How to Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans
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New Orleans' Carnival is justly famous around the world, but there's more to Mardi Gras than its rowdy reputation. Debutante balls, elaborate float-making, and Christian traditions lead the months of festivities leading up to Fat Tuesday. Here's what you need to know.
When to Go
Mardi Gras celebrations in the Big Easy take place throughout the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent), usually in February or early March. Things really get going on the Thursday before Fat Tuesday, when some of the best parades—those by Endymion, Zulu, Rex, and Bacchus Krewes—take to the streets of the city. The oldest and most influential Krewe leaders put on their shows on Lundi Gras, also known as Fat Monday.
How to Go
Visitors to New Orleans during this exciting time of year have several options for their Mardi Gras experience. Book tickets to watch the parades pass by from an exclusive viewing stand, take a tour of the city's famous parade routes and French Quarter party spots, or go behind the scenes at Mardi Gras World to learn about the hard work that goes into this colorful Louisiana festival.
Things to Know
- New Orleans hotels sell out months in advance of Mardi Gras, so it's a good idea to book early.
- Plan to visit during the first week of Mardi Gras to enjoy the parades and atmosphere without the crowds.
- The French Quarter is closed to vehicular traffic during Mardi Gras weekend, so plan to arrive early or plan an alternate form of transportation.
- Weather during Mardi Gras can be unpredictable, so dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes.
New Orleans Tours & Activities (2)
Peek behind the curtain at the marvel of Mardi Gras with this tour of Mardi Gras World in New Orleans. See the behind-the-scenes work and incredible artistry that goes into preparing for the annual celebration. With a guide, learn the history of the event, and see fantastic floats and props. Get a picture in front of your favorite float, dress up in costumes, and sample some classic King Cake.
Uncover the secrets behind one of America's biggest parties on this 2-hour Mardi Gras and New Orleans history walking tour. See where the annual Mardi Gras parade kicks off each year, and visit several locations central to the city’s Fat Tuesday traditions. As you stroll through the French Quarter, learn about other aspects of New Orleans culture that make it unique from any place on earth, including voodoo rituals, haunted history, pirate legends, and more.