It is not commonly celebrated here in the Golden Triangle, but Mardi Gras is fast approaching and falls on March 4 this year.
If you choose to make the pilgrimage to New Orleans for the event, your experience can be improved greatly with some planning and a few tips.
1. Know where the parade routes are. Route maps can usually be found in local newspapers and magazines, as well as other information that can make your parade experience much smoother and a lot more fun.
2. Once you are at the parade route, claim a spot and stay there. It will be very crowded. Try to find a thinner spot in the crowd and set up there. People can sometimes be pushy and defensive of their spots along the route, so be careful. Also, it is worth noting that some people stake out their spots before the parade, and you may want to go this route, particularly with the larger, more well-known parades.
3. Come prepared. Step ladders to stand on are a good idea, especially if there are children or shorter adults in the group. An ice chest filled with refreshments of some kind is also a good idea, as lines for restaurants along the route can be very long. Don’t forget about finding the public bathroom nearest your spot either, as most businesses along parade routes only allow paying customers to use their bathrooms.
4. If you have friends or family in New Orleans, see if you can stay with them. This can be a godsend. You will save money and possibly have a much better parade experience. Residents of the city will often have spots along the route that they have been watching parades from for years, and they would be happy to have you join them. Also, it is not unheard of for them to know someone who lives along the route and has a party on parade day. In the best of cases this can score you a spot, free food and a bathroom.
5. Be safe and smart. Respect the police’s authority. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Stay well clear of the floats and other parade vehicles. Stay near the people you are with, and make sure that you have a means of contacting them should you get separated. Generally, just use common sense.
These are just a few suggestions that I have from my years of attending Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Go ahead and go sometime, you won’t regret it. More information can be found at http://www.nola.com/mardigras/.