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Things to Do in New Orleans This February

Photo by David Fary

Mardi Gras comes relatively late this year (March 5), and there is a steady stream of events and entertainment leading up to it. February is not only packed with Carnival-related festivities though — let’s not forget Valentine’s Day — plus there are a few low-key local annual events you might enjoy. Here are some upcoming highlights to make the most of this short but event-packed month.

Go See the Mardi Gras Parades

One of the best parties in the world is here! The Carnival season kicked off on January 6, known as Twelfth Night or the Epiphany, with three parades, and will culminate as usual on Mardi Gras Day. Here’s the rundown of this year’s parades that will roll in February in the French Quarter, Marigny, Bywater, and Uptown. Do consider venturing outside the city too, if you can, as parts of the metro New Orleans, like Metairie, Covington, Slidell, and the West Bank have some of the most fascinating, fun parades of the Carnival season. You can’t catch them all, but you can try! See the full parade schedule here and read our Mardi Gras weekend guide to get the rundown of the Carnival festivities that spill into March.)

Saturday, February 9

Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, 7:00 PM (Bywater, Marigny)
The sci-fi inclined Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus will walk-n-roll with a “Space Farce” theme and the usual menagerie of the mythical creatures, space monsters, movie characters, and lots and lots of Princess Leias. The krewe hasn’t capped the membership, at least not yet, so expect a long procession of walking sub-krewes (there are over 150 to date with over 1,000 members) with out-of-this-world floats and other creatively decorated contraptions that include bikes, trailers, and even shopping carts. The krewe eschews using petroleum products, preferring greener methods to power their floats. Most throws are also handmade, including the custom bead medallions, stuffed animals, and the Sacred Drunken Wookiee stickers. Chewbacchus starts and ends in the Bywater, on Press and Chartres streets, spending the bulk of the parade walking down the 11 blocks of St. Claude Ave.

Friday, February 15

Krewe Bohème, 7 PM (Bywater, Marigny, French Quarter)
This new marching parade rolls though the Bywater, Marigny and French Quarter with a theme of “La Vie Bohème,” led by a Green Absinthe Fairy (in place of the usual king and queen) and followed by several inner krewe marching clubs, including Krewe of Goddesses, the Merry Antoinettes, the Bayou Babes, and Glambeaux. The presiding fairy this year is performer Vinsantos Defonte.

Saturday, February 16

Krewe du Vieux, followed by Krewedelusion, 6:30 PM (Marigny, French Quarter)

Note: These parades are raunchy and may not suitable for children.

Krewe du Vieux (KDV) is infamous for its biting political satire, adult themes and irreverent takes on the city’s fearless leaders and daily struggles. Its 17 sub-krewes (with names like Krewe of Drips and Dis-charge, and Mystic Krewe of Spermes) are mostly the walking kind, interspersed with the small-scale floats and some of the best brass bands in the city. The beloved local musician Walter “Wolfman” Washington is Krewe du Vieux’s 2019 King. KDV rolls in the Marigny and the French Quarter and has some of the carnival’s most creative handmade throws.

The relative newcomer krewedelusion follows KDV along the same route starting at 7 PM. This satirical parade krewe is comprised of “inner krewes” including the Guise of Fawkes, Krewe Dat 504 and Krewe du Seuss. The krewe’s slogan is “The People Shall Rule — Until a Suitable Replacement Can Be Found.” The theme is kept secret till the day of the parade; Lois Andrews Nelson, a social aid and pleasure club veteran and mother of musicians Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and James Andrews, is this year’s Queen. Her entourage will include the Gold Diggers Baby Dolls and members of The Baby Dolls Sisterhood. The new inner krewe, The Trashformers, will collect unwanted beads, cans, plastic cups and other parade debris in the attempt to reduce the parade’s already pretty small carbon footprint.

Sunday, February 17

‘tit Rəx, 4:30 PM (Bywater, Marigny)

Note: New date and time; the route remains the same.

This micro-krewe parade is unique in a way that it takes an opposite approach to the super krewes competing to set records for the extravagance as well as the number of floats, riders and throws. Instead, this walking parade capped its float number years ago and focuses on all things small-scale.

All floats (around 30) are using shoeboxes as a base, similar in concept to what the local kids make for school projects, but to a much more advanced degree of artistry. There were elaborate double-deckers in the past years, as well as puppets and even a helium balloon-powered float. The floats are hand-pulled by about 90 unmasked, formally dressed members. All throws are handmade and tend to be miniature in size (the bead throws, for example, are usually the size of a bracelet or smaller).

Over the years, the parade had acquired a loyal following, with the spectators setting up miniature scenes of dolls partying on ladders along the route. The parade is generally kid-friendly, although there’s an occasional raunchy take on the theme, and always a lot of political satire. This year’s theme is “A Modicum of Decency.” The parade rolls in the Bywater and the Marigny, starting by the St. Roch Tavern and ending at the AllWays Lounge for the annual ball.

Friday, February 22

Krewe of Cork, 3:00 PM (French Quarter)
Oshun, followed by Cleopatra, 6:00 PM (Uptown)

The Krewe of Cork is a spirited walking parade contained to the French Quarter and dedicated, as you probably guessed, to wine and revelry. Krewe members don wine-themed costumes and dole out throws bearing the krewe’s grape logo. The “wine police” rides along in golf carts, and the parade’s Grand Marshal is a different vintner ever year.

The Krewe of Oshun is named for the Yoruba goddess of love and has 20 floats, led by the captain aboard a peacock float down the traditional Uptown parade route. The Baby Dolls march along, and throws include peacock figures and mugs.

Another Uptown parade on that day, the all-female Krewe of Cleopatra has 1,000 members and stunning floats. The Queen of the parade travels in her royal barge, and the parade is flanked by the pre- and post- celebration extravaganzas. This year’s theme is “Cleopatra’s Animated Adventures.”

Saturday, February 23

Pontchartrain, followed by Choctaw and Freret, 1:00 PM (Uptown)
Sparta, followed by Pygmalion, 5:30 PM (Uptown)

Things will be heating up on that Saturday with no less than five parades, all rolling Uptown and starting with the memorable floats of Krewe of Pontchartrain, including a huge crawfish named Mr. Mudbug and the giant fish named The Super Grouper. The Krewe of Choctaw’s 2019 theme is “A Celebration of Life.” Each of the parade’s 19 floats will portray past royalty and important New Orleans citizens. The co-ed Krewe of Freret, resurrected in 2011 since the mid-1990s thanks to some enthusiastic Loyola alumni, will again feature hand-decorated masks the members create themselves.

The Knights of Sparta, an all-male krewe, is known for the elaborate masks and Spartan helmets. Look for out for the medallion beads, doubloons, and the annual mystery throw. Sparta’s intriguing theme for 2019 is “Beyond the Sea.” The last parade, Pygmalion, consists of 250 male and female riders and features enchanting floats steeped in Greek mythology. Post-parade, the party goes on at the Pygmalion Fest at Generations Hall. It’s open to the public and features the Ying Yang Twins, who are also the parade’s celebrity Grand Marshals.

Sunday, February 24

Femme Fatale, followed by CarrolltonKing ArthurAlla, 11:00 AM (Uptown)
Barkus, 2:00 PM (French Quarter)

This year’s theme for the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale is “Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale Presents Story Time.” Come catch their signature throw, a mirrored compact, along with the 2019 theme bead, Femme dolls, stuffed lips and lipsticks. The 2019 theme for the Krewe of Carrollton is “Treasures of the Seas.” This parade features 26 floats with titles like the Mermaid, the Atlantis, and the Hidden Treasure Chest. Special throws include medallion beads, decorated shrimp boots, sand pails, and blue fedoras.

In honor of the Academy Award ceremony which takes place on the same night, the theme of the 2019 King Arthur parade is “And The ARTHUR Goes To.” The 50-plus float parade will feature the krewe’s first ever three-tandem float. Throws will include rare custom, hand-decorated grails, King and Queen medallion beads, and the King Arthur Toy Army. Alla‘s theme for 2019 is “Are We There Yet?“, featuring floats portraying different destination themes. They will be throwing hand-decorated genie lamps again this year.

The Mystic Krewe of Barkus belongs to the man’s best friend, with a focus on the seemingly endless procession of costume-clad, mostly well-behaved dogs escorted by their humans. The king and queen are, naturally, canine: The king is usually a purebred, and the queen is traditionally a rescue. This year’s theme is “The Big Bark Theory: Barkus Goes to Comic Con.” Let your imagination run wild.

Wednesday, February 27

Ancient Druids, followed by Nyx, 6:30 PM (Uptown)

The Ancient Druids pay homage to the priests of ancient Celtic societies and is led by the king, the Archdruid. It’s a unique parade in a way that its 200 members belong to other Carnival organizations, so it’s a parade-only krewe. Member identities are never revealed, and the krewe doesn’t have the traditional royalty.

The Mystic Krewe of Nyx is one of the city’s largest all-women’s Mardi Gras krewes and most diverse. The parade’s signature colors are hot pink and black, and you might be lucky enough to catch the signature throw, a hand-decorated purse. Past Nyx Goddesses includes New Orleans’ notable women like Chef Susan Spicer, Peggy Lee and Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans.

Thursday, February 28

Knights of Babylon, followed by Chaos and Muses, 5:30 PM (Uptown)

The Knights of Babylon go back to 1939 and honor the Carnival traditions by using the flambeaux and the floats with the same designs as decades ago. The king’s float is still drawn by a mule. Babylon’s 200 knights are led by their king, Sargon, whose identity is not revealed to the public. Babylon’s theme is also kept secret till the day of the parade. Similarly, the satirical Chaos also don’t reveal the king’s identity or the parade theme ahead of time. The all-male krewe counts 200 members.

The Krewe of Muses is one of the Carnival’s most popular parades thanks to its dazzling floats, top-notch marching bands, and bitingly humorous themes. The cup throw bears the design of the annual contest winner among the local school children. The winner also gets to ride as a guest of the krewe. Look for the iconic shoe float with this year’s honorary muse, the Louisiana native and actress Patricia Clarkson. And see if you can catch one of the most coveted throws of the Carnival season, the hand-decorated Muses shoe. Each shoe is a one-of-a-kind piece of art, and some parade-goers would stop at very little to score one.

Eat King Cake

For those who aren’t aware, King Cake is a traditional cake typically served during Mardi Gras festivities. It’s socially acceptable to stuff your face with it anytime between January 6, when the Carnival season starts, and until Ash Wednesday. Also, per tradition, whoever finds a plastic baby in their slice has to throw the next party, or at least buy the next King Cake.

King Cake comes with many fillings although the traditionalists insist on the old-school rendition without any. It also comes in the Carnival colors of purple, gold and green, but then again you might see the “Who Dat?” versions in black and gold during the football season, honoring the Saints. King Cake has its own annual festival, and New Orlenians tend to have strong opinions who makes the best King Cake in the city. One thing is for sure: Everywhere you go during Mardi Gras, from a grocery store to a parade party to a dive bar, King Cake will be there for the taking.

Take in the Art at First Saturdays

Head downtown to the Arts District to discover some of the city’s best galleries during this free event. First Saturday Gallery Openings are held every first Saturday of the month, down and around Julia Street, 6-9 PM. Member galleries that open their doors include Ariodante Gallery, Arthur Roger Gallery, Beata Sasik Gallery, Stella Jones Gallery, and many more.

See a Concert 

 New Orleans has no shortage of live music shows, including the national acts. Here are some of the biggest shows coming up in February:

Celebrate Vietnamese New Year at Tet Fest

Tet Fest is held on the weekend of February 8-10 at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church at 14011 Dwyer Blvd. in New Orleans East. It’s a free celebration of Vietnamese New Year with live music, traditional dance performances, fireworks, kid-friendly activities, and an amazing variety of authentic Vietnamese food.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in One of the Most Romantic Cities

To be fair, this is a worldwide holiday. But Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) in New Orleans — with her wrought-iron balconies, historical buildings, and the possibility of music on every corner — is a special kind of unique. Check out our Romantic Itinerary: How to Spend Valentine’s Day in the French Quarter for some ideas.

Explore the French Quarter

Whether you’re here with your sweetheart to celebrate Valentine’s Day or visiting with family or friends (or alone) for any other reason, Carnival season is one of the best times to explore the French Quarter. The spirit of revelry permeates the streets, and there are parades and block parties to stumble upon. Not to mention that many of the French Quarter’s facades, porches and balconies are decked in dazzling decorations, sporting purple, green and gold.

Plus, the winter temps are usually mild here, and pleasant enough to stroll down Royal Street to visit the galleries and the antique shops, for example. You can also take in a brass band performance at Jackson Square; or visit the French Market to get a po-boy and some oysters; or scarf down some beignets at Cafe du Monde. Take a tour, or just walk around and stare.

Happy February! Happy Mardi Gras!