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Top 6 Tips for Attending a Mardi Gras Parade

Mardi Gras season is the time leading up to the day of Mardi Gras. Various cities and towns (New Orleans, Mobile, Key West) hold Mardi Gras parades, most of which are (honestly!) family friendly. Here are my Top 6 tips to help the entire family have a safe and enjoyable Mardi Gras parade experience.

Pack the Snacks – There are some restaurants that are open on Mardi Gras Day, but do you really want to try and brave it with kids? They get whiny when tired and hungry, and let’s face it, catching all those throws is a tiring experience. Bring along a small ice chest filled with drinks and snacks for the entire family. Tip: My family is partial to rolling ice chests, because not only are they easier to maneuver, but at least two behinds can use it as a bench while waiting. I recommend these rolling ice chests.

Prepare for the Weather – Pack the sunscreen. It might be February, but in the Southern regions the sun can shine brightly like a warm spring day. Skin that hasn’t seen the sun for a while can turn red as a freshly boiled crawfish while waiting for the parades. Also, one can’t always predict a rain shower, so bringing along a few rain ponchos is a good idea. I wouldn’t recommend an umbrella, because it can be cumbersome in the crowds with your hands full. Tip: A disposable poncho can easily fit in your pocket.

Talk Safety – Arrive early so that your family can beat the larger crowds. I write my cell phone number on my children’s arms in permanent marker. Yes, permanent marker. What if it rains? You don’t want the number to wash away. Also, have a designated location in case the family is separated, and point out police officers to your children so they know to go to law enforcement in case they forget your designated spot. Tip: Be sure to discuss the rules of Mardi Gras and float safety. Each year, injuries occur from children running around near the floats while they pass by. Don’t ever let them get too close.

Stay on the Parade Route – Usually designated parade routes are the safest place for a family to be. If you wander off the regular route, your family just might encounter a few things that aren’t meant for little eyes to see. Tip: Check with your local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to find the family-friendly parade routes. New Orleans French Quarter and Canal Street is no place for kids during Mardi Gras and should be avoided during Carnival season.

Sport some Mardi Gras Fashion – This is a fun time for everyone, so let the kids dress up in costumes. Be sure everyone wears comfortable shoes (preferably waterproof) because there will be lots of walking. Masks can be worn, however they might obstruct your vision or that of your child’s, so don’t wear them until you reach your place on the route. Face painting is acceptable and also popular. Layer clothing as the weather in the southern US is unpredictable.

Share the Mardi Gras Story – Be sure to teach your children about the history of Mardi Gras and how the Carnival Season came to be. It is actually a religious time of indulgence before the Catholic period of Lent. Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday and there is a meaning behind each aspect of the festival. There is history behind the colors, the meaning of a Kings Cake, doubloons, throws, and the costumes. Tip: Be sure to carry heavy duty bags to bring home all those throws.

Mardi Gras is a time for fun and enjoyment, but even experienced parade-goers can benefit from these Top Tips. No matter if you are in New Orleans or Mobile, have a great time and make some fun family memories!

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  1. I’m always extremely jealous of places where they celebrate Mardi Gras. In England, we make pancakes! Sad, or what?

  2. I think Mardi Gras must be celebrated differently in your part of the world. Where I’m from (Sydney), it’s a huge gay and lesbian pride event. Children do go and it’s broadcast on national TV but all the same, it sounds like a different style of event to what you’re describing here.

    We also make pancakes – I like pancakes though.

  3. There are parades that are hosted by the Gay and Lesbian community, and Key West (along with NOLA, of course) probably have the largest G&L events each year in the US. The costumes are gorgeous, but mostly too risque for little ones.

    Most of the day parades are family-friendly and families should stay out of the French Quarter (esp Bourbon Street) during Mardi Gras.

    It is a state holiday in Louisiana and school kids get a 4 day weekend. Families can check local parade schedules to get a good idea of which ones are best for their family.

  4. Ya’ll are totally forgetting Cajun country! Understandably, everyone associates New Orleans with Mardi Gras, but the rest of south Louisiana celebrates too. Lafayette also has an excellent Mardi Gras, and its ALOT more family-friendly than New Orleans. New Orleans is very fun, but is very crowded (and when I mean crowded, I mean absolutely packed). I highly recommend Lafayette Mardi Gras. Lots of people, but at least some room to breathe. Show up on the parade route early, and you can actually find spots to put down a couple of chairs, which is impossible in NO. Also, why not try out the rural Cajun Mardi Gras? It doesn’t have parades but instead you go on a sort-of trail ride through the country… and chase chickens and such. Look it up. Its kind of hard to explain but its definatly family-friendly.

  5. Mardi Gras has spoiled me for all other parades. They just aren’t as exciting as a Mardi Gras parade. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to make a trip to a family parade during Mardi Gras. She’s 4.5 now so I’m thinking in a year or two we’ll take a trip to New Orleans for some family fun parade time! Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!


  6. Arrive early, bring a ladder for the kids. Elbow anyone who tries to stand in front of you. Bring a large piece of luggage to carry away your loot.

  7. I agree with Elspeth, there are a lot of rural celebrations all over the south that are great for families and just as much fun in their own way.

    Also, the parades start on Feb 14, so you can also go early and avoid some of the worst, (or miss the best, depending on your pov), debauchery.

  8. my partner and i have an almost 6 year old boy and this year will be our 3 trip with him a long with our aunt. we all have a blast. it is as family friendly as you want it to be. the quarter is lot of fun and the costumes are great. i agree bourbon street is not for the little ones, but other streets are fun. your tips are great. we did get separated once and our son went straight to a police officer and waited. pointed the police out early and often worked.

  9. some more great family parades are.

    orpheus in mandeville
    the rotary club of hammond
    and the parade in bogalusa.

  10. The history of the Mardi Gras mask dates back to the 18th century, according to Zatarain’s website. The purpose was for all groups of society to hide their identities while attending events, so that the working class could enter VIP events and not be turned away.

  11. Fantastic post, I am a big fan of mardi gras so its nice to read this post. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

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