My February trip for my New Year’s Resolution was a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with one of my best friends from high school and a bunch of other stellar ladies. When I was booking the trip, I did not think twice. Visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras is a bucket list-esque trip. But then as we got closer I started to worry (as I do). Was I too old to survive Mardi Gras? I know. 25 is not nearly old. And, in fact, I was 24 for another week or so at the time. But if you’ve missed all the Buzzfeed articles talking about how millennial these days embrace Grandma-status…that is typically me to a T. How was I going to keep up with these wonderfully sassy ladies from New York City?
As it turns out, I was just fine. But I definitely collected some tips to survive Mardi Gras for all of the other 20-something-year-old grandmas and grandpas out there.
Tips to Survive Mardi Gras
How to Get to Mardi Gras
As of 2016, DO NOT COUNT ON UBER from the airport. Unless your theoretical retirement is treating you well, grandma/pa, you’re going to be paying an arm and a leg for that ride into the city. It was a combination surge pricing, as well as Uber is actually not allowed to be at MSY (Louis Armstrong Airport). So prices are through the roof. I used the hotel shuttle and it was a pretty good deal. I’m sure it’s worth an inquiry to see if the shuttle goes near where you are staying, even if you’re at an AirBnB. A taxi is another option, but I wouldn’t want to pay for that trip solo. But I’m a grad school budgeted grandma, so take it or leave it.
Know the Parade Routes
The thing about Mardi Gras is that it is definitely NOT just celebrated on Tuesday. From the moment I got there on Saturday, we always had to be aware of where the parades were. They make crossing the streets quite difficult, in fact. There’s a whole app dedicated to parade routes, so it is a great idea to have that on your phone. It’s…app-tly…named Mardi Gras Parade tracker.
The other tip I have for you is to befriend the police officers. They will be able to tell you exactly where you can actually cross the street, as well as sometimes help you across. So actually talk to them! Oh. And keep an eye out for flying grabs off of the floats! They can really smack ya in the head if you aren’t paying attention.
What to Wear for Mardi Gras
I’ll be the first to tell you that I wasn’t the most brilliant packer for this excursion, just because I had no idea what to actually wear. Here’s the thing, guys, you can literally wear ANYTHING. So wear what makes you comfortable. I’d probably recommend some flat shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Even if you’re not on Bourbon street, the ground can be a little grimy. So don’t bust out your best kicks for the occasion, unless you know you’ll be able to get them cleaned! And don’t even bother with necklaces or scarves. Those beads are the only accessory you’ll need.
If you’re paranoid at all about things getting stolen, totally embrace the cross body purse or money belt. I actually just tucked my phone, my license, and a card in my Spibelt and wore it under my shirt. Runner hacking for the win!
Don’t Get Hangry on Fat Tuesday
You and I both know that millennial grandmas and grandpas use the word “hangry” like it is going out of style. The thing about Mardi Gras is that everybody that lives and works in New Orleans wants to celebrate too, so a lot of food establishments are closed on Tuesday. Prepare for this by stopping at a grocery store earlier in the weekend to stock up on some goodies. This also applies to alcohol, unless you don’t mind waiting in long lines and/or drinking sugared up New Orleans drinks. You can have an open container in New Orleans, so stock up on alcohol too! A coffee cocktail might be the perfect way to start your Mardi Gras. Just bring your own mug and make your drink in the morning.
Oh, but do also try the hurricanes.
Do Crowds Give You Headaches?
Good news! I think we bopped around the city a fair bit during the weekend, and as long as you avoid Bourbon street you’ll avoid the crazy crowds for the most part. In fact, Monday morning I went on a run to the Garden District and it was an absolute pleasure. Magazine Street Uptown is so full of fun shops and restaurants and they were NOT accompanied by bunches and bunches of people. I highly recommend it. In fact, it makes up some of my favorite time of my trip. Frenchmen Street also seemed significantly less crowded, so that might be a spot to hit up too!
The Flashing Question
Yes, this really does happen. But no, you do not need to flash anybody to get beads. Trust me! I got quite a haul with no such activities. But I can tell you that you definitely get better beads when you do. I’m here to say, though, maybe Tuesday night isn’t the best time to do this. Why? Because Bourbon street is LINED with men. And some of these men have stalker-level cameras just waiting for a girl to even THINK about trying for a nice set of beads. If you’re okay with this, totally go for it! Otherwise, I’d stick to other days in the weekend.
Ending Your Mardi Gras
Do you like to turn in early? I am so there with you. The brilliant thing about Mardi Gras is that it actually ends on Tuesday. It’s actually super cool to see. Once 12:00am Wednesday hits, police officers on horses take to Bourbon Street to shut it down. So you’ll be snug as a bug in a rug in no time.
On the other nights, just be safe getting back to wherever you’re staying if you leave your group early. I was totally fine but I still had my wits about me, if you catch my drift. Don’t depend on Uber either, unless you want to spend a bazillion dollars.
With all of those things in mind, I have to say that I didn’t just survive Mardi Gras weekend…I thrived Mardi Gras weekend. It is so fun to see everybody celebrating together. And you definitely have the chance to get some sightseeing in too!
- Have you been to Mardi Gras or another celebration like it? Would you be able to survive Mardi Gras happily?