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The Practical Truth About Mardi Gras

 
Top to Bottom: View of Bourbon Street During Mardi Gras; Balcony Revelers; Colorfull Costumes; Mardi Gras Parade Float.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is known as “The World’s Largest Free Party”. While the parades themselves and the entertainment of watching the festive masses are indeed free, coming to town for Fat Tuesday can be costly in more ways than one for the uninitiated. A little planning goes a long way towards a hassle-free Mardi Gras.

It’s no surprise that hotel rooms are at a premium over Carnival season. French Quarter inns go for around $250 a night and require stays of at least 3 nights. Suburban properties often offer much better deals, but require getting downtown for the action. With street closings as common as Mardi Gras beads, it is generally much more convenient to get a room in the Quarter and avoid driving all week. Also, having a room near the action provides the much-needed benefit of a bathroom pit stop amid the partying. Public bathrooms are all but non-existent in the Quarter, and there is no quicker way to get thrown in jail than public urination. Gross, yes, but not a surprise considering all of the “beverage” consumption with limited restroom facilities. And while drinks are easy to obtain all weekend long, getting food sometimes presents a challenge. The best restaurants book up months in advance over the peak dates, so call now or risk having to live on Krystal burgers and Lucky Dogs for four days.

Costuming is a fun and traditional part of the Mardi Gras festivities. While certainly not mandatory, those who decide to join the spirit of things should use common sense as well as creativity. February weather in New Orleans can bring anything from sunny and 80 degrees, to rainy and 40. Bring sun block along with a sweater. Also, be prepared to stand for long periods of time on the parade route and do a lot of walking. Sensible shoes are a must.

Sometimes it is easier and less expensive to fly in and stay from Sunday to Thursday, rather than from Saturday to Wednesday. The Saturday night of Mardi Gras is the busiest time of the weekend, with crowds reaching epic proportions. Arriving on Sunday can get you better deals on flights and hotels, less of a hassle at the airport, and there is still plenty of Mardi Gras left to celebrate. Most people fly out on the Wednesday after Fat Tuesday. Stay through Wednesday and enjoy having New Orleans all to yourself. It’s a perfect day to take in some other attractions that were too packed during Mardi Gras week.

Everyone should witness Mardi Gras at least once in a lifetime, and some choose to do it year after year. With a little advance preparation, Carnival will live up to its every expectation. Make reservations early, and have a game plan in place for meeting friends before and after parades to avoid losing each other for days at a time. The World’s Largest Free Party is waiting, so come on down!

Mardi Gras Day 2008 is Tuesday, February 5. Parades are scheduled the weekend of February 25, 26 and 27, then start up again January 30, and continue thru Mardi Gras day when the Zulu, Rex and the Truck parades roll all day on Fat Tuesday. City and Mardi Gras officials are expecting a full complement of tourists, and locals will be out in force to celebrate survival and renewal with even more heart than usual. The faithful will crawl out of bed on Ash Wednesday and head for Mass beginning the long season of abstinence, reflection and preparation before Easter and the resurrection.

 

Susan Filipowicz is Associate Producer of FrenchQuarter.com and an enthusiastic observer of the Quarter scene. She once lived and worked in the French Quarter for two years without ever crossing Canal Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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