Mardi Gras parade - New Orleans

7 Things You Need To Know About Mardi Gras In New Orleans

Every year, over a million people, flock to New Orleans to partake in Mardi Gras festivities. During this time, enormous floats, marching bands, jazz quartets, and drunk partiers from all corners of the world take over the streets of the French Quarter. If you are planning to check a big one off the bucket list with a trip to the Crescent City during Carnival season, check out this list. Here are the need-to-knows for experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Things You Need To Know About New Orleans’ Mardi Gras:

1. History

The first New Orleans Mardi Gras parade was held in 1857 and put on by the Krewe of Comus. The torch-lit procession was full of marching bands, elaborate rolling floats and set the tone for generations to come. Nearly 200 hundred years later, it’s evolved into one of the world’s most recognised parties and has only become more spectacular.

Over the centuries the parades have continuously evolved with various global, satirical and elaborate floats.

Historical Mardi Gras - New Orleans

2. Where to Stay

If you want to be where the magic happens, head to the French Quarter. We recommend Bourbon Street gem, Royal Sonesta. Snag a room with a balcony and be ready to partake in all the revelry of live jazz blasting through the streets and partiers out until sunrise.

3. Must Eat:

Cajun cuisine is easily one fo the United State’s most flavourful and unique foods. While you can’t go wrong with any cajun staples, certain foods are popular during Mardi Gras. In particular, King Cake. Brought to New Orleans from France in 1870, this oval-shaped sweet treat is a must-try when in the Big Easy. While most countries enjoy King cake on or around Epiphany, New Orleans indulges in it throughout Carnival season and year-round. Head to Manny Randazzo for the best one.

MannyRandazzo King Cake New Orleans

4. Need for Beads:

The colours of Mardi Gras have a special meaning. The colours symbolize the Christian representation of power (gold), green (faith) and purple (justice). During parade season, you’ll see these bold tricolours everywhere, particularly on beads.

5. Mardi Gras vs Carnival

A common misconception is that Mardi Gras and Carnival are the same. While obviously Mardi Gras is the most well-known term for New Orleans Carnival, it’s only one day. That’s right. Mardi Gras is just French for Fat Tuesday. Famous for being the last day of glutton and revelry before a solid 40 days of fasting, it’s when people get the most wild (historically, anyway).

Mardi Gras parade - New Orleans

6. When to go

While Mardi Gras itself falls on Fat Tuesday, the partying starts a full two weeks prior. The most ideal time to visit is the extended weekend before Fat Tuesday. This is when the entire city will be packed with celebrations of every kind, and you can catch famous parades like Bacchus, Zulu and Rex. For more information on the parades, head here.

7. Laissez es bon temps rouler

“Let the good times roll” or, “laissez es bon temps rouler” in Cajun French has become something of a mantra for Mardis Gras over time. While you’ll hear the phrase being tossed around year-round all over the city, it’s particularly fitting for carnival season and Mardi Gras and is mostly used as a greeting to fellow revellers.

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Melanie Hamilton
Melanie Hamilton

Melanie is an avid traveller with a passion for history and global foods. She is currently based in Tbilisi, Georgia where most of her time is occupied with qvevri wine and Soviet history. Having do-si-do'd her way across Europe and Latin America, she's enjoyed some of the world's most exciting places firsthand and can't wait to tell you about them.

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