So when you think of Mardi Gras, you obviously think of parades, boob flashing, beads being thrown around, random street brawls, or drunken people everywhere. Well, to my surprise, there wasn't much of the notoriety that we think of when it comes to Mardi Gras. I mean, the latest I was out and about was midnight...but still. So, here's the recap:
I did a quick weekend trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras weekend. I did a red eye on Friday to land in NOLA Saturday morning. It sucks doing red eye flights; but when you are working full-time, it is the only option available sometimes. You just got to drink lots of coffee! I hit the ground running by picking my sister up at the airport hotel (she landed the night before) and taking a cab into the French Quarter. The drive wasn't too long...but once we got into downtown it started getting a little tricky. There are streets blocked off at certain points due to the parade routes so there were always a detour that needed to be made during our commute. I highly recommend using the Blue Bikes as your go-to transportation while you are staying in New Orleans!! Lyft and Uber become super expensive, especially during peak times, and they take longer to get to your destination because of the detours they have to make. You also have to be aware of some sketchy ride share drivers trying to go longer distances to charge you more, since they think you don't know the area. But again, use the bikes. My sister and I would bike ride back and forth from the French Quarter to the Garden District in less than 20 minutes at about $15/entire stay (~1 hr use a day). Plus, you're able to go wherever and whenever you want. Since this post is strictly about Mardi Gras, you should check out the other articles I wrote about the French Quarter and Garden District for more info on what to do in New Orleans!
I think during my time in Mardi Gras, the most favorite thing we liked doing was catching beads and other paraphernalia as the floats went by us. I didn't think I would at first since it's just plastic beads...but the excitement of catching them caught on to me. I highly recommend reserving a seat at one of those parade stands (https://www.mardigrasparadetickets.com/), since you don't want to be holding that public spot all day prior to the parade starting. For locals, they start the day early and claim their spots on the street and make the day of it. But for visitors like us, we don't have that luxury. So use that time to explore the rest of NOLA and just show up to your parade stand whenever you feel like it. Plus, I feel like parade floats are more generous in giving out their goods to those sitting in the grandstands. Also note that the parades don't go into French Quarter at all, but usually end in downtown or by the Superdome. So if you want to catch a parade, you need to explore further north of the French Quarter.
Now, the parades are organized by Krewes, which are basically social clubs. The rule of thumb is the bigger the Krewes are, the better the floats. The ones we attended were Trucks, Endymion, Bacchus, and Mid City. I would say Endymion and Bacchus are the much bigger ones, while Trucks and Mid City were a level below that. However, regardless of which Krewe it was, we had a good time.
And the people of NOLA are so hospitable! When they talk about southern hospitality, I can confidently use my experience at Mardi Gras (of all places) as a great example of it. I remember some kid next to me caught a glowing necklace that I thought looked really cool. I don't know if he saw the jealous look on my face or what, but after finding he already had one, he handed it to me and said I should have it. Another time, my sister confessed to a lady in front of her that she really wanted one of the bags they were throwing out on the floats. Well, lo and behold, a bag happened to fall on the parade route (street side) with no one being able to claim it. So the lady in front rallied the people around her to try and reach for the bag, and eventually they were able to retrieve it for my sister. Yes, there were a few bad apples in the crowd. Like, one older man (probably drunk) got arrested for crossing the street and disturbing the parade float as it was going by. But, regardless of those one-off incidents, you still felt this comradery among everyone that were watching the floats. And on a side note, if you do get arrested, you will be left in jail until Fat Tuesday is over. So don't get arrested!
All in all, I had a great time in Mardi Gras without needing to be drunk! I had a total of 1 drink while I was there, and I didn't regret it at all. I wish that I had explored the French Quarter a little bit more, but that would be it. Remember that Mardi Gras really isn't about the partying, and that it's about celebrating New Orleans culture.