How to Mardi Gras Like a Local

It happens to the best of us. Whether it’s your first Mardi Gras, or you’ve only experienced college style Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it’s easy to get sucked into the typical touristy activities that Mardi Gras is depicted as in popular culture. Before you know it, you’ll be stumbling down Bourbon Street in nothing but a purple, green and gold boa with a hand grenade chanting Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Believe us, we’ve been there done that, but we are here to stop you from that version of Mardi Gras this year. Because doing the “non-basic” Mardi Gras is just so much more satisfying.

Catch Smaller Walking Parades

The super krewes like Endymion and Bacchus are definitely not to be missed, but there are so many fun lesser-known walking parades where you can get a glimpse of magnificent handmade costumes and party alongside them sans barricades. Some of the best include the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, Krewe Boheme, the St. Anne Parade on Mardi Gras Day through the Marigny, and several all-female groups that promenade through the French Quarter the Friday before Mardi Gras wearing themed beaded corsets— including our personal favorite, Diva day. !!Come see us on Friday February 28th starting outside of Arnauds at 1:30PM !! (we’re not biased at all 😉)

diva day parade

Skip the Hurricanes

You won’t make it to day two if you start pounding these when you hit the parade route. Plus, let’s be real, it’s just not a good look. You’ll walk around with a red stained mouth like a little kid whose had too much kool-aid and wake up with a headache from hell from all of the sugar. Opt for beer or your normal drink of choice. If you’re in the mood to try something New Orleans’y,  go for a bloody mary, sazerac or a frozen Irish coffee, but not on repeat.

Eat Popeye’s and King Cake

Yes, king cake might be a pretty obvious tradition, but it’s all about where you get it from. We would never waste calories on a sub-par king cake. Check out some of our favorites here. Contrary to what people may think, New Orleanians do not walk around with a box of Popeye’s fried chicken (or dressed like it LOL) on a regular basis, but most of us make an exception during Mardi Gras to chow down on Popeye’s. It’s perfect to take along to the parade route for when you get hungry, and there’s just something about biting into a leg of Popeye’s spicy chicken with a biscuit and red beans that says Mardi Gras. It’s a must!

sucre king cake

Go to a Mardi Gras Ball

Going to a Mardi Gras Ball is a New Orleans right of passage. Unless you’re like New Orleans royalty, or have married into an insider family, chances are you’re not making it into any of the old school balls like Rex. However, the huge ones thrown by super krewes in places like the dome i.e. Endymion Extravaganza, aren’t that hard to get into. If you went to college here or have a friend who did, chances are someone will have a friend of a friend who can get you a ticket. You can also check Facebook and sites like Craigslist for tickets being sold. A lot of the balls that are less ball-gown and more costume like Moms Ball are open to the public and you just need to buy a ticket. These are the ones where you’re going to get really weird.

Costume like A Pro

The days of flashing your tatas Girls Gone Wild style are long gone, and weren’t really ever a thing for that matter. Instead, grab yourself a bright colored wig, metallic leggings, and anything with sequins and glitter! Some of our favorite local brands and shops for finding the perfect parade getups are Funky Monkey, Miss Claudia’s Costume Shop, Fringe & Co., and Schnell Studio. Local brand, Laya Active also has the cutest leggings that are perf for working out and costuming! You can even make your own Mardi-Bra 😉 Check our how-to here.

mardi gras new orleans

Meander from Uptown to Downtown

Many people hit Canal Street to watch a few parades and think they’ve done Mardi Gras, but it goes so much farther than that. You’ve got to experience it in every part of the city. We love Uptown Mardi gras’ing during the day. Walking down Saint Charles Avenue where locals have their ladders and full-fledged tents set up is something you won’t see downtown. It is family-friendly so be on {better} behavior. We love to start Uptown and Saint Charles and walk all the way down hitting bars as we go. If a parade rolls by, just post up on the sidewalk and catch some beads. If you want to plan ahead and make a day of it, hopefully someone in your krewe will be willing to get up early to stake out a spot.

Get Your Ass Up on Mardi Gras Day

We know, by the time Mardi Gras day hits, you personally feel like you have been hit by an 18 wheeler, but it’s time to rally because Mardi Gras day in New Orleans done right is truly one of the most unbelievable experiences you will have in your life. Costume up, and head down to the French Quarter and Marigny area for the final hoorah before Ash Wednesday.

Happy Mardi Gras!


mardi gras