So we arrive at Mardi Gras, very probably the king of parades. There are many pretenders to the title of top Mardi Gras parade, with the gay and lesbian interpretation in Sydney a particular challenger, and St Louis having a pretty good crack at it too, but the reigning champion has to remain the New Orleans version, where Mardi Gras is simply ingrained in the local culture.
The name Mardi Gras is actually French, literally translated as Fat Tuesday, and derived from the tradition of clearing your larder of fatty foods (by eating them all!) prior to starting the fasting of lent, and this has created the reason behind Mardi Gras - basically one last big blowout before you have to get down to some serious abstinence. Now I'm not sure how much lenten observance has survived in the 21st century, but when it comes to the party preceding it, then pretty much everyone is still very much well on board!
In New Orleans this translates to a whole carnival season that lasts for weeks, before culminating in the main parade. Canal Street is the main focus of the parade itself, but for most people the main party takes place on Bourbon Street in the famous French Quarter, or Vieux Carre, where the most popular bars are located - names like The Old Absinthe House, Pat O'Brien's and Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop will be turning a roaring trade, while the traditional southern food and hospitality at the local restaurants are an absolute must.
I've never actually visited New Orleans, but it is absolutely at the top of my list of places to go, and if I could combine a visit with Mardi Gras then I'm sure it would be well worth the extra expense. For anyone who has been, I would really love to hear your stories, please use the comments section at the bottom of the page.
The New Orleans Mardi Gras is actually a whole season of parades in the weeks leading up to the main event, the Mardi Gras parade on Fat Tuesday, 17th February.
The schedule for the main Mardi Gras parades on carnival Monday
and Fat Tuesday are as follows:
Monday 16 February
Proteus, Uptown, 5:15pm
Orpheus, Uptown, 6pm
Cleopatra, Houma, 6:30pm
Tuesday 17 February
Zulu, Uptown, 8am
Rex, Uptown, 10am
Elks, Uptown, Follows
Crescent City, Uptown, Follows
Argus, Metairie, 10am
Elks Jeff, Metairie, Follows
Jefferson, Metairie, Follows
Covington Lions Club, Covington, 10am
Grela, Gretna, 11am
Houmas, Houma, 11am
Kajuns, Houma, Follows
Bonne Terre, Houma, 4pm
In recent years the online coverage of the Mardi Gras has improved beyond recognition, There are now live streams not just of the main parade day, but many of the other parades leading up to it. Local New Orleans TV station WWLTV in particular have extensive online coverage:
They are also now providing an excellent "Parade Tracker" mobile app which tracks the parades in New Orleans as well as Metairie, Northshore, Houma and Thibodaux, offering parade schedules and route information along with live GPS location data for the main parades:
There is also a live streaming "Parade Cam", allowing you to watch the events in real time
There are also many live webcam views that bring a unique view on many locations around New Orleans throughout the event:
Plus of course for that unique participant perspective there is a huge volume of user-generated videos available online, with more being added all the time:
If you're in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and looking for somewhere to stay to attend any of the parades or other events you can check out availability and make reservations for local hotels here.
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