While we definitely recommend stretching out a New Orleans Mardi Gras experience over the course of a few days, we also know that rigid work or school schedules, financial constraints, and sold-out hotels can conspire to make that impossible for some travelers.
The good news is that you can still experience everything Mardi Gras has to offer in 24 hours or less if you stick to the following guide.
Breakfast of Kings: 7:00 AM
While we would normally send you to Cafe Du Monde for the quintessential New Orleans coffee and beignet experience, it’s Mardi Gras, so it’s time to get your hands on a King Cake at a local bakery for breakfast instead. This seasonal delicacy is buttery, flaky, and usually dusted with cinnamon before being slathered with decadent icing. King Cakes are also typically prepared with a plastic baby Jesus baked inside (an ode to the religious roots of Mardi Gras), with the person finding it being crowned ‘king’ or ‘queen’ for the day and then responsible for buying the next King Cake.
An Eye-Opening Experience: 9:00 AM
New Orleans is one of the most liberal places in the country when it comes to ‘walking while whetting your whistle’, with most bars in the city offering you a plastic cup, or go-cup, when you leave so you can take your drink with you. Since bars here open early (and many stay open 24/7), swing in one of your liking for a bloody mary or a bourbon milk punch, the city’s two favorite morning drinks. Make sure to get them to go, though, because you’ve got a parade to catch.
Parade All Day: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
They don’t call it the ‘Greatest Free Show on Earth’ for nothing. During the weekends leading up to Mardi Gras, the streets of New Orleans come alive with flamboyant parades. During Mardi Gras itself, it’s a safe bet you’ll be able to find a parade hitting the streets either Uptown or in a neighboring suburb around mid-morning. In fact, according to the official schedule, the day before Fat Tuesday is the only day without a daytime parade. Be sure to mingle with the crowd (because that’s what Mardi Gras is all about) and yell “throw me something mister!” at the passing floats for the best chance to have some beads or doubloons tossed your way.
Po Boy Pitstop: 2:00 PM
It’s time to fuel up for the long night ahead, and there’s nothing better for lunch in New Orleans than a po’ boy. These overstuffed sandwiches on French rolls have been a tradition here for over a century and come fully dressed with your choice of tasty toppings like fried shrimp, oysters, shrimp & oysters (dubbed the Peacemaker), roast beef, or ham.
Afternoon Masquerade: 3:00 PM
Shopping at the historic French Market is always a fun experience, but during Mardi Gras, they crank things up a notch. Paramount to this is the annual Mask Market, where you will find handmade Mardi Gras masks made by some of the country’s most accomplished artisans. You’ll fit right in wearing one where you’re headed next.
Have Yourself A Ball: 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM
While parades are the signature outdoor Mardi Gras event, the Mardi Gras balls that follow them are the must-do indoor event. Hosted by the same organizations that put on the parades, most of these shindigs are exclusive get-togethers, meaning you’ll have to be a member or be invited to attend. Some, though, like Zulu & Orpheus, are open to the public and are guaranteed to show you a real insight into the traditions of Mardi Gras and one heck of a good time.
‘Til The Break Of Dawn 11:00 PM – ??
Remember what we said about many bars in New Orleans being open 24/7? Well, it’s time to celebrate the fact that you made it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, even if it was just for one day. http://www.travelpulse.com/