If you are anything like me you could party with the best of them and go to class the next day with no problem. Now, not so much. I’m not sure what on earth possessed me to go to Mardi Gras but I did it. Here are my favorite things to do and my top tips to survive, not show your lady bits and not kill anybody (trust me, there were times when it was a real thought!)
There are parades all month long in NOLA, if you don’t want to deal with the crowds, try a weekend or two before Mardi Gras. I went at the beginning of February a couple of years ago and had a better time than actual Mardi Gras. You get more beads, no cover charges and a ton less people. Here is a complete list of Mardi Gras Activities for your information.
Driving to Mardi Gras
French Quarter during Mardi Gras weekend is closed to vehicular traffic, plan accordingly. I always budget money to leave my car in the hotel parking lot. If you are planning to park check with the lot for in and out privileges. Want to save money? Try Parking Panda to find and reserve a parking space near you. You might have to walk a while to get to your car, I think it’s worth the money to have easy access to your car.
Pick a hotel or Airbnb close to all the things you want to do. If you want to be in the party action, pick a hotel close to Canal and Bourbon. The great thing about a hotel near the quarter is that it has a bathroom you can easily access. I’m a fan of the AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon(free cocktail once a day) and New Orleans Marriott because both hotels are close to Bourbon and on Parade routes without all the noise. You will get an armband to let the staff know you belong in the hotel. Hotel non-guest beware, the staff is on high alert and looking for arm bands. Book your hotel early, hotels sell out quickly. Note: some hotels have a minimum night stay.
Get thee to Store and buy water, Gatorade and Pedialyte. Make sure to drink water every two or three drinks to lessen the hangover.
Baby, you ain’t 21 anymore. It’s not a crime to take a disco nap or go to bed early. Don’t try to do it up every night, you don’t recover from hangovers the way you used to. My professional drinking buddies recommend Party Smart as an option to quell the symptoms of a hangover. I’m a fan of good ole water and Advil.
On your trip to the store make sure to buy drinks for your room! You will save a ton of money and control how much liquor you are ingesting. Get to a comfortable level of drunk for a lot less money. When you do go out, make sure to try NOLA famous cocktails like Sazerac and Hurricane.
Watch your six
I often travel alone so I’m a bit paranoid. The best advise I ever got about NOLA is always have a lid on your drink. I carry these cups out with me to make sure my drink doesn’t get spiked. Beware of your surroundings and be smart.
Beware of your wallet
Drinking in NOLA can get expensive, be aware of how many drinks you are buying. Only bring a credit card and a few dollars out with you. Lock the rest in the hotel safe and take a picture of the safe contents everyday. Make sure to keep all of your receipts, and check your credit card statement for extra charges. There are pickpockets and con artists who love to pray on people. Use good judgement and follow travel safety protocol.
Dress up anyway you please, this is the one chance you have to be the “real you” nothing is off limits. Most of all, be comfortable it will be a long day. Wear your Mardi Gras colors, a wig and a mask if it suits you. Don’t have a wig, try Fifi Mahoney’s to find the perfect topper for your outfit!
I’ve already had foot problems so always wear sneakers to NOLA, the amount of walking you will do is not worth the foot pain. It’s 2017 and most of the comfort brands make really cute shoes that can get you in comfort all day. The streets are cobblestone and after a few cocktails, they turn against you and your Jimmy Choo too! There is nothing cute about the way you walk when your feet hurt, Your feet will get stepped on and you will step in to questionable puddles, do yourself a favor, opt for comfort. When I dress up I opt for wedges that cover my toes, from Born or Sofft, to stay comfortable and be cute.
Show Me Something Mister!
You are more than welcome to show your boobs however, it is not a requirement; you will get beads from the floats. If you think you might want to whip your boobs out, practice. Seriously, getting those puppies back in your bra is more difficult than it seems. For the love of all don’t show your boobs anywhere that’s not Bourbon street. You could get arrested. Also beware, people are always filming, your behavior could end up on the web forever…
A quick search on Pinterest gives you a plethora of ideas to use surplus beads to make art or decorate your home. Really crafty? Try making this Mardi Gras Bead Flapper Dress. Make sure to bring a couple of folding bags, to carry your haul. There were moments that the beads were the only reason I put up with the crowds.
Throw Some Beads
There are tons of bars on Bourbon Street at which you can buy beads, go on the balcony and throw them to or at people. A bag of beads is around $10 and you become part of the action. Really want to throw beads? Consider a package that gets you on a float. TIP: this is not for the squeamish, you will see things you can’t be unseen!
- Check the parade routes before you go. You don’t want to miss anything or get stuck waiting for a parade to end.
- Do not run into the street between floats for a trinket. Floats can’t stop and police frown upon this behavior.
- Get there early, normal parade attendance is 7 or 8 people deep.
- Don’t caught on the wrong side of a parade and not be able to get leave until after they’ve cleaned the streets.
- Don’t bend over to get beads or trinkets, you could get stepped on.
- Know what Krewes you are watching, learn a bit of history and try for Krewes coveted items.
- Watch your head, the crowd is enthusiastic to get beads and you could get punched.
Be Nice to the Police
If you get a request from the cops, do it! Don’t try to be cute or funny, the cops have little tolerance for your antics. I watched a guy get arrested for a tiny infraction. Don’t do it!!!
It’s a privilege to pee
There is life outside the French Quarter! Parades, food, and art all exist outside of the French Quarter, I promise. If you have little tolerance for people try parishes outside of the quarter. The day after Fat Tuesday I went to the museum and had a blast. Want a slower pace and a beautiful view? Go across the river to the city Mandeville. You can stay in a quant B&B and walk to the parade on the riverfront.
Drive through Ash Wednesday
It is an experience you have to try at least once in your life. It’s a thing, here is proof!
Go to a Fish Fry
Restaurant food is always great in NOLA but I always crave good ole home cooking. On Fridays during Lent, churches and community groups fry fish to raise money for good causes and feed the hungry. It’s a good chance to get an inexpensive home cooked meal, help others and meet new people. Here is a list of the Lenten fish fry meals in the New Orleans area.
Before you go check social media to see if any of your friends are around. Meeting up with friends in NOLA will take your friendship to a whole new level. Think outside the box for activities and places to hang out. Take your time and enjoy yourself. Be smart, stay safe and most of all experience everything.
All in all, New Orleans can be a blast if you don’t try to party like a rock star every single night. Embrace the chaos, don’t try to plan to much.
Enjoy the escape!