Mardi Gras is one of the biggest parties to happen anywhere in the world, and it draws all sorts of people to it. It is also an awesome representation of the distinct culture of New Orleans, which is festive and colorful all year round. I didn’t make it down to Mardi Gras this year, but in its honor this week, I’ll tell you a bit about my trip a few years ago.
Now if you’re looking for a weekend of dignified cocktails and hor d’oeuvres, you will not find it in New Orleans during Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street — there are definitely plenty of other opportunities for that in this beautiful city but just don’t go looking on this weekend. Mardi Gras is an all out street party, where people get a little crazy.
Bourbon Street is the hub of all that is Mardi Gras, but to be honest, some of the side streets end up being more fun. At some points on Bourbon Street, it was so crowded I literally couldn’t have moved in any direction if I tried. Also, my favorite bar on Bourbon is further North along the road away from Canal Street — Pat O’Brien’s! This place has a large courtyard and the “best” hurricanes in the city. I don’t know that I can confirm these are actually the best in town because I’m pretty sure every bar has the same ones, and to be honest, when in Mardi Gras and drinking hurricanes, you become a little ambivalent to which drinks are actually best (or even all that good).
When at Mardi Gras….
Beyond my group’s mainstay at Pat O’Brien’s, there’s so much else to do. The actual parades that go all day and into the night are really cool. The floats are beautiful and the people on them go all out with costumes and masks — it’s definitely worth going and seeing. Just watch out for the flying beads being thrown from them — they really hurt if you get hit by them!
Beyond the parades, definitely do some exploring of the city. The food in New Orleans is unparalleled and completely its own style. You’ve gotta try a po’ boy sandwich and some good creole food like gumbo at some of the local places in the French Quarter. Also, it really is worth standing in that line at Cafe du Monde for some beignets and coffee (especially after a night at Pat O’Brien’s….).
All in all, if you’re headed to Mardi Gras, you don’t need much of a travel guide. The whole point is to explore. The city is one giant party and all you have to do is make the most of it. Just whatever you do, don’t flash anyone for the beads. You can buy them in bulk at the nearest CVS, so it’s really not worth it. …But then again, New Orleans is not a place of judgement — so do whatever you want and have fun. Oh! and you’ve gotta get a Huge Ass Beer — they really are HUGE ass beers.