Are you ready to put on some glitter and let the good times roll? If so, a family trip to Mardi Gras may be just right for you!
While Mardi Gras itself is a single day (the date changes, but it’s always the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday), Carnival season—when parades start rolling and King Cake becomes a food group—begins each year on January 6, aka Epiphany. During the season, you can celebrate and go to parades in different places across the south (Mobile, Alabama comes to mind). However, the biggest parades roll through during the two weekends leading up to and including Mardi Gras day in the Big Easy herself, New Orleans.
Bringing the Family to Mardi Gras
While typically thought of as a grown-up adventure, visiting New Orleans can be fun for all ages. The food, music, and excitement can all add up to make lasting memories. But as with most things, you need to prepare. If you’re thinking about taking your krewe and doing the Mardi Gras Mambo down in New Orleans, here are a few tips to get you started:
What to Pack for Mardi Gras
Dress your kids and yourself for comfort before cute, especially when it comes to shoes. Between the walking, the muck, and the almost-100% guarantee that you’ll have your foot stepped on, this is a trip where you’ll want to wear closed-toe shoes. Also, assume at some point there will be rain. And because it’s spring, temperatures are usually warming up but check ahead for random cold spells!
For moms, you’ll want to leave your big purse at home. By the end of the day, you’ll have enough to carry and keep track of, so opt for either a small cross-body bag or even a fanny pack. And for those of you that just cringed at the idea of waring a fanny pack? Know that they are so cute and trendy right now! Stay on brand with this Mardi Gras-themed one from Fleurty Girl.
Pick Your Mardi Gras Parades
When planning your trip, you’ll want to first take a look at the Mardi Gras parade routes and schedules.
The Mardi Gras New Orleans website gives you the best overall picture of when and where particular parades will roll. Most of the popular parades, like Orpheus and Rex, go through Uptown New Orleans.
When picking which parades you want to see with your family, keep in mind that most “super krewes” (big parades like Endymion with celebrity riders) are fun for all, but things can get a little risqué. Generally speaking, if you’re going with kids, you don’t need to go to the French Quarter. However, if you’re looking for parades that are specifically family-oriented, you may want to check out ones in the surrounding areas, like Krewe of Argus in Metairie.
Find a Good Spot on the Parade Route
Where you’re staying will help determine where you’re going to watch the parades. If you stay in Uptown, you can easily walk to a parade route. From a local: “[The intersection of] St. Charles and Napoleon is a good point of reference for parade watching because the Academy of the Sacred Heart Dads’ Club has porta-potties you can pay to use.”
If you’re staying elsewhere in the area, plan to get to the route a few hours before the parade starts to find a spot. Much like tailgating, people arrive early to set up and party. Many experienced revelers even set up ladders (as area restrictions allow). If you don’t have a clear spot, be prepared for your kids sit on your shoulders so they can see and catch throws (the beads and prizes thrown from floats).
On the day of, be sure to stay on top of any route changes. The best source for up-to-date parade information will be from local news channels and their apps. In New Orleans, a popular one is the WDSU Parade Tracker.
What to Bring to the Mardi Gras Parades
- Sturdy throw bags. Beads can get very heavy around little necks, so you’ll need a place for kids to carry all of their catches. You’ll also need a bag for each child because one of the worst things to happen is a favorite bead being accidentally given to a sibling (insert mom eyeroll here).
- A wagon (if you can). Wagons are perfect for carrying small children, full throw bags, and boxes of fried chicken.
- Ear protection. The bands and the music will have you literally dancing in the streets but can be hard for those with sensitive ears.
- Cash makes things easier when grabbing food or to-go cups from vendors.
- Hand sanitizer and wipes. COVID or not, porta-potties are inevitable during Mardi Gras.
Safety Tips for Kids on Mardi Gras Parade Routes
NEVER let your kids run between or stand too close to floats. In all of the excitement, kids may want to run out and grab a prized throw off the street, or the crowds may start pushing if a float stops near you. Remind your kids that while colorful and fun, floats are essentially large, heavy vehicles and should be respected appropriately.
Also, if your kid tends to get lost, be sure to designate a meeting spot. You may even want to write the meeting spot and your phone number on their arm with a marker.
Finally, if you do make your way to down to the French Quarter and someone bets you money that they can guess where you got your shoes? Know that you’ve got your shoes on your feet on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana.