Plan a Road Trip to Mardi Gras Parties and Parades

January 21, 2013 · 0 comments

in Best Road Trips, Road Trip Tips and Planning

Mardi Gras is Upon Us

February 12th 2013 is ‘Fat Tuesday’ or better known as Mardi Gras Day.

The season of Mardi Gras is upon us, so let’s plan a road trip to New Orleans, LA, which hosts Mardi Gras festivities and parades. New Orleans is such a popular destination and  streets are so crowded during Mardi Gras, you can relax without falling down!  The press of the crowd at one of the large parades is an experience similar to Times Square on New Years Eve. This year, the Super Bowl will be played in the Louisiana Super Dome, February 3rd, 2013. This should exponentially increase the crowds attending Carnival.

Mardi Gras Day is  February 12th, 2013, which is an early date for the celebration. Bakeries are baking King Cakes and people are getting into a festive mood. The phrase ‘festive mood’ is the best description of the anticipatory feeling describing lovers of Mardi Gras. To a true Mardi Gras lover it is like Christmas coming again, except you don’t give or get presents; you shout “Throw me something, Mister” and jump like crazy to catch beads. You can do things at a Mardi Gras parade that would make you look silly if you did them anywhere else. Let your hair down!

Mardi Gras in Mobile, AL

In the US there are two major cities which host Mardi Gras celebrations … Mobile, AL and New Orleans, LA. To be sure these are not the only cities which have an annual celebration of this raucous holiday, but they are unquestionably the two “Majors.” Even though Mobile and New Orleans are in the deep south, don’t bet on being able to go sleeveless. February turns out to be the coldest month in the deep south. Unless you love to say ‘brrrrrrrrrrrrrr’ it would be a good idea to take along at the very least a comfortable jacket.

These  two cities do much to promote these celebrations and to help you prepare for an excellent experience. The best place to find parade schedules is on special websites for this purpose. Other small towns have sites, but I’m going to let you look for those by the name of each town. To see a well prepared schedule click here for Mobile, AL Scheduled Parades including parade routes, click here for New Orleans, LA Scheduled Parades.

In New Orleans, which is not the oldest, but the largest Mardi Gras, celebration has already begun. The Krewe du Vieux launched its season, January 19th, along its French Quarter parade route. On Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day) there are seven huge parades. But if you love parades you can show up any time from now until midnight, February 12th, and you will find a parade somewhere every day of the week.

Parades will begin as early as Jan 25th in the Mobile Area. The number of parades and their frequency mounts until you reach Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras Day. Seven parades are scheduled for Fat Tuesday, in and around Mobile, AL

If you lean toward a New Orleans experience and have more than a day or two, take in some of the parades in nearby areas. Some of the small towns in southern LA, also put on fabulous parades. If you are in that area, you will hear news media hype about upcoming and recently held parades.

Mardi Gras parades and festivities are planned, promoted and paid for by “clubs” of Mardi Gras lovers, who call themselves KREWES. In locales where Mardi Gras celebrations are held, for the Krewes gathering to plan, promote and raise funds for floats … Mardi Gras has begun. Preparation meetings, fund raising events, gaining sponsors for floats, purchasing of materials to decorate floats have been underway for months. They are now checking supplies of ‘throws’ for the riders of the floats. The excitement is building to a fever pitch.

Most of the cities and towns along the Gulf Coast from Mobile, AL to New Orleans and beyond have annual Mardi Gras celebrations. Mobile, AL is the oldest parade, having begun their annual celebrations in 1703.

Massive Crowds in New Orleans, LA

Parades vary from small and ‘folksy’ to large and elaborate. The parades in New Orleans are probably the largest, most expensive and elaborate of all the festivals. But, the parades in New Orleans are not as family friendly as those in most other locales. These parades have been confiscated by attendees who prefer bizarre behavior and indecent attire. I would not take a family group with small children to any of the “Fat Tuesday” parades.

Years ago, I carried our family to many of the New Orleans, LA parades. Each year the crowds and the riders of floats have seemed to lean toward sexually suggestive, and sexually explicit actions, which I do not deem advisable for family attendance.

Mobile, on the other hand takes great effort and pride in offering a family oriented parade venue. While there are as many people consuming intoxicating beverages at the Mobile parades, they tend to be more respectful of the wishes of other parade goers.

Mobile is not a “Lone Ranger” of parades in south AL, there are numerous parades in towns on both sides of the bay. Some are daytime parades and permit you to attend more than one parade per day. Traffic is less of a problem in the Mobile area than in some other places.

Many of the parades in small towns are more popular among locals than are the parades in the large cities. The unfortunate fact is … the small towns cannot accommodate large crowds of visitors from outside their area. But if you are staying nearby, don’t miss the charm and excitement of a small town Mardi Gras parade.

Parade in Pass Christian, MS

On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the little parade in Pass Christian, MS is a favorite of many people. There is adequate room for viewers, and the atmosphere is a wild, wonderful outdoor party. Things are kept in control, not by law enforcement, but by the common decency of those attending. You are less likely to ‘make a fool of yourself’ when you realize you are surrounded by your neighbors. Here’s a link to MS Coast events … http://www.gulfcoast.org/visitors/events/mardigras/

The parade in Biloxi, MS is the largest on the coast and performs its circuit twice on Mardi Gras. One parade is performed in the morning, the other at night. Check with the city websites for times and schedules of parades. In fact, each city has a method of publishing their schedules on the web.

Mardi Gras and all its festivities end sharply at 12 Midnight on the evening of the festival. This begins the Catholic season of Lent. Wednesday is “Ash Wednesday”. On this day, good Catholics, go to confessional and are marked with soot on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. The sign shows they have ‘gone to church’ and are beginning a period of fasting in preparation for Easter, which will be in 40 days. I’m not a Catholic, so I miss out on this phase of the holiday.

The Paperwork

There’s another phase to Mardi Gras which is of utmost importance. As the old saying goes, “The job’s not finished until the paper-work is done.” Trash pickup begins in full earnest at Midnight. The cities measure the effectiveness of the years festival by weighing how many tons of trash is picked up along the parade routes in each city and in the French Quarter, in New Orleans.

Hope you get to enjoy one of the festivals. If the fear of crowds, or an objection to lewd behavior is a factor … pick out one of the smaller towns and “Let the good times roll.”

We avoid the trash pickup portion of this road trip. In fact, we leave town before the finale.

Mardi Gras can be fun, but if you are from out of town and can’t drive in and out the day of the parade, you will be in for a shock when you price rooms at the hotels. They book up quickly, and you may not be able to find a room unless you book in advance. At the time of this writing, you may have to book a hotel in a nearby city and drive into New Orleans for the carnival.

We are going to try to keep the wheels rolling on the old family sedan. Not sure where we’re heading next, but we will know when we get there. We don’t count the miles we just count the smiles.

Y’all try to keep it between the ditches or as my wife says, “stay in your lane.”

Bill Taylor

Author – “King of the Road Trip” available on Amazon as a Kindle book.

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