For the Love of Mardi Gras
Friday, March 01, 2019
By Kelly L. Sherlock
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I have had many conversations recently with some of my destination brides about the thoughts and comments of their guests coming here for their weddings. Most of these guests traveling to New Orleans weddings have never been here and only have the media and throwbacks of MTV’s Real World episodes to dictate the New Orleans traditions, expectations and etiquette! Oh, and now we have Southern Charm New Orleans - another horrifying example of what New Orleans is NOT.  Since the locals know that the seven sheltered strangers from farm land picked to live in a New Orleans mansion are not true representations of what this city is about, I thought I would dedicate this week’s entry to such a topic. And what better event to exemplify the true local’s spirit than Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras is one of the most significant things related to New Orleans, especially when thought of by someone who is not from here; well, Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. And if you use the television as your reference, the two go hand in hand, along with a lot of alcohol, nudity and the occasional spicy food. Every local knows that the biggest problem with Mardi Gras and Bourbon street being thought of together is that Mardi Gras actually does not happen on Bourbon Street. It is true that many people party there after the parades, although most of the people on Bourbon are tourists since most of the locals are on the balconies above! Regardless, the reality is that New Orleans has a lot to offer off of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras has everything to offer nowhere near it.

I’d like to squash a few other stereotypes and put some local rules to the Mardi Gras season so that when you visit, it is not completely obvious that you are a tourist.

  1. DO NOT flash, especially for beads – this is definitely something that someone from out of town started and everyone who ever visited followed suit – locals do not do this.
  2. Do not show up five minutes before a parade and stand in front of the crowds of people who slept on the route the night before in order to conserve their spot – you will get your ass kicked and if you don’t, you should. Save your own spot or stand in the back.
  3. Do not throw beads at the floats as they pass. The idea is for the riders to throw to us and because of that they are not expecting to have something throw at them. You will not look cool or funny, but you will look like an idiot who does not get out much.
  4. Do not follow the float down the street, unless you know someone riding on that float. There will be another float right behind the one that just passed. Wait patiently and get out of the street.
  5. Do not fight a child for a pair of beads; actually, do not fight anyone. Beads cost nickels and dimes and are essentially worth nothing.
  6. Pace yourself with the drinking. On Mardi Gras day and the weekend before, most people are out on the route for hours before the parade even starts. In order to make it through the whole day (and the whole season) – pace yourself. Do drink water and eat when you can!
  7. Do not wear flip flops if you are planning to go to Bourbon Street (that is just a rule no matter when you are here).

Now, for your survival kit – pack a backpack and include the following:

  1. A roll of toilet paper
  2. Antibacterial hand sanitizer
  3. Crackers, a sandwich or some kind of snack if you are not packing a full lunch
  4. A koozie in case you switch to beer
  5. A few plastic cups in case you, or a friend, need to make a drink on the route
  6. A bottle or two of water – stay hydrated
  7. Extra of whatever alcohol or beer you are drinking – tip – if you do not want to drag a cooler around all day, wrap your beer can in foil and then put it in a zip lock bag with some ice. This will keep your beer cold if you do not want to drag an ice chest around all day! Also, to conserve space, put your alcohol in empty water bottles.

No matter what, when you come to New Orleans, you will have a blast and if you stick with some of the local traditions and etiquette, it will be even better! The Saturday before Mardi Gras, go to Orleans Avenue and spend the day people watching and cooking out before Endymion. On that Sunday, watch Thoth on Magazine Street and then walk up to St. Charles Avenue to catch Bacchus. If live music is your thing, head to Spanish Plaza on Lundi Gras for an outdoor concert and to see Rex arrive and enjoy a huge crowd of locals and the beautiful city setting. Even in Metairie, parades are rolling every night, so if a family atmosphere and smaller crowds are more your speed, that’s the place for you.

Take advantage of everything New Orleans and Mardi Gras has to offer and then you can head to Bourbon Street, if you so desire!

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