Celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans
There are some incredible places around the world to experience Carnival, but none is quite like the Big Easy. So, let me welcome you to the Big Easy, otherwise known as New Orleans, Louisiana with some unique ways to experience Mardi Gras like a true local. New Orleans is home to delicious cuisine, fresh seafood, fun nightlife, and countless parades. Get ready to pack some colorful outfits and comfortable walking shoes and make your way down to the bayou!
Explore the French Quarter
During the day, before the festivities and parades start, be sure to visit the historic French Quarter. The Quarter is a great place to experience local culture and explore a variety of shops for unique eye-catching souvenirs. There are plenty of boutiques, including Forever New Orleans, which is a must for any first-time visitor. There is no doubt that you’ll be able to find souvenirs for everyone on your list. After you explore the area, treat yourself to local cuisine.
French Quarter Foodie Finds
New Orleans offers very rich cuisines with unforgettable flavors. I could easily go on and on about all of the delicious seafood, king cakes, famous beignets, and jambalaya. The following are just a few of my must-haves every time I visit New Orleans:
My favorite restaurant in New Orleans is the Oceana Grill. Their famous oysters are chargrilled with a delicious garlic and herb Cajun sauce (my mouth is watering just thinking about them)! For other options, you can’t go wrong with a po-boy; if you want a different flavor, try the gator.
A visit to New Orleans is not complete until you visit Café Du Monde for a world-famous Beignet (pronounced Ben-Yay). This wonderful cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Be sure to order more than you think you want (because you’ll want more), and you may not want to wear black. The powdered sugar somehow gets everywhere!
For a unique bar experience, visit the Carousel Bar & Lounge. This life-size carousel bar has 25 seats and makes a complete circle every 15 minutes. Try one of their classic cocktails like the Vieux Carre, which features a spicy rye note.
In true Mardi Gras fashion, you must purchase a traditional King’s Cake at any of the great bakeries that offer them, including Manny Randazzo King Cakes. King’s Cakes are decorated with green, yellow, and purple sprinkles and you can choose a variety of fruit and cream cheese fillings for this cinnamon flavored dessert. By tradition, a small plastic baby is hidden within the cake for one lucky eater to discover. Whoever is so lucky to find the baby in their slice is dubbed the King/Queen of this year’s Mardi Gras and is required to buy the King’s Cake during next year’s carnival season.
Mardi Gras Festivities
Now that you’ve explored the area and tasted the cuisine, it’s time to learn more about Mardi Gras. During Mardi Gras, groups called “Krewes” participate in social events throughout the year, design and build parade floats, and host extravagant balls to celebrate carnival. Each Mardi Gras Krewe has a theme based on their history. The Krewe of Endymion was founded in 1967 and they host a grand ball called the Endymion Extravaganza inside of the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Krewes prepare year-round for their Mardi Gras celebrations, they design incredible floats that will parade the streets for thousands of onlookers eager to catch beads and goodies.
Take a tour of Mardi Gras World to see behind the scenes for what it takes to create this fun event. During the entire week before Fat Tuesday (February 13), you can enjoy countless parades all over the city. Plan ahead and download this parade tracker app to pick the perfect location to watch these colorful and fun parades.
Krewes throw a bunch of fun items including beads, glow sticks, cups, and stuffed animals into the crowds that have lined the streets and balconies. The Krewe of Muses is known for throwing high heels decorated with glitter. Of the many things you are sure to catch, the Doubloons are something to really keep an eye out for. Each Krewe throws a limited amount of these unique commemorative coins out, so try to catch as many Doubloons as you can. In between the magical floats will be marching bands that fill the area with a mix of sounds and music. They are a huge staple of local culture, and throughout Mardi Gras, there are thousands of band members that march in the parades.
Mardi Gras is a great time to visit New Orleans, and here are a few tips to make your experience even better:
- Pack comfortable shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, parade routes get messy with all of the throws during this time.
- Only carry a small wallet that can fit in your pocket, this makes catching goodies at the parades easier.
- Get to the parade route early to secure a good spot to experience the parades.
- Be sure to pack an extra bag, or come with a bag that has room in it to save your “catches”.
- Watch your head! Seriously! Items are thrown into the crowd, so be aware!
Plan a trip to New Orleans where there is a lively culture year round, mouthwatering food, and an over-the-top carnival season. You’re sure to have a fun time while creating lasting memories.
To access more information about local restaurants, unique attractions, and special offers in New Orleans, visit our Destination Guide, or explore Hilton properties in New Orleans below.
Know Before You Go
- New Orleans is known as “The Big Easy.”
- The National WWII Museum is one of the top-rated museums in the country. Don’t miss checking it out!
- The famous Café Du Monde is open 24 hours a day to get your beignet fix.
- If you plan to go during Mardi Gras, pack comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.