Written by Roxanne - a UU team member.
I have watched parades from the sidewalk side and from balconies, I have carried banners in parades and danced with troupes in parades. Parades have made me late to work, but I have never worked on Mardi Gras day. Because Mardi Gras isn’t just a day, and it isn’t just a season, it’s a state of mind and a style, it’s a contagious energy, it’s a dopey smile, a full drink and a new friend. Mardi Gras is a sense of community, Mardi Gras is sunshine when it rains, Mardi Gras is cake for breakfast! Sounds like a trip you want to take, right? Sooooooo!!! Let’s get you ready for your first Mardi Gras parade!
- Where are you going to stay? Be cautious of parade routes. Use these routes to dictate where you do or do NOT want to stay. If you are too close to a route, you may struggle to get in or out of your hotel! If you are too far you will be paying taxis more than you want to get around. If you want to stay in the French Quarter, I highly recommend the Oliver House. And if you are looking Uptown, focus on airbnbs in the Carrollton neighborhood, you’ll find the parades are accessible but not a nuisance. The following site is a great resource for parade schedules and route maps!
Did you just realize Mardi Gras was more than one day? And did you catch there are well over a dozen parades? Mardi Gras is a long season. The season starts at the end of Christmas, January 6th, the Epiphany! And lasts until the start of Lent. This year, our favorite Tuesday lands on March 1st. Plan your trip around the parades that interest you! Do you want to see dozens of dogs dressed up in themed costumes? Or would you rather witness troupes of Chewbaccas? The Thursday before Mardi Gras is the Krewe of Muses, an all female krewe that throws coveted glitter shoes! I highly suggest planning your dates around that weekend, you’ll have the largest variety of parades at your disposal those 3-6 days leading up to Mardi Gras day.
- Let’s pack! You want to bring your fave UrbanUndercover leggings! They go with everything and will keep you comfy on the parade route. Pair it with your loudest shirt, you want to stand out in a crowd so you can catch the most beads and other treasures. If you are at a loss for where to find something, check out Fringe and CO, she has great pieces and her head wraps are all the rage on any parade route! This is your excuse to wear a green bob wig or a light up headband, please do not miss this opportunity. Wear fake eyelashes! Smear glitter on your cheeks! Do you own light up sneakers? Glitter converse? Don’t be shy!
- My favorite part of Mardi Gras is KING CAKE! It is sort of like coffee cake, or a croissant, a lot like a cinnamon roll. New Orleans has many many bakeries that make delicious King Cakes, and everyone has their favorite. There is no bad King Cake. You can even order from some of the bakeries online and have them shipped to you, Haydels even ships year round! Or if you are brave you can try to bake one yourself, but don’t forget to hide a little plastic baby inside. Whoever gets the slice with the baby it in will be responsible for the next King Cake. King Cake is best paired with coffee or champagne, try to get some before you head out for the day!
- When there is food, eat it. If you wander into a restaurant that has room for you, order some lunch! Maybe you walk by a Popeye’s, go in and order some fried chicken. Most likely your parade neighbors will have the grill going and you can share a meal with your new friends. Whatever the case, eat when you see food, you may not see it again. New Orleans is home to a lot of wonderful food, trust Yelp reviews, Tripadvisor and every person you meet to send you in the right directions. It’s hard to have a bad meal in this city.
- Another must. I will make this quick. Bathrooms! If you see a bathroom of any kind, use it. They only become more sparse and more disgusting. Pack some toilet paper and our TRAVEL SPRAY and you won’t have to stress.
- Now you are ready, in fact you are so prepared, we almost forgot about the parade we have planned to see all day! Did you download the parade tracker app? This is essential. You’ll be able to track where the parade is and see if you have time to grab another beer! Now, step back when the marching bands come and enjoy, these kids practice hard all year and they are a blast to witness. Rain or shine, they are amazing. When you see men carrying torches, heavy flaming torches, hand them a few bucks. There will be men rolling by dressed as Elvis, mermaids dancing and a moving disco will pass, HAVE fun! When the floats are rolling by, scream! Hoot and holler! Yell “Throw me Something Mister!” Just keep your shirt on.
- Post parade you’ll find you have more beads and throws than you know what to do with. While we hate plastic, save all those cups you’ll catch. They are a New Orleans tradition and every kitchen has a stock of them. They are the best, free, souvenirs. Now what are you going to do with 20 pounds of Mardi Gras beads you caught? The thought of throwing them away hurts our souls, and luckily there are several places you can donate your beads to be organized and reused in future parades! Here is my favorite .
- Mardi Gras or any time of year, there are shops to visit in person or through instagram. If you want to have the Royal Mardi Gras experience, I highly recommend visiting @centurygirlvintage, she carries the most stunning vintage you will ever find, and her closet is fit for any Mardi Gras ball! If you are looking for a more casual vintage, something to blend from brunch to parade, I recommend checking out @clothesparty, lots of her treasures are found locally and she will make you feel like a true New Orleanian, head to toe. If you are looking for the perfect mash of luxury and ridiculousness, get yourself to @alligator.eyes, she makes all her sunglasses and they are perfect for the parade route! For more New Orleans fun and BEYOND, I suggest keeping up with @travelerbroads on instagram! They are phenomenal guides for not only New Orleans, but many other cities around the world.
- COVID-19 is still very a much a real thing, and plenty of us aren’t up to traveling just yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Mardi Gras in your home state. Adventure doesn’t always take a plane ride and a hotel. New Orleanian ExPats around the world are decorating their homes for Mardi Gras. There is an interactive map to assist in finding the homes nearest you. Check out this map, it is amazing to see these homes! You can preorder a king cake at your favorite local bakery and wear your sparkles all day! Just pop some champagne on Tuesday, March 1st, and have your own Mardi Gras this year. New Orleans will be ready for you when you are.