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Mardi Gras in New Orleans

by Heather Reynolds

New Orleans has everything you need for a quick getaway in February. From restaurants to tours, bars and activities, there is plenty to do this month…but probably the most notable attraction this month in the Crescent City is MARDI GRAS DAY!! No one does Carnival like New Orleans. Beginning on January 6th (Twelfth Night), the city is obsessed with eating, costuming, bead-tossing and parading. A month or so of parties named for just one day…Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday, the last day before Lent.

This year, Mardi Gras Day falls on February 25th. The celebration dates all the way back to 1699 when Louisiana was founded by explorer Pierre Le Moyne D’Iberville and the city hasn’t stopped partying since. Mardi Gras Day marks the final day of Carnival Season. Always the day before Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday is a one of a kind experience that embodies the New Orleans culture. Zulu, one of the most-loved parading krewes, is the first parade of the day and they are known for their highly sought-after coconuts – or “golden nuggets”. Following Zulu is Rex, one of the oldest parading krewes. The leader “Rex” acts as the king of all of Carnival. This krewe started the tradition of purple, green and gold, the official colors of Mardi Gras and a “throw” from their float is one of the most coveted.

Like most everything else in New Orleans, February weather can be unpredictable. Hot, cold, rainy, dry…layers will be your best friend. Best practice is to keep a light jacket that can be easily stowed away or tied around your waist in case the weather turns. Also a must is to wear comfortable shoes that you won’t mind getting a little dirty. You will find most people wearing festive yellow, green and purple clothing, and many will take advantage of the opportunity to get into costume! Whatever you decide to wear, just make sure you grab a king cake and a pound or two of crawfish, because they go hand in hand with Mardi Gras!

A few favorite places we found to stay in New Orleans…the Royal Sonesta is party-centric and Bourbon Street’s swankiest hotel. Request a balcony room to hear the live jazz music and watch the eclectic parades of people that go by at all hours! Or try a coveted Bourbon balcony room at the Sheraton – located on the site of the historic Old French Opera. Today’s young opera singers often perform in the lobby bar if you want a different kind of entertainment. Or, if you want to escape the revelry and actually get some sleep, try the Saint – a sleek hotel located on the board of the French Quarter and the Central Business District. It boasts a roof-top bar with expansive city views and the sexy Burgundy Bar with live music. Wherever you decide to stay, walking or biking will be your best bet for getting around.

While anytime throughout the Mardi Gras season is fun to be in New Orleans…the biggest celebrations and the larger krewes (parades) begin to roll the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday. And in case you didn’t already know it, Mardi Gras is a FREE EVENT! No tickets are needed to view the parades. However, balls are invitation only or ticketed. Truly a citywide celebration, you’ll find everything from quirky, satirical floats to the North Side Skull and Bones Gang! There’s truly something for everyone!

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