Kid-Friendly Mardi Gras:
Contrary to popular belief, Mardi Gras is family-friendly. Although the press covers Bourbon Street and what you see there is not family friendly, the important thing to remember is that Bourbon Street is only one part of Mardi Gras. The part of Mardi Gras that's the most fun to those of us who celebrate it with our families are the parades.
Where to Go:
Most New Orleans families, including mine, are on St. Charles Avenue somewhere between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle. If you go into this area, you will find family picnics and bar-b-ques all along the parade route.
- Decorate a Wagon. That way you can pull the children and the food and drink to and from the Parade a lot easier.
- Get a Mardi Gras ladder. Smaller children are perched on special seats bolted onto ladders to make sure they're safe and able to see what's going on. By law these ladders must be as far back from the curb as they are high, and an adult must stand on the ladder with the child. You can get these seats at local hardware stores.
- Put Identification Information on Your Children. Write down all ID information on a piece of paper and put it in your child's pocket or pinned to her shirt. Write a cell # on the child's arm with a marker. More great safety tips.
- Bring a Large Mardi Gras Bag for Each Child. Float riders carry special throws, like stuffed animals, for the small children along this part of the parade route. Because this area is traditionally a family area the mood is friendly and G-rated. Your children will catch a lot and carrying all the loot home is very difficult.
Things to Know:
Next to safety, the main concern for parents along the Mardi Gras Parade route is bathroom facilities. This is a problem. Many restaurants and hotels reserve the use of the bathroom facilities for patrons only. They provide wrist bands for guests. It's a good idea to stay at a hotel on or near the parade route, or to purchase an all day ticket at a restaurant on the route. Many restaurants have tickets for each parade that includes food and bathroom facilities. This helps with children because some parades take hours to pass and you can rest and have a snack during the parade without leaving the area. Even if you get a restaurant reservation, it's not a bad idea to bring a small ice chest for juice or water and some favorite snacks for the kids. The crowds, although family-friendly can be large and getting a small child out of a ladder and into a restaurant every time she wants a snack or something to drink can be tiring.