This season’s biggest extravaganza is gaining momentum in New Orleans as you are reading this. Parades have begun to walk the streets, drums are popping up in unsuspecting corners and whether people are ready or not, the music is coursing through their bodies and they are already tapping along.
New Orleans hosts the most extravagant celebration of Mardi Gras and attracts almost 1.4 million people each year!
Pack your costume, practice your moves, and follow us to New Orleans!
Mardi Gras: What You Need to Know
Also known as The Big Easy, New Orleans earns its title through its easy-going approach to life.
Perhaps this laissez-faire culture is the reason why Mardi Gras gets bigger and better in this extraordinary city.
History of Mardi Gras
New Orleans became the epicenter of Mardi Gras celebrations in North America when French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Sieur de Bienville landed on U.S. shores on the eve of Mardi Gras in 1699.
They introduced New Orleans to this fantastic tradition of enjoying music, dance, and food. The city improved upon it each year and perfected it into the cultural phenomenon that it is today.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Mardi Gras, or as the festivities are commonly called, the Carnival, spans from the day after the twelfth night of Christmas until the day before Ash Wednesday.
The phrase translates to "Fat Tuesday" and has gradually expanded to represent the two months of festivity.
Related Post: When is the Best Time to Visit New Orleans?
How to Plan the Perfect Mardi Gras Trip
Best Time to Visit
There is no right way to do Mardi Gras but to get the best out of the Carnival. However, some planning will go a long way.
The best place to start planning is picking the parades you want to attend. Carnival parades are organized by secret societies known as "krewes" and are a phenomenon in themselves.
Mardi Gras parades began on January 6 this year, but the best ones happen in the two weeks leading up to Lent. Use the parade schedule to narrow into the parades you fancy, their routes, and timing.
Pro Tip: If you only have a week, the ideal time to visit is between February 22 and March 1, when the three "Super Krewes," Bacchus, Orpheus, and Endymion parade their floats.
Dressing for Mardi Gras
Carnivals may as well be spelled "Costumes" as you really can't do one without being in one.
Inspire yourself by the Frenchmen who founded this famous festival the various legends of how these colors came to represent Mardi Gras. Or, take a trip down to one of the best costume stores in the city and equip yourself with a fun pirate, jester, or royalty-themed costume.
Related Post: Current Festivals and Events in New Orleans
Pro Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and a wig in Mardi Gras colors to party like a Carnival maestro.
Let Us Eat King Cake
The phrase Mardi Gras translates to "Fat Tuesday," and the traditions of this celebration find their roots in the practice of using up all the fat in the home in preparation for Lenten fasting.
During the Carnival, New Orleans tempts the palates of all party animals with delicious jambalayas, gumbos, crawfish, oysters, pain perdu, and so much more. Still, the crowning glory of it all is King Cake's purple, green, and gold.
A delectable cinnamon concoction, each King Cake has a baby inside, and whosoever gets the slice with the baby has to buy next year's cake. Therefore, pick your piece carefully!
Best Spots to Instagram the Festivities
Krewe floats are often several feet high so your best bet to photograph a parade is from a rooftop bar or restaurant. It is imperative that you are at least as high as the second floor to score the best shots.
Head to popular French Quarter rooftop bars and restaurants such as Mambo's, Rosie's on the Roof, Monkey Board, and The Carousel Bar and Lounge in the last week of the Carnival to capture multiple parade floats and magical street party shots.
Related Post: New Orleans Nightlife: Where to Go for a Good Time
Pro Tip: The Carousel Bar and Lounge is an actual spinning carousel, so plan enough time to take pictures inside the bar as well as the parade
The French Quarter, Haunted New Orleans, Jazz
The Carnival may be the first thing that comes to mind when New Orleans is mentioned, but the city's soul encompasses other equally spectacular components.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is called the "Jewel in the Crown" of New Orleans, and that is not without reason. It's home to as much history, beauty, and intrigue as you may need to entice your spirit.
The Quarter is like stepping into a strikingly scenic dream, filled with colorful galleries wrapped around buildings, architectural delights, and floral planters.
Want to enjoy the French Quarter like a local? Take a walking tour!
Try the Big Easy Strolls: A French Quarter Tour for Matures and Early Bird French Quarter Walking Tour for early morning guided strolls to enjoy this part of the city when it is the quietest.
If you are a connoisseur of unique experiences, the French Quarter Carriage Tour will make for a cherished memory.
Enhancing the carriage ride is a guided tour through the grey and white history-infused tombstones of St. Louis cemetery. Finally, walk through the resting place of NOLA's Voodoo Queen Mary Laveau and experience the city from the viewpoint of another dimension.
Pro Tip: Wear your favorite floppy hat for some dramatic Instagram pictures with the carriage and cemetery.
Indulge in some murder mystery and intrigue fit for a novel on the Mafia, Murder, Sex & All That Jazz Walking Tour where you meet the mobsters and madams of days gone by.
Although the entire French Quarter is a treasure trove of Instagram-worthy nooks and corners, Cafe Beignet on Royal Street is a hidden gem. The cafe and its beignets both photograph beautifully and cannot be missed.
Calling all photo fanatics! Treat yourself to the New Orleans Photo Walks, where you will be guided to the best Instagrammable spots and angles by a professional photographer.
Pro-tip: Never wear black if you plan on eating beignets. You don't want powdered sugar on your beautiful outfit.
Haunted Corners, Spooky Tours, and Voodoo
You never walk alone in NOLA. If you feel a presence behind you, but you see no one... If you thought someone whispered your name, you are right.
Everything you perceive is true as you are in the most haunted city in the U.S. Nevertheless, The Big Easy has taken this in stride and shared its ghosts with us.
Dive into the city's dark side while on the 4 in 1 Witches, Ghosts, Vampires & Walking Tour. Visiting sites of documented hauntings and paranormal activity. Alternatively, head back to the French Quarter to discover their ghosts in the History & Haunts Carriage Tours.
Think you're brave enough to introduce some Voodoo magic into your world? The top-rated New Orleans Ghost, True Crime, Voodoo, and Vampire Walking Tour adults-only experience promises to terrify the living daylights out of you. An absolute pleasure for those who love true crime and a good fright.
Related Post: Tours in New Orleans: Which are the Best?
……And All That Jazz
New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz, and the city is incredibly proud of this heritage.
You can enjoy great jazz pretty much anywhere, but you cannot miss the Court of Two Sisters Live Jazz Brunch, where you can sample some Cajun-Creole delicacies while sitting in a courtyard bathed in Wisteria.
You can take several Jazz cruises where you delight your palate, feast your eyes and treat your senses to this unique music, all at once.
Instagram Around the City
Your camera may be filled with thousands of Instagrammable photos. But, for those that want to combine their love of photography, architecture, and floral enchantments. Then a trip to the garden district is an absolute must.
Try the Garden District & Lafayette Cemetery Combo Tour to get to the most jaw-dropping, stunning vantage points. Try Garden District & Lafayette Cemetery Combo Tour. Enjoy two hours of soul-soothing beauty. You will also love this tour for the rare moments of peace you gain between the madness of the Carnival.
Whether you manage to tick off everything on this list or just enjoy the festivity's food and take some photos. You will undoubtedly bring a little bit of Mardi Gras and New Orleans back with you.
Related Post: 15 Totally Free Things to Do in New Orleans
It has a habit of touching the soul of all visitors, and you will most likely not be any different. You may even find yourself living by the famous New Orleans motto:
"Laissez les bons temps rouler" / "Let the good times roll"
Have Anything To Add to Our Mardi Gras Guide?
Let us know in the comments below!