New Orleans Mardi Grasi – So Much To Hear, Taste, And Do On Your New Orleans Vacations!
It’s that time of year again when the phrase “Throw me something, Mister” becomes the most popular one around for young and old alike. The season of New Orleans Mardi Gras is upon us and the streets are filled with parades and costumes. The thrill and excitement of this time of year is catching just like spring fever.
Many people may think that all of the New Orleans’ Carnival Season is one long Mardi Gras Celebration but it isn’t. “New Orleans Mardi Gras” is really just a one-day event and is held on a very appropriately named date, “Fat Tuesday.”
King cake and beads, masks and music – the party is on and the south knows how to celebrate Mardi Gras. The festivities are just a part of the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration. Cooking is one of the major parts as well. If you like gumbo, ‘crawfish’ (mudbugs) and beignets you are in for a treat. The huge iron pots are on the fire and anticipation is high.
This time of year is awaited much like the children wait for Christmas. The revelry is in full swing as the people of New Orleans and surrounding areas hit the streets for their own brand of Cajun music. Gold, purple and green abound as the beads fly through the air and the costumes become more and more bizarre.
Once known as Shrove Tuesday, this February event is a uniquely New Orleans party time that involves wild and raucous fun. If you want to cut loose, let your hair down and let it all hang out then you need to rush down and join the revelers in the French Quarter. The January 6th date of Twelfth Night really is the introduction of the exciting festivities and Fat Tuesday is the climax with parades, floats and unbelievable sights. If you are one of the spectators during this time, you will not be hard pressed to see why some say the New Orleans Mardi Gras Celebration has roots in some ancient Roman orgies.
There are those who drive for many miles to come to New Orleans Mardi Gras. A regular event, this is the party most people spend the year waiting for and often vacation time is planned around this spectacular celebration. The motels and hotels are booked and Bourbon Street is alive with the residents and tourists.
More often than not, when the sun goes down the parties really swing into full force. If you are planning a visit to New Orleans, this is an adventure you will not soon forget. With the festival comes the chance to experience an all around good time.
Grab your friends or your family or both and come to the city that knows how to enjoy life. Experience the Flambeau Court with vendors that know how to throw a cookout. Try gator-on-a-stick and muffulettas. Take home a souvenir from the Art Market. Arts and crafts are always available during the festivities.
Mardi Gras Festival Basics
Let’s face it, Mardigras is a holiday that is all about partying. Parades, celebrating, costumes, floats, people are excited and it’s an atmosphere of revelry and indulgence. But what brought it to this point and make it so different from the rest of festivals around the world? What’s the history behind New Orleans Mardigras?
King Louis XIV, in 1704, ordered two men, the LeMoyne brothers to defend France’s territories, which at the time included the areas now represented by Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Upon arriving in this area, the LeMoyne brothers found what, in their opinion, was to the be the perfect area for a colony and named it “Point du Mardi Gras.” This is why there is a hearty Creole ancestry in this part of the United States.
Mardi Gras translates into “Fat Tuesday” and is always the day before Ash Wednesday. This date, depending on when Easter falls on the calendar, can range between February 3rd and March 9th.
Mardi Gras Bead Throwing Activity
Everyone recognizes the bead throwing and gathering at Mardi Gras. Those set on balconies are equipped with the colorful beads and throw them down to the party goers. Did you know that the colors are representative of human ideals? These colors were chosen to represent Mardi Gras in 1872: green for faith; gold for power; and purple for justice.
Beads aren’t the only objects thrown during Mardi Gras parades. “Throws” have been tossed into audiences since 1870 and usually consist of cups, doubloons, stuffed animals and other small trinkets.
Also, have you ever noticed that the folks on the floats are always masked? It is actually a law that float riders must don masks. Because masks add to the mystique and fun of Mardi Gras, other partiers that are not on the floats join in the fun, too.
Mardi Gras’ Locations
Mardi Gras celebrations are held throughout the world, but the one most widely known and loved by Americans is the New Orleans Mardi Gras. New Orleans has a rich tradition steeped in a mixture of French and American cultures and is the birthplace of Jazz. Oftentimes, New Orleans is referred to as “most unique” city in America.
New Orleans is well known worldwide for its wide range of architectural styles, as well as the above ground tombs or “cities of the dead” that make up their cemeteries.
Some of the other major attractions besides New Orleans Mardi Gras are the French Quarter, which is also known as Vieux Carre is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. This neighborhood has been dubbed as a National Historic Landmark and contains a number of historic buildings.
Another well known New Orleans Mardi Gras attraction is Bourbon Street, settled inside the French Quarter, and actually running through it. This street contains numerous bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and strip clubs or “cabarets.”
But New Orleans is not just about partying. There are distinguished universities located here as well. Tulane and Loyola Universities are both stationed in New Orleans. Both of these universities date far back and are characterized by excellence.
New Orleans Mardi Gras – Children can Come Too!
If you’re planning a trip to attend the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, it’s important to note that children are definitely allowed to join in on the fun. Make sure you bring large bags so they can keep all of the fun stuff they gather along the way. It is best to avoid the French Quarter with the children, as this is more of an “adult” area of New Orleans. The parade does not run through the French Quarter, so it is easy enough to avoid. But most importantly, enjoy your time in New Orleans!
What To Expect At The New Orleans Mardi Gras
To residents, New Orleans Mardi Gras refers to the entire New Orleans Carnival season which begins on January 6th (Twelfth Night) and continues through to Ash Wednesday. The celebrations which consist of parades, balls and king cake parties, end the day before Ash Wednesday on Fat Tuesday. Most outsiders consider Fat Tuesday to be Mardi Gras and celebrations of the Mardi Gras season are tied to preparations for the season of Lent.
New Orleans Mardi Gras Parades
Most of the parades and events occur within the last two weeks of the New Orleans Mardi Gras and really large parades and activities occur during the last few days. The larger, major parades start in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street.
The parades are organized by carnival krewes, which are organizations that put on a parade or ball. Float riders in the parades toss out “throws” to the crowds, which are usually strings of beads, trinkets cheap toys or doubloons. Doubloons are small dollar sized coins with the krewes logo.
Many families attend New Orleans Mardi Gras to enjoy its various parades and events. The image of women flashing themselves and highly intoxicated people stumbling about usually occurs in the Bourbon Street area, where it is tolerated to a certain extend as long as it doesn’t cause a public disturbance or fighting. If you have a family with youngsters it is probably best to avoid this area at times. Outside of this area, lewd behavior is not accepted and will usually result in a quick arrest.
Promptly at the stroke of midnight at the end of Fat Tuesday, a mounted squad of New Orleans police officers make a show of clearing upper Bourbon Street where the bulk of out-of-town revelers congregate, announcing that Mardi Gras is over, as it is the start of Lent.
New Orleans Mardi Gras Food
King Cake, or King’s Cake is a traditional food served at New Orleans Mardi Gras. This festive food is a cinnamon roll type cake shaped into a wreath and decorated with icing, nuts and sprinkles. There is also a small toy baked into the cake as a symbol of good luck for the person who finds it.
Berliner pastries are donuts filled with custard or jelly and topped with powdered sugar. These are served for breakfast or as a snack. Another popular food item is pancakes rolled or topped with fruit and powdered sugar.
The holiday dinner menu includes Crawfish Etouffe, Jambalaya, Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, and classic Poorboy sandwiches. A Poorboy is a sandwich made of whatever leftovers you have served in a hoagie roll. These are very popular in Louisiana and there are many shops in the area that serve these sandwiches as a regular menu item.
New Orleans Mardi Gras Costumes
The costumes are inspired by the beautiful costumed balls held by the French aristocrats. Beautiful gowns with jeweled masks are a popular look. Traditional colors for costumes and decorations are gold, purple and green. The custom of wearing costumes and masks is based on fantasy. You can choose to wear a costume and a mask, or just a mask alone. It is about being mysterious and living out your fantasy of being someone else. You can dress up and be anyone you choose.
New Orleans Mardi Gras Beads
Brightly colored strings of plastic beads are thrown into the crowd by float riders in the parades. These beads are bought and given out by the New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes participating in the parades. Many Krewes or organizations take part in the parade celebrations. Candy, beads and small trinkets are called throws and are tossed out to people in the crowd as the float passes by.
Overall, expect a blend of cultural experiences from music, costumes and great food….Mardi Gras is the best time of the year to go for New Orleans vacations.
Important New Orleans Mardi Gras Tips
- First, it is recommendation to plan ahead as most of the business district and French Quarter hotels require 4 or 5-day minimum stays so that is something to keep in mind if you are planning on going to this event. It’s best to plan your trip to the New Orleans Mardi Gras at least 6 months ahead. Hotels are often solidly booked by December, so reserve ahead of time
- Plan how you are going to do your transportation. The French Quarter during Mardi Gras weekend is closed to traffic so keep that in mind if you are driving into the city. Only residents and hotel guests with special parking passes can get through. Off-site parking lots are expensive and they fill quickly. Make sure you know how far away your hotel will be. Taxi cabs may also be hard to find.
- Public transportation may be your best bet during the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations, but keep in mind that the buses and streetcars often run on special schedules.
- Plan on getting to the parade about 4 hours ahead of time if you want a good view. Even an hour later you could find yourself 4 or 5 people back from a front spot.
- Respect the police officers. These guys have a tough job and probably aren’t in the mood to negotiate with inappropriate behavior. If an officer tells you to do something it’s best to just do it.
- It’s okay to consume beer openly on the streets of New Orleans. Just make sure it’s in a can or cup, and not glass. The drinking age is strictly enforced however.
- Make sure to dress in costume! You can dress up as anything in your imagination! There are contests for the best costumes….and the crowd-watching is as much fun as the parade itself.
- Check the weather forecast before you go. New Orleans can be very warm or very cold. Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and layer your clothing for the most comfort.
Overall, we summarize by saying that food that is new to you, a party atmosphere like none you have ever seen and the collection of throws you will have at the end of the parade can make your New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration an annual event. All you have to do is find out the starting time for the event each year, make your reservations in advance and enjoy the party. Head south and you will definitely be back next year!
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