Mardi Gras in New Orleans is one of the most exciting and popular festivals in the USA and one of the best trips I’ve taken in my 20’s. Popular traditions of the festival include masks, costumes, dancing, parades and, of course, lots and lots of beads! I’ve had Mardi Gras on my bucket list since before I could remember and was lucky enough to have a friend living there when I decided to go. To everyone who is celebrating this February, have a blast! For those of you planning to go in the future, I’ve created the party girl’s guide to Mardi Gras below in hopes you’ll be able to make the trip one day.
The Party Girl’s Guide to Mardi Gras
(1) Don’t miss the parades
The parades were my favorite part of Mardi Gras and something I wasn’t really expecting to see. This year there are over 60 parades around the city and each of the parades are thrown by “krewe’s”, which are social clubs that work on the floats and themes all year round. Beware of getting hit in the face with bags of beads (this happened to my friend Katie, twice!) Haha! Things fly out at you all from all over the place and they don’t just throw beads they’ll throw shoes and other things!
If you can view at least one of the parades on a viewing stand, I highly recommend it. I was lucky and was with my friend whose company had viewing stands so we got premium views and free-flowing alcohol. I recommend splurging on tickets to see at least one parade this way. Here’s tickets for premium viewing stands on Viator.
My favorite parades were:
Krewe of Muses
Pro Tip: Try and scope out bathrooms or go to the bathroom before you hit up the parades. There aren’t usually many options!
(2) Eat all of the food!
The food in New Orleans is fantastic. The mix of Cajun, Creole, and southern food put me in a foodie paradise. I can’t wait to go back and eat my way through the city. Here’s what to try:
Kings Cake – It’s a colorful pastry/cake that is only sold during Mardi Gras time. Make sure you try one. If you get the ‘baby’ inside of the cake the tradition states you get to buy the next cake! I got the baby when I went! 🙂 You can get another cake at the famous Adrian’s Bakery.
Po-Boys – These are the best, greasy, and delicious sandwiches. Be sure you ask for your Po-Boy “dressed”. You can get these at most restaurants in New Orleans.
Shrimp Etouffee – I’d never had this dish before coming to New Orleans, but fell in love with it. Sometimes I still crave it! It’s a spicy Cajun stew typically made with veggies and seafood. YUM.
Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake – Sounds weird, but it was amazing. Order this at the very popular and delicious restaurant Jacques-Imos. Try and make a reservation before you get to NOLA.
Creole Jambalaya – You can’t leave the city without trying the Jambalaya.
Beignets – Your trip is not yet complete without a trip to Café Du Monde to get their soft beignets. They are open 24 hours so you’re set after a night of partying!
3. Get festive
Everyone and I mean everyone, has some sort of Mardi Gras festive decor on their body. Whether it’s wearing the green and purple or wearing the beads and masks, it’s a festive time. You can find a lot of different costumes and decor while you’re actually in NOLA and, trust me, you’ll probably come home with more beads than you know what to do with, but sometimes it’s fun to show up with some stuff too. Here are some fun things to get before you go:
A Mardi Gras mask, or here | King’s cake-flavored Keurig coffee | Mardi Gras colored feather boa | a pack of beads with shot glasses | Mardi Gras Headpiece
4. Drink all of the drinks
The best part of New Orleans is that you can take your drinks to-go. Literally, ask the bartender to make your drink to-go and walk right outside of the bar. Here were some of my favorite drinks to try during Mardi Gras.
“Dirty” Bloody Mary – One of the best bloody’s I’ve ever had was at Corner Oyster House
Watermelon mojito– Refreshing and light drink found at Jacques-Imos.
Hurricane – If you asked me to drink this right now I’d probably vom because I don’t like sweet drinks, but this is one of the most popular drinks in NOLA and especially Mardi Gras time. It’s got a LOT of rum in it and will make you tipsy all night. Get your fill at Pat O’briens on Bourbon St.
Moonshine – Why not try some moonshine from the southern brewers? This will make your hair stand on end!
Sazerac – Get the official drink of NOLA at the famous Carousel Bar.
5. Party the night (and day) away
Bourbon St. – It’s wild, crowded and grungy, but this is where the Mardi Gras parties happen and you’ve got to experience it. I recommend trying to find a balcony party to go to and party from above. Once again we got free access from my friends’ company, but there are different places you can get spots in balconies. Just book ahead! It’s so worth it because you’ll get an entire view of the scene and will be able to pass out beads to the people below!
Oh, and you’ll notice that everyone throws beads regardless if you flash or not. The feather boas are what you get if you actually flash someone! You won’t see much nudity like you may think you would although people do get a little more “free” than they might on a normal night! After some bead tossing on the balcony, I recommend going to the bars on Bourbon (they are all really cool) and most have great karaoke and music!
Frenchman’s District – I loved this area because just about every bar was filled with live music with cover bands and live jazz. I LOVED this area and can’t wait to visit it again. This area truly has soul and is a little more low-key than the Bourbon Street madness over Mardi Gras. This area is what I would call the hipster NOLA neighborhood and the scene was like nowhere I’ve been before.
French Quarter – This is a great area for a day drink and brunch. Walk around here for cute shops, balconies, street art, and a big market by the water! This is a great spot to check out after brunch!
Have you ever been to Mardi Gras before? If so, am I leaving anything out of the 20-something’s guide to Mardi Gras?
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Definitely going to experience this next month! What would you say were your top places that you went to? And also, how did you get in to the balcony parties?
Great blog by the way!