That’s the call to riders dispensing beads and “throws” from the elaborate floats of Mardi Gras. The name of the holiday’s misleading. It’s about a month or so of parties named for just one day, Fat Tuesday, the last day before Lent. But Mardi Gras is more in New Orleans. No one does Carnival like the Crescent City. Beginning on Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, the city is obsessed with eating, costuming, bead-tossing and parading that increases in intensity as Ash Wednesday nears. On the weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday, parades roll all over town. Spectators gasp at the colossal Endymion floats and delight in the social satire of Krewe d’Etat’s. There are new traditions like Chewbacchus with its Star Wars-inspired tomfoolery and ages old ones such as Zulu and Rex. Visitors are encouraged to explore New Orleans Mardi Gras traditions. To eat oysters and king cake, watch parades roll down St. Charles Avenue and tag along with marching krewes as they wind their way into the Quarter from New Orleans historic neighborhoods.
The biggest parades in New Orleans happen on Mardi Gras day, which is the Tuesday before Lent begins, 47 days before Easter. This date can fall anywhere from the 3rd February through to 10th March.
The main Mardi Gras parades happen on the Tuesday itself, with a good many other parades in the week leading up to Mardi Gras day itself.
Contrary to public perception, Mardi Gras is a family celebration. Those of us who grew up in New Orleans feel guilty once our children have grown up and we continue going to every parade, because we used to use “taking the children” as our excuse! Bring big bags (even large garbage bags!) to hold all of the stuff they will catch. Throws often include toys, stuffed animals, beads and more.
The only place you should avoid with kids is the French Quarter (where no full-size parades pass anyway). We recommend seeing the parades when they begin on St. Charles Avenue near Napoleon, since parades can last until 11 p.m. near the end of the route. The Garden District portion of St. Charles is a family area where you will see many families staking out their parade watching position, having picnics, playing ball, and having fun under the beautiful oak trees. You don’t have to worry about the streetcars, as they stop running in this area during Mardi Gras.
You may also want to consider taking your kids to the parades in the suburban areas like Metairie, which is only 10 minutes away from New Orleans. Metairie’s Caesar parade, the Saturday before Mardi Gras weekend, is the parade Disneyworld features on Mardi Gras day. Kids love it!
Happy Mardi Gras!!!
(Information from mardigrasneworleans.com)