Mardi Gras in New Orleans – History, Facts and Tips

How does one even attempt to explain Mardi Gras in New Orleans to someone who has never had the privilege of attending?  There is so much history behind the centuries-old celebration and so many activities surrounding the time known as Carnival, where does one begin?

Perhaps there is no way to explain Mardi Gras – you must experience it!

The season of Mardi Gras begins several weeks before Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras Day, which in 2012 is on February 21st.  Mardi Gras is celebrated not only in the French Quarter, but in other areas of the New Orleans, Metairie and surrounding area, as well.  One of the best places for families to enjoy the parades is in Uptown New Orleans.  Streetcars along St. Charles Avenue cease running and the streets are filled with families.

Travelers wishing to experience Mardi Gras in a calmer atmosphere than on Mardi Gras day, and perhaps want to “tip-toe” into this whole business about Mardi Gras, may consider a stay in New Orleans and surrounding area on one of the weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday.

Whether on Mardi Gras Day or sooner, for a comfortable home-type atmosphere, a direct contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, consider choosing a bed and breakfast in the area of activity you are interested in.  The Schedule of Parades, which begin rolling on February 5th, is listed on the website of the Official Tourism Site of the City of New Orleans.  The Louisiana Bed and Breakfast website offers a listing of bed and breakfast inns all over the state where the season of Mardi Gras can be enjoyed.  Each has its own unique celebration and flavor.

Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast, is located on beautiful, tree-lined Saint Charles Avenue on the Uptown New Orleans parade route.  Guests need only to step outside the door to witness the parades and all the action.  No need to drive and get stuck in traffic.  Enjoy a nice continental breakfast plus in the dining room and then just walk out the front door and enjoy the parade.

On your way to and from New Orleans, consider staying at The Caldwell House Bed and Breakfast  in Abbeville.  Abbeville is located only 3 hours from New Orleans, in Vermilion Parish which is considered to be “The Most Cajun Place on Earth“.  Before or after experiencing the revelry of New Orleans Mardi Gras, spend some quiet time in Cajun country.  To book online, go to or call 337-281-0807.

In addition to providing comfortable lodging, innkeepers can give information not only about Mardi Gras parades and celebrations in the area, but will give you information about other things to do while visiting the area.

Here are some tips and facts to help you get the most enjoyment out of your stay during the Mardi Gras season and prepare you for what you will find when you arrive:

  • Expect that room rates will reflect the demand, but the entertainment value is over the top!
  • Expect a minimum stay requirement, often times 4 or 5 nights.
  • Find a B&B or lodging choice located on the parade route. You will want to be close to a bathroom since there are none on the street and the parades last all day.
  • Do not expect restaurants to be open all the time. Mardi Gras Day is like Christmas Day and many eateries are closed.
  • Bring warm clothing for the cold, light clothing for the heat, and rain gear.  The weather in Louisiana in the winter can swing from mild to cold every few days.  Parades roll even in bad weather.
  • Street cars in New Orleans will not be operating during parade times (and sometimes do not run at all over the busy parade days).
  • There are no float parades in the French Quarter. The streets are too narrow.
  • Most of the “raucous behavior” happens in the French Quarter; the parades in the neighborhoods are family friendly.
  • Travelers should arrive before 4 pm on Friday of Mardi Gras weekend (Feb. 17) and depart on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22)
  • The French Quarter is closed down at midnight on Fat Tuesday as the season of Lent begins.

Get your costumes ready – you’re going to have the experience of a lifetime!

Happy Mardi Gras!


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