Mardi Gras, the bacchanalian celebration for which New Orleans is famous, is a yearly event. A time of revelry and over-indulgence, which officially begins on January 6 (Feast of the Epiphany) and ends abruptly at midnight on Mardi Gras day (Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday). Though New Orleans is a partying place any day of the year, a visit during carnival season is a highly entertaining experience.
A few weeks before the season ends, the parades begin to roll throughout New Orleans, the surrounding area and across South Louisiana. The biggest of these parades is that of Rex, King of Carnival, which rolls on Mardi Gras Day. Other notable parades include Bacchus, Orpheus, Proteus, Endymion, Zulu and the creatively entertaining Krewe du Vieux. There’s something for every taste and style during Mardi Gras. Crowds of onlookers line the streets for hours waiting for the first of the large, elaborate floats to make their way through the city. You’ll hear the shouts of ‘throw me something, mister!’ as the crowds reach out to catch the beads and doubloons, traditional throws, from the krewe members.
If you’re at the Zulu parade, you might get lucky and catch one of the painted coconuts that are the traditional throw of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Don’t be surprised if you see women baring their breasts to attract the attention of the riders in the various parades; they’re hoping that those riders will toss them the ‘good beads’. Check Krewe websites, or the MardiGras.com website, for updates on parade routes, times and weather conditions. Great places to be for viewing a parade include St Charles Avenue in the Garden District or at the intersection of Bourbon Street and Canal. As with any event that attracts large crowds, be cautious and drink responsibly.