Thousands of revelers pour into the streets of New Orleans for Fat Tuesday, and it can be easy to get caught up in the craziness. If you’re headed down to The Crescent City, here are some tips from a local on how to make the most of your Carnival experience.
Mardi Gras parade — Photo courtesy of mike connor
1. Remember, Mardi Gras is a family-friendly holiday
I’ve been attending the parades with my mama since I was an infant. That isn’t unusual for a New Orleanian. You’ll find children tossing footballs in the street in between parades, so please mind your mouth and your actions.
If you want a more adults-only party, there’s always Bourbon Street.
2. Indecent exposure is still a crime
Yes, there’s an unfortunate narrative pushed by terrible movies about Mardi Gras that exposing yourself is part of the holiday’s fun. And for some, it might be, but rest assured it’s still illegal. Mardi Gras is much more enjoyable outside of the Orleans Parish Prison.
Well, he gets to wander the streets shirtless — Photo courtesy of Phelan Riessen
3. Avoid glass bottles
Drinking in the streets is legal – and often encouraged – in New Orleans, but you’ll notice that most bars keep plastic cups near the doors. That’s because it’s illegal to drink out of glass bottles outside (for obvious reasons).
So if you’ve got some longnecks, be sure to bring along a plastic cup. (You can even catch one off a float.)
4. Drink responsibly
Partiers often begin drinking in the wee hours of the morning, when the first parades roll.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but be sure to intersperse your drinks with water. The days (and nights) are long, and a quick look around will show how many folks can't handle them.
Anyway, Mardi Gras is an event worth remembering.
Take it slowly, so you can enjoy the daytime parades — Photo courtesy of Bart Everson
5. Display bead etiquette
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of grabbing for beads while yelling, “Throw Me Something, Mister!” Inevitably, you and someone else will grab the same bead.
General etiquette says the younger person keeps the bead. If age is a wash, then it’s always politer (and easier) to just wait for the next one.
Trust me, there will be a next one.
6. Open your wallet
In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois famously says, “I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
New Orleans is much the same way. The town survives mainly on its tourism industry, so try to make some local purchases while you’re in town.
After all, Mardi Gras itself is free!
7. If you get the baby, you buy the next King Cake
Simple as that.
Keep an eye out for the city's beautiful decorations — Photo courtesy of Loren Javier
The city might not have been built on rock ‘n’ roll, but music is an important part of New Orleans’ cultural identity and is the backbone of Mardi Gras. So move those happy feet.
9. Follow the Golden Rule
For anything else you can think of, simply follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.
Before you discard a beer can on the street or nudge someone out of the way to get a better view of the parade, ask yourself if you’d do that at home. If not, then don’t do it here.
10. Finally, laissez les bon temps rouler
Dance in the streets. Talk to strangers. Eat more Popeye’s than is healthy. Let the good times roll.
Most of all, have fun! Happy Mardi Gras!