After skipping Mardi Gras several years in a row, I decided I couldn’t miss it in 2020. I’ve experienced it in several cities in Louisiana but there’s truly nothing like New Orleans. If you haven’t gone, here are some things to expect during Mardi Gras in NOLA.
Traffic. Lots of Traffic.
This one seems like a no-brainer but it’s probably even worse than you’re thinking. Streets all over the city get shut down and barricaded during festival season. Obviously, this causes backups and stalls everywhere. If you plan on driving somewhere, know what roads will shut down and how early. This will literally save you hours.
The weather during Mardi Gras is as unpredictable as the parade start times but more on that later. Come prepared for the occasion. Bring a sweater or jacket. Bring rain gear. More than likely, it will rain at least once.
The parades will roll despite the weather so be prepared for anything.
Tons of Families.
Everyone’s heard those “stories” about Mardi Gras — especially Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Although I’m sure you’ve heard how seedy, raunchy and debaucherous the party is, it’s actually a family affair. Before parades, you’ll see kids of all ages running around. They’ll throw the football in the street, eat with their families and dance as they wait.
Although families flock to parades and parties, there is still a ton of alcohol in NOLA through the season. People drink from early in the morning to late at night. They’re enjoying hand grenades, frozen daiquiris and spicy bloody marys. Typically, they’re pretty harmless though and are really just enjoying a good time. Grab your “go cup” and have one with them but don’t forget your hangover patch!
Bathrooms are Hard to Come By.
This is a big one. If you’re staying on one of the parade routes all day, you’ll need to find a paid bathroom unless a portable bathroom is nearby. This year, I positioned myself near a po-boy shop that had a paid bathroom nearby. Every time I’d get a drink, my favorite bartender would give me bathroom tickets so I wouldn’t have to pay twice. Find one where you can pay an all-day amount or get tickets in exchange for food/drinks.
You’ll Stand. A Lot.
Mardi Gras is exhausting and your feet will end up hurting after a few days. Grab a cheap camping chair on your way into New Orleans (the ones with cup holders are the best!) or rent a spot in the Grandstand. This will save you from being on your feet for days at a time. It also makes it easier to eat a box of Brothers Fried Chicken when you’re sitting.
Tons of Costumes!
During Mardi Gras, anything goes when it comes to your wardrobe. People wear boas, glitter, wigs, sparkles and leg warmers leading up to Fat Tuesday. On that day, the costumes get even more lavish. People literally go all out. You never know what you’ll see but here’s some inspiration.
There Will Be Changes.
Although there are some great parade trackers to see news and updates on parades, things will change. This year, I got in with just enough time to check out the Endymion Parade (it’s magical). There was a major stall before only a few of the floats came through and then everything stopped. It wasn’t until a few hours later that we heard someone was tragically killed by one of the floats. Although this is an extreme tragedy, there are a lot of reasons that a parade will stall — sometimes for a while.
What other questions do you have about Mardi Gras? Ask them in the comments below and check out these packing tips for Mardi Gras.