Can anyone go to the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans?

While many individuals throughout the globe have heard of Mardi Gras, the occasion raises numerous concerns for those who do not reside in New Orleans. The following is a collection of the most commonly asked Mardi Gras FAQs. Do you still have questions? Please contact us and we will respond as soon as possible.

Q: Is there an “official” Mardi Gras?

No! Mardi Gras, like Christmas and Easter, is a holiday. Everyone has a right to it. Do not believe the claims of businesses that offer “official” Mardi Gras merchandise or an “official” Mardi Gras website. Employing the phrase “official” is just a means for merchants to promote their goods or services to individuals who are unaware of the difference. The government does not license any products or websites for Mardi Gras. Each parade krewe is responsible for all of its own products. Official groups govern Mardi Gras celebrations in various regions of the nation, but not in New Orleans.

Q: When does Mardi Gras start and end?

The Carnival season always begins on Jan. 6, which is King’s Day (Feast of the Epiphany). Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) falls on a different day each year.

Fat Tuesday changes every year because Easter Sunday is never on the same Sunday each year. Fat Tuesday always falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Most visitors plan to arrive no later than the Saturday prior to Mardi Gras day and stay through Ash Wednesday. Check out our calendar to discover when Fat Tuesday will occur in the next years.

Q: What is the weather usually like during Mardi Gras? What should I pack?

The weather during Mardi Gras can vary from very cold to very warm, almost hot. Sometimes, it will shift from one extreme to the other within the same day. It’s a good idea to layer your clothes since a chilly morning may turn into a warm afternoon.

Pack comfortable shoes and clothing that can get a little soiled since you will be spending long days outdoors. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast. If storms are expected, you should absolutely pack a raincoat!

Q: How much does it cost to go to Mardi Gras?

It’s completely free! You’ll also depart with bags of Mardi Gras beads and throws. That is why it is known as the “Best Free Show on Earth!”

Q: I only have limited time. What is the prime time to visit during Mardi Gras?

The weekend before Fat Tuesday is ideal for visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras. This weekend, two of the season’s largest parades, Bacchus and Endymion, will march through the streets of New Orleans. The streets are filled with parade goers all day Saturday and Sunday. If you have the luxury of staying longer than a weekend, Monday (Lundi Gras) and Fat Tuesday are also excellent days to enjoy Mardi Gras. Another large procession, Orpheus, takes place that Monday night, and the Zulu Lundi Gras event lasts all day. Walking through the French Quarter on Fat Tuesday and witnessing all of the costumes and masks is a unique and fascinating experience.

Q: What happens if there is bad weather?

The parades take place in mild rain. Only if bad weather is expected will authorities postpone the event. The hourly updates are given by local TV and radio news channels (such as WWL Radio).

Q: Can I bring my kids to Mardi Gras?

Yes, by all means! Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras is a family event. Those of us who grew up in New Orleans feel guilty once our children have grown up and we continue going to every parade because we used to use “taking the children” as our excuse! Bring numerous bags (even giant trash bags!) to contain anything they will capture. Toys, plush animals, beads, and other items are often used in throws.

The one spot to avoid with children is the French Quarter (where no full-size parades pass anyway). While parades sometimes linger until 11 p.m. at the end of the route, we suggest witnessing them when they begin on St. Charles Avenue near Napoleon. The Garden District of St. Charles is a family-friendly neighborhood where you’ll find many families staking out their parade viewing positions, eating picnics, playing ball, and having a good time beneath the gorgeous oak trees. You won’t have to worry about streetcars since they don’t operate in this region during Mardi Gras.

You may also want to consider taking your kids to the parades in suburban areas like Metairie, which is only 10 minutes away from New Orleans. Metairie’s Caesar parade, the Saturday before Mardi Gras weekend, is the parade Disneyworld features on Mardi Gras day.

Q: What are the best ways to get around New Orleans once I’ve arrived?

The best methods of transportation will be via taxi/ride-sharing services, streetcar or rental car depending on where you’re staying. It will be tough to drive your own vehicle and locate parking.

Q: Where should I go if someone needs CPR or first aid during a parade?

Red Cross volunteers, in partnership with New Orleans first responders, will be providing basic first aid in some of the most populated areas along the parade routes. They are CPR and first aid certified and will help the sick and wounded at each of their stations located along the parade routes.

During the final two weeks of Mardi Gras, first aid stations will be located at the following intersections along St. Charles Avenue:

  • Canal Street, Napoleon Avenue, Washington Avenue, Felicity Street, and Lee Circle are all nearby streets.

On the Saturday before Mardi Gras, first aid stations will be provided at Orleans Avenue and North Hennessy Street, as well as North Carrolton Avenue and Bienville Street during the Endymion procession.

Q: When and where do the Mardi Gras Indians parade?

The Mardi Gras Indians only parade on Fat Tuesday and Super Sunday (the third Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day in March).

The Mardi Gras day itineraries are rarely publicized, although they take place in and around their inner-city communities. Some sources say that you will see the Creole Wild West tribe at the corner of LaSalle and 2nd Streets sometime between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. after the Krewe of Zulu passes by. After the Zulu march, other tribes congregate at the intersection of Claiborne and Orleans.

The Indian Sunday of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council is always held on the third Sunday of March, around St. Joseph’s Day. Their festivities begin at Noon in A. L. Davis Park (at Washington & LaSalle Streets) where the Mardi Gras Indians once again dress in their feathers and suits, and take to the streets to meet other “gangs.”

Visit our Super Sunday page for the Indian Sunday parade route.

Also, the Tambourine and Fan organizations traditionally hold their “Super Sunday” parade on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day, with the event beginning at Bayou St. John. In recent years, a third Super Sunday known as Big Sunday has taken place in April, during the open weekend between the French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest. At this time, no specifics about these events are known.

Q: How can I find out what this year’s Mardi Gras theme will be?

There is not a single official Mardi Gras theme since there is no single organization in charge of Mardi Gras. Each year, each parade krewe chooses its own theme, which is frequently kept a secret until the procession. Their costumes, floats, some of their throws, and their “official” Mardi Gras poster (if they have one) reflect this theme. Patriotic themes, for example, were popular after 9/11.

The majority of the krewes are named after Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythological characters, although others are called for the district in which they march.

Q: Can a brand, organization, or nonprofit advertise on a Mardi Gras float?

In Orleans Parish, there is a local regulation that prevents Mardi Gras from being commercialized, i.e., no advertising is permitted on floats or may be thrown from floats. Also, several Mardi Gras groups have activities outside of the procession where sponsors may participate. These include Zulu’s Lundi Gras Festival, Endymion’s big bash before their parade, Metairie’s “Family Gras”, and the ticketed extravaganzas held after some of our parades (such as Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus).

Q: How can my dance team march in a parade?

From August and November, most krewes book talent. If there’s a particular krewe you would like to march with let us know and we’ll connect you with the right person.

Q: How do I become a Mardi Gras vendor?

If you would like to sell Mardi Gras souvenirs or pre-packaged food you’ll need a permit from the city of New Orleans. Costs vary from $500 to $2,000, depending on whether you’ll be strolling or staying in one place. Read more about permit specifics.

Q: Can I book Mardi Gras Indians for a private event such a wedding?

Contact us and we’ll be happy to put you in touch with the Council. Although most Indians do not participate in public events, a handful do.

Q: Who & what are the “super krewes”?

Although though each parade is distinct, the floats in Orpheus, Bacchus, and Endymion are the most elaborate, huge, and spectacular.

“Although there is no formal definition for “super Krewe,” it is widely considered that a super krewe has over 1,000 active dues-paying members and at least 500 riders for its procession each carnival,” according to Wikipedia. We at believe there’s a bit more to it.

Along with a large membership, super krewes have huge, double- and triple-decker floats, much sought-after signature throws, and celebrity monarchs. They are also noted for their large pre- and post-parade parties featuring big-name musicians (i.e., the Bacchus Bash, the Endymion Extravaganza, and the Orpheuscapade).

Bacchus was the first super krewe, created in 1968. Endymion was created in 1967 and became a major krewe in 1974. Orpheus, which was created in 1993, is also a great krewe. Three all-female super krewes also take to the parade route, including the Krewe of Muses and the Krewe of Nyx. The Krewe of Iris, which was founded in 1917, is not only the biggest female Mardi Gras krewe, but also the oldest.

Q: What can I do to keep my family safe at parades?

Cameras have been installed along most of New Orleans’ major parade routes and are linked to the city’s new real-time monitoring center. Check out our Mardi Gras Parade Tips & Recommendations for tips to enjoy a safe and happy Carnival experience.

Q: What should I do with all of the throws?

After a few floats, you could find yourself with so many beads around your neck that you need a place to store them! Be sure to bring a bag to store all the beads, trinkets, coconuts, and doubloons you’ll catch right off the float.

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