Get out the purple, gold and green and get ready to do a family Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This year’s Mardi Gras, the last chance to “eat, drink and be merry” before Lent, falls on February 9th. New Orleans has a bit of a reputation for hedonism but this city is just as welcoming to children who will inevitably fall in love with the vibrant and playful city.
First tip: Arrive early! While Mardi Gras traditionally refers to the last Tuesday before lent (literally Fat Tuesday), many of the best parades and activities actually happen the weekend before.
Where to catch the Party
The French Quarter and Bourbon Street is for the adult parties and while nudity is still technically illegal, there are always a couple of people trying to see how far they can bend the rules. If you’re visiting with the family and want to avoid all that hoop-la, head to St. Charles Avenue anywhere between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle for a more kid-friendly atmosphere.
The parades that can’t be missed
Expect the streets before the parade to be packed like sardines. For optimal viewing, locals suggest locking down your location pretty early in the morning- and they’re talkin’ 7 a.m. The two biggest parades of the Mardi Gras season happen the weekend before Fat Tuesday. These beloved parades are truly what makes the family Mardi Gras in New Orleans a unique experience.
THE ENDYMION PARADE
The Endymion parade begins Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 4 p.m. The Krewe of Endymion was founded in 1966 and are well-known by their motto, “Throw Until it Hurts,” which describes their generous loot tossing — beads, cups, doubloons and other trinkets will fill your bags. They also hold the coveted title of largest float in the world — 9 sections and 260+ riders. This year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Follow the parade right to the end when Pitbull and Steven Tyler will perform a massive show at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
THE BACCHUS PARADE
The Bacchus parade is happening Sunday, February 7th at 5.pm. The Krewe of Bacchus was formed in 1968 and has been delighting onlookers ever since with their animated super-floats, redesigned and redecorated by hand every single year. The parade begins at the corner on Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas. After dancing their way through uptown and downtown, the parade concludes at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on the New Orleans riverfront. Their parade Kings have been notable figures such as Will Ferrell, Nicholas Cage and Jim Belushi, so a celebrity sighting is almost guaranteed!
Where to Eat
Start the day with beignets and a bit of coffee for the adults. The best ones are reputed to be at the constantly bustling Café Du Monde. Open since 1862, these people know their beignets; served with a pristine mountain of fresh powdered sugar, you could just ski right through them- much like the speed of a kid eating one!
WILLIE MAE’S SCOTCH HOUSE
You can’t do a family Mardi Gras in New Orleans and leave without tasting some fried chicken. Even the pickiest little eaters will enjoy the fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the historic Treme neighborhood. Pick up an order to-go, complete with the cornbread muffins and snack all day long while catching the parades.
For dessert, grab a King Cake, the traditional Mardi Gras treat. This cinnamon pastry is usually shaped in a ring and can be filled with cream cheese or other flavors. You can buy them pretty much anywhere including most supermarkets, but Sucre (3025 Magazine Street) makes a particularly delicious version.
Where to Sleep
While hotel prices typically skyrocket for Mardi Gras weekend and quite often sell-out altogether, we’ve found a couple gems that still have rooms available that your kids will love.
- Hilton New Orleans St Charles Avenue is located in a 1920’s high-rise right by all the major parade roots. All the suites include a pull-out sofa which is perfect for accommodating the kids. There is also an indoor pool and whirpool for some post-parade relaxation. Stay here during your adventures on your family Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
- Bring snacks! You’ll likely be waiting around for a while pre and post parade and we all know how things spiral out of control when anyone gets hangry.
- Decorate a wagon: not only can you use it as a mode of transportation, you can also use it to pull around your fried chicken, king cakes and drinks.
- Get a Mardi Gras ladder: These ladders are the perfect way to make sure that the tiny ones get a good view of whats going on. By law, ladders have to be as far back from the curb as they are high and an adult has to be standing on the ladder. Safety first, even during family Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
- Put identification information on your child: with the crowds swelling, it’s very possible that’s you could lose sight of each other.
- Most importantly, bring a big loot bag: Upwards of 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras beads and loot get tossed from the floats — makes for a lot of fabulous souvenirs from your Mardi Gras adventures.
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