Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Every February, people around the world gather to celebrate Mardi Gras
A tradition of parades, masks, beads, dancing, and of course drinking. With celebrations all over the world, the headquarters for this “holiday” is in New Orleans, Louisiana. The week long event builds in size and celebration each day before ending on Fat Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday).
While a junior in college at the University of Tennessee, a friend and I decided that we wanted to go experience this mayhem. We wanted to fly, and did so out of Nashville instead of Knoxville as it was much cheaper.
Although many people book hotel rooms months, even a year in advance for this event, we had the luxury of staying with my cousin who attended Loyola University at the time. Loyola, which is right across the street from Tulane University, is located in Mid-Town also known as The Garden District. This area is about 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans and is often considered much nicer and cleaner.
The Local’s Mardi Gras
As guests of my cousin, we let her call all of the shots. The first night we arrived she took us to parades and parties near Loyola. All of the parades during Mardi Gras start in Mid-Town and end downtown on Bourbon Street. Our first night, we watched two parades from Mid-Town (the famous street is St. Charles). People line up and down the street on both sides about 5-8 deep and begin collecting all the things that the floats throw out. At this part of town, there are fraternity gatherings with kegs to families with children watching. During the parades in Mid-Town, we were able to collect a huge array of beads, specialty beads, stuffed animals, cups, cozies, and several other collectibles. After the parades, we went to several college bars in this part of town. Two of the bars we visited were Miss Mae’s and F&M’s. Both of these bars had very cheap drinks ($1.50 liquor drinks, $1.00 beers) and stayed open ALL night.
As a student living in the town, my cousin explained to us that people from New Orleans don’t actually go down to Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras – it is just too crazy and crowded. Obviously, coming from Tennessee we were not going to let this discourage us. The second night of our trip, we went down to Bourbon Street without my cousin and her friends. The experience was unreal. The crowds were five times the size as the Garden District and the streets were packed. You could barley catch anything from the parades unless you were front row.
Bars and Restaurants line the street with several floors of balconies above overlooking. We visited Tropical Isle and got the staple “hurricane” drink, Pat O’s (Pat O’Brien’s), and many other overly packed bars. The atmosphere is very wild and loud. Everywhere you look there are crowds of people doing something. The type of people you see down on Bourbon Street cover the entire spectrum; from old to too young, from redneck to professional, and from sober to black out drink – you WILL see it all on Bourbon Street.
I must offer a few recommendations if you plan to travel to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. First, plan early. If you need a hotel room or place to stay, find one the year before. Second, expect the get separated from your group on Bourbon Street. The streets and bars are so overly crowded that even with only two people, we got separated and lost from each other several times. Third, plan to spend a lot of money. Everything from food to drinks to cabs cost probably double of what you are used to paying. And last, allow your self to let loose, have a good time and stay out late, cause if there is one place where you don’t sleep, it’s New Orleans. And I will say, I recommend everyone experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans atleast once in their life!
By Nathan M