Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the biggest free show on earth. With some planning and understanding of what Mardi Gras is really like, (not what you think it's like from watching it on TV) you and your entire family can have one of the best vacations of your life at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Find out the Date of Mardi Gras:
Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday" is on a different date every year because it is always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is the last big party before the fasting and sacrifice of Lent. The general theme is "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die. The first thing to do is to find out the date of Mardi Gras for the year you are planning you visit.
Plan Your Trip to End at Mardi Gras:
Remember that Carnival is the season of Mardi Gras. Carnival Season begins on January 6th "King's Day" every year and ends on Mardi Gras Day. The main parades start about two weeks before Mardi Gras. Plan to be in New Orleans at least for the weekend before Mardi Gras Day if you want to see more of the festival.
Decide Which Mardi Gras You Want to See:
How you experience Mardi Gras depends on where you see it. The French Quarter is for adults. There's drinking and lewdness. It's is important to know that nudity is illegal in New Orleans just as it is anywhere else in the country. So, if you believe everything you hear and see on TV, be careful. There are hundreds of arrests every year for public nudity and being in Central Lockup until your friends sober up enough to bail you out is no way to spend Mardi Gras. If your family is with you go to St. Charles Avenue.
Mardi Gras on St. Charles Avenue, the Family-Friendly Mardi Gras:
Mardi Gras on St. Charles Avenue is the place for families. There are parades, throws and, because of the family atmosphere, there's none of the lewdness of the French Quarter. The crowds can be heavy, but they are friendly.
What to Bring on a Trip to Mardi Gras:
Because Mardi Gras can be anytime from February 3rd to March 9th, the weather can be cold or moderate. But, either way bring comfortable clothes for Mardi Gras. If you bring the family, don't forget to bring bags to stash everything you catch. If you are lucky enough to have an invitation to a Mardi Gras Ball, it's strictly formal. No dresses above the ankle or pants for women and tuxedos for men. For Mardi Gras day bring a costume.