so it can have a different feel to it.
Keep Eyes Open During Parades
While parades are full of fun, laughter, and great costumes, they can also be a little dangerous. It is very important to keep your eyes open during the parades. Beads to the face can be very painful, but they are throwing more than beads off the float. It is easy to get hit in the face or any part of your body if you are not paying attention.
Stay In The French Quarter
There are many great suburbs to stay in around New Orleans but it is best to stay in the French Quarter, especially if it is your first time. Staying in the French Quarter will be a little more pricey but it provides the opportunity to not only explore the French Quarter easier but get to Bourbon Street easier. If you indulge in the many alcoholic choices of Bourbon, walking back to your hotel becomes hassle free.
Staying outside the French Quarter is great and provides a great getaway but driving into the French Quarter is a hassle. The parking is very expensive and traffic is horrible. Streets are usually blocked off so even using your GPS to get somewhere can be a waste.
Stay Away From Tourist Traps
Experimenting with all that New Orleans has to offer can be great or end with a huge stomach ache. You can find many pretty drinks that are in huge pretty glasses but it is best to stay away from them. Jesters, hand grenades, and hurricanes, sound really good and most of them even taste good but they are not worth it. They are overpriced and mostly full of mixers and sugar. You will not get buzzed but your stomach ache the following day. Not to mention, once you drink it all, it becomes a pain to carry around the rest of the day. Stay away from the tourist traps and stick to the drinks you know.
Get Used To Pizza
New Orleans food is some of the best food in the world, it is almost unmatched. You can find stuff that many try to duplicate but can never get just right unless you are in the city of New Orleans. With all that being said, Mardi is a very busy time so getting food is not always easy. The most plentiful and quickest option is pizza. Pizza shops are lined down Bourbon Street and it is very accessible to grab some pizza and continue your day. Plus after drinking and walking all day, pizza tastes amazing no matter how bad it really is.
Keep Track Of Your Friends
The crowds of the French Quarter seems to be a recurring theme of this article but it is really not that bad. Losing your friends though can be something that is bad. The French Quarter is not only large but loud. Calling your friends does not always work because of all the noise. It is best to use some type of buddy system or have a point to meet up if you all get lost. It is a lot of people walking so do your best to be noticeable while you look for your friends. If you are separated inside a bar, stay inside that bar and if you are separated on the street, stay on the street.
Explore New Orleans
While you are at Mardi Gras, take the time to enjoy New Orleans. The city has so much culture to offer. Some of the things you can find, are things unlike anywhere else in the world that should be appreciated. There are ghost tours, swamp tours, hundred of years of history, a casino, and many unique neighbors which have their own vibe. The French Quarter has a lot to offer but it is not the entirety of New Orleans. Try to pick a new activity to do everyday before you go enjoy Bourbon Street.
Lastly, do not forget to get your signature beignets from Cafe Du Monde.