Your Guide To Not Sucking At Mardi Gras

Your Guide To Not Sucking At Mardi Gras

In a little less than three weeks, the biggest drinking weekend of all will descend upon New Orleans (get out of here, Mobile). But contrary to popular belief, it’s not all boobs and beads. As a four year Mardi Gras veteran, I am here to give you rookies the 411 and to make sure you don’t end up sleeping in a gutter on Bourbon Street.

But first… what is Mardi Gras?

“Mardi Gras” literally means Fat Tuesday in French. It goes back to Christian tradition and signifies the end of Carnival season (no, not szn you idiots) before Lent begins. Carnival season starts in the middle of January and is a gradual build up to Mardi Gras. The parades (yes, the parades) get crazier and crazier leading up to it.

Mardi Gras weekend starts that Thursday night and goes all the way until early Tuesday morning. Listen to me now: you will sleep all day on Tuesday. The city is closed. Nothing is open. Did you hear me? You will (maybe) make it to the parades early in the morning after Tequila Sunrise and then PTFO. Mardi Gras Day is not the crazy day.

This brings me to my next point…

It is a marathon, not a sprint. You will hear this again. I don’t care if you think you can drink Lindsay Lohan under the table, you need to pace yourself. Don’t go so hard Thursday night that you’re already riding the struggle bus come Saturday morning. And no matter how much you drink…

Do not pee in the street. You will get pregnant and die. Kidding about the first part, definitely not kidding about the second. Seriously, you can get arrested and you’ll spend the rest of the weekend in lockup. Now I don’t know if you’ve heard, but New Orleans’ jails aren’t really the place to be right now. Just don’t do it.

Remember that part where I said Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition? Well, it dates all the way back to the 1800s. If there’s one thing you need to know about New Orleans, it’s that we love our traditions. Mardi Gras is traditionally a big family event, especially in the Uptown area. Note how I said Mardi Gras and not “Mardi Pardi.” I throw up in my mouth a little every time I hear someone say that. You will see lots of kids at the parades with their families having the time of their lives. A lot of these families have been going to those parade spots for years and years so be mindful of that. Whatever you do, don’t be an idiot.

By now you’re probably wondering, “what are all these parades that this random girl on the Internet keeps talking about? I thought Mardi Gras was just on Bourbon Street.” Well, as they say in the south, bless your heart. I’m from the north, so I’ll just tell you flat-out: no. Mardi Gras celebrations take over the entire city of New Orleans, not just Bourbon Street – that’s where the tourists go. The parades (and Mardi Gras balls and galas) are run by “Krewes,” and they are basically long-standing social clubs. These floats literally take over a year to make and are always incredible. A lot of them are also pretty funny and have a lot of satirical messages, so pay attention. Some of the most well-known are Muses, Endymion, Rex, and Zulu. The krewes will throw “throws” a.k.a beads and toys to everyone and of course you want to get as much free shit as you can. Beware of old southern ladies who will fight to the death over a Muses shoe. You can also track the parades through the handy dandy parade tracker app. It’s also not a bad idea to have a designated meet-up spot in case you lose your “krewe” (see what I did there?). Yes, it’s 2016, but cell service is pretty bad along the parade route.

Ladies: please, for the love of God and all that is holy, do not show your boobs. Not on Bourbon Street, not on St. Charles, not anywhere in the city. It’s not cool, and we both know you have more self-respect than that. Guys: shut up.

More pro tips:
∙ Bring a fanny pack or a drawstring backpack. You’re not going to want to be waltzing around in a Balenciaga. Your shoes are going to get gross, your clothes are going to get gross, you are going to get gross, it’s all good. Purell is your friend.
∙ The cab situation in New Orleans regularly is pretty abominable, and it only gets worse during Mardi Gras. Don’t rely on cabs for everything. Plan ahead of time how you’re getting around. U-hauls count.
∙ On that note, be prepared to walk. A lot. Like, from uptown to downtown or vice versa. Having comfortable shoes is a necessity and a half.
∙ Get into the costume spirit; and by that I mean, get weird. Like, really weird. New Orleanians preach letting your freak flag fly all year ’round, but especially during Mardi Gras. You can do better than colorful American Apparel leggings.
∙ Yes, New Orleans is very chill about drinking; they’re not so chill about other things. Just be smart.
∙ You will go through periods of eating everything in sight (hi, Superior Grill) to not eating anything for hours. Stock up on good snacks, preferably ones that you can take with you to the parades. If someone offers you food, eat it. Po boys are a staple of New Orleans cuisine and perfect parade food. Get involved with that.
∙ You would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t go hit up New Orleans’ absolutely amazing music scene during Mardi Gras; don’t camp out at Pat O’s for 4 days. Go check out Galactic, The Revivalists, or just wander around Frenchmen Street at any given time of day. It’s magical.

TL;DR: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t pee in the street. Don’t be an idiot. Go listen to some good music. Have the time of your lives, and laissez les bon temps rouler.

Image via Dana Ward /

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