A Family Style New Orleans Mardi Gras: The real meaning of Carnival
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Favorite ParadesDozens of parades begin on the weekends a good two to three weeks before Mardi Gras. But that's just a warm up for the huge four-day weekend of non-stop parades day and night. St. Charles Avenue and Napoleon Avenue are packed with families, folding chairs, tables covered with food and of course bead bags.
From personal experience, the Sunday before Mardi Gras gets my vote for the "best show" in a day long extravaganza of spectacular parades and throws. Catch four parades along the Napoleon and St. Charles route with the Krewe of Isis, a smaller female organization but very enthusiastic.
Next Mid-City, known for their spectacular lineup of marching bands, then Thoth, a very large and generous group of men who love to throw stuffed animals and special beads. And one of the most prestigious parades in New Orleans, Bacchus rolls after dark with super floats and premier bands from Louisiana and across the country.
Take the Kids Exploring for Lundi GrasThe next day, the Monday before Carnival, is known as Lundi Gras. Grab the kids for a fun-filled day packed with education. Head downtown near the Mississippi River and start with the Audubon Insectarium on Canal Street, then a block away, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
Just steps away at the Riverfront, it's the Lundi Gras Festival welcoming the King of Rex and Zulu along with a full schedule of events including food, fireworks, live music and a children's stage. That night is the celebrated parade, Orpheus; name after the God of Music and formed by New Orleans own Harry Connick, Jr.
Mardi Gras DayOn Mardi Gras day, things start very early with Zulu hitting the streets at 8 a.m., then Rex, and hours of what locals call truck parades. Families join Carnival Krewes and build their own floats on 18-wheeler beds pulled by tractors. Each truck has a theme and its own unique costumes, a colorful sight with entire families from grandparents to little ones throwing beads and trinkets to the throngs of people.
Grab those costumes and spend several days discovering not only the carnival culture but also the family side of New Orleans. And don't be shy, make friends with your neutral ground neighbors and get tips from those veteran parade-going families.
If You GoThe Mardi Gras season begins early January with parades ramping up weeks before Mardi Gras day which takes place on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Remember to get to the parade site early or send a couple of people from your group to stake a piece of real estate. Carpooling is a must as parking is a premium on side streets. Pack up the wagon, rolling ice chest, camp chairs, blankets, extra clothes, and plenty of bags for the beads and trinkets.
For a complete schedule, parade routes and checklist for those planning a New Orleans Mardi Gras family trip. Visit New Orleans Marketing Group - Family Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras for the PoochDon't miss the Barkus (pooch) Parade when Krewe of Barkus invites families and their dogs to line the parade route along French Quarter Streets. Costumed dogs walk or ride in decorated wagons and grocery carts while their handlers throw beads and follow the jazzy beat of five brass bands. The pre-parade pawty held at Armstrong Park is open free to the public and filled with a woof-fest of pooches from bossy bulldogs to prissy poodles. Check their website for date, time, and location.
Mardi Gras MuseumsDon't miss Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World and,in Jackson Square check out two floors of Mardi Gras history at the State Museum inside the Presbytere.
New Orleans Mardi Gras HotelsPart of the New Orleans Hotel Collection group, both the Dauphine Orleans and Bourbon Orleans Hotel offer complimentary welcome beverage at their bar, admission to Mardi Gras World plus shuttle transport, and Beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde.
At the NOPSI Hotel,indulge yourself with one of the best rooftop bars in the city, NOPSI is one of the more recent historic renovations featuring a Mardi Gras special
The historic Jung Hotel & Residences just opened for 2018 and is ready to party. One of the French Quarter's finest hotels and a favorite of locals and their families, the Omni Royal Orleans is the perfect location. Reserve one of the Royal Street balcony rooms and toast your favorite libation to serenading musicians with world-famous bars and restaurants outside your door.
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Deborah (Deb) Burst is a born storyteller, an author, and an award winning writer/photographer. A Navy brat, she built snowmen in our nation's capital, sandcastles in the pink sands of Bermuda, and continues her wanderlust for new lands across the globe. A romantic and a love for train travel; she pens a poetic journey exploring the forgotten landscapes across the states and beyond. In her 15-year career as a freelance writer she has published more than 1,000 articles and three times as many photographs including national covers. She has written five books in five years featuring trails of historic churches, cemeteries and magical forests. Photo galleries and signed books available on her website, DeborahBurst.com
All photos courtesy of Deborah Burst