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What’s your idea of the ultimate party? If it’s a collection of heritage, parades, costumes, and plenty of libations, then Mardi Gras is your answer.
Known as the Greatest Free Show on Earth, Mardi Gras is held in early spring along the streets of downtown New Orleans.
Adorn yourself in purple, gold, and green, and find a spot along St. Charles Avenue or Canal Street for sights of colorful krewes and all the beads and doubloons you can catch.
Whether you’re kicking off Carnival Season on Twelfth Night in January, or just catching Lundi Gras and Fat Tuesday, you’ll never be the same after your time at Mardi Gras.
Of course you must prepare for Mardi Gras. Make your way down the famed Bourbon Street for colorful shops and stock up on beads, masks, t-shirts – and maybe grab a little souvenir for home.
More Mardi Gras shopping is found throughout the French Quarter, especially within the French Market and small vendors in Jackson Square.
For a complete Mardi Gras experience during your time in New Orleans, head to Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World right on the Mississippi River. For a history lesson on the dynamic heritage of the Mardi Gras celebration, visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum or The Presbytere, and enjoy your stay at a Best Western hotel in New Orleans.
Leading to Mardi Gras Day
An exciting time on New Orleans’ festive calendar, Carnival Season celebrates the anticipated Fat Tuesday holiday.
Happening between and including Twelfth Night and Fat Tuesday, Carnival Season features parades, parties, and plenty of preparation as the city readies itself for Mardi Gras Day.
Following Twelfth Night – the festive first night of Mardi Gras season featuring small parades and King Cake parties – Carnival Season is approximately six weeks of celebration leading to the big day.
Homes and businesses are adorned with the fleur-de-lis – the decorative French lily or iris – and almost everyone is wearing their best purple, green and gold.
Parades are held in Slidell, Metairie, and the French Quarter, while parties are in progress throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area and southern Louisiana.
Visiting during carnival season? Learn more about this electrifying time of year in one of New Orleans’ many museums and cultural centers. Start by Introducing yourself to the culture of the Mardi Gras Indians at the Backstreet Cultural Museum – set in the Faubourg Tremé neighborhood.
Located next to Jackson Square neighboring the St. Louis Cathedral, The Presbytere puts you in the heart of Mardi Gras territory. Part of the Louisiana State Museum and a National Historic Landmark, The Presbytere features the exhibit “Mardi Gras: It's Carnival Time in Louisiana” – showcasing memorabilia from parades, balls, and the Courir du Mardi Gras.
Set on the Mississippi River, Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World features tours of their colorful studios. Open daily, Mardi Gras World allows visitors to peak in on sculpture, prop, and float creation – titillating you all the more for Mardi Gras Day.
Lundi Gras, the Eve of Mardi Gras
Also known as Fat Monday or Shrove Monday, Lundi Gras is the day before Mardi Gras Day – or Mardi Gras Eve.
Following the weekend in which New Orleans’ population doubles in size, Lundi Gras features many annual traditions, and is just as big as Fat Tuesday itself.
Mardi Gras Madness starts to unfold on Lundi Gras as people begin to pack the streets in the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans.
Costumes, masks, and floats are everywhere as music fills the air. Purple, gold, and green beads and gold doubloons begin to rain down on Mardi Gras attendees – most of which are screaming for more.
A constant party is held at the end of Canal Street – where the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club and Krewe of Rex make their grand entrances from the Mississippi River, and disembark along the Riverfront to greet the crowds and the mayor of New Orleans.
he mayor then hands control of New Orleans over to Rex, the King of Carnival. After this event, attendees needn’t go far, as a massive fireworks display is on its way over the river.
Other parades throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area feature the Krewe of Proteus, Krewe of Orpheus, and the Kewe of Tucks – all coursing down St. Charles Avenue in downtown Crescent City.
After Lundi Gras, Rest up for Fat Tuesday at a Best Western hotel in New Orleans – if you do decide to sleep, that is.
The Day of Mardi Gras in Crescent City
Mardi Gras Day is the big day. More than 70 krewe organizations are ready to parade down the streets of central New Orleans during Fat Tuesday.
Set between Lundi Gras and Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras Day is held any Tuesday between February 3rd and March 9th.
Hundreds of thousands of people pack the streets of downtown New Orleans, flowing into the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and Jackson Square.
Parades, people, and dozens of krewes course down Canal Street, Magazine Street, and St. Charles Avenue.
Thousands of golden doubloons and purple, gold, and green beads sail through the air toward the outstretched hands of costumed Mardi Gras attendees.
The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club are the first to parade down the streets of New Orleans, trailed by the Krewe of Rex – both followed by the Elks Krewe of Orleanians and the Krewe of Crescent City.
Many other krewes are to come, including the Mardi Gras Indians, the Krewe of Bacchus, and the Krewe of Endymion. Jazz music, laughter, and shouts fills the air as much as the beads and doubloons do – while every balcony in downtown New Orleans is packed with onlookers.
Not only is downtown buzzing, but throughout the New Orleans metropolitan area people are celebrating in bars, restaurants, and in their homes with costumes, beads, drinks, and of course, King Cake.
Krewes throughout Crescent City begin to descend upon the French Quarter, including the Jefferson City Buzzards, the Irish Channel Corner Club, and Pete Fountain's Half Fast Walking Club.
Once you’re weighted down with more beads and doubloons than you can carry, and the parades and parties finally start to dwindle, you know the memory of Mardi Gras Day is a cherished one.
Offering visitors a peek behind the curtains at how the floats are made, visitors are encouraged to visit the Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World in New Orleans for a unique look at Mardi Gras. The warehouse was opened in 1947 as Blaine Kern Studios – specifically for creating props and Mardi Gras floats.
Today, the studio has become a premier NOLA attraction, offering visitors a chance to view the floats in progress via guided tour. Moreover, the on-site Mardi Gras World Cafe offers tasty snacks and meals with incredible views of the Mississippi River.