As one of New Orlean’s most famed celebrations, Mardi Gras (AKA Fat Tuesday) dates back thousands of years to pagan spring and fertility rites. Also known as Carnival or Carnaval, it’s celebrated in many countries around the world on the day before the religious season of Lent begins. From tiny, plastic good luck charm babies hidden in King Cakes to beads, feathers and parades, the traditions surrounding Mardi Gras are rich with history. One of our dear friends and illuminators, Voodoo Queen Kalindah Laveaux, also offers a deeper understanding of the past and present importance of Creole culture.
Check out some Mardi Gras tips and personal favorites from John Price - fête pro, New Orleanian and Provenance VP of Operations:
1. The Festivities Begin: “Krewe of Forty Funny Fellows is my personal kick-off to Carnival. Everyone gathers around the streetcar barn on Willow St. in Carrollton to wave them off on their annual streetcar ride down St. Charles avenue announcing the start of the parade season for Carnival.”
2. On to the Next Krewe: “Krewe du Vieux rolls through the French Quarter and the Marigny in the evening, made up of timely, creative political satire - some of the most brilliant you’ll ever see. Pro Tip: Grab a drink to go, bars will be jam-packed.”
3. Daytime Parades: “I love watching the daytime parades like Krewe of Pontchartrain and Choctaw in Uptown, around St. Charles and Napoleon. Keep in mind parades roll downtown, but the uptown side of the street is open for pedestrians.”
4. Neighborhood Parades: Head to the French Quarter for the most loveable of all our parades, Krewe of Barkus, and wave in the costumed pups. Or head to the Garden District to catch King Arthur. One of my favorite parades, the Krewe of Muses, an all-women’s Krewe, throw fabulously decorated purses if you’re lucky enough to catch one.”
5. The Krewe of Endymion: “Most of New Orleans will head to The Krewe of Endymion, a true Super Krewe and one of the biggest and flashiest parades of the carnival season.”
6. Krewe of Bacchus: “One of the most exciting nights of Mardi Gras is the Krewe of Bacchus! I like watching it right near the hotel on Tchoupitoulas, as it passes right in front of The Old No. 77 Hotel. The Bacchagator and King Kong are iconic floats and the laser show are spectacular.”
7. Lundi Gras: “My absolute favorite night of carnival, bar none. I head Uptown to St. Charles and Napoleon to catch the Krewe of Proteus and Harry Connick Jr.’s Krewe of Orpheus. Proteus is the third oldest krewe in Mardi Gras, founded in 1882 and it is dazzling. Pro Tip: make your way to the neutral ground on Napoleon for these parades – the view down the avenue of the flambeaux, and the famous Smoky Mary train is pure New Orleans Mardi Gras magic.”
8. It’s Mardi Gras: “Prepare to get up really early to catch the Zulu Parade and their famed coconut throws. Then head over to the Rex Parade, which is the culmination of the big parades.”
Once you’ve fête-ed to your hearts content, come back home to the Old No. 77 Hotel for some comforting grub and refreshing cocktails from Compère Lapin before crashing onto your bed for a night of much needed rest and Mardi Gras dreams. And if you happen to need a little hair of the dog the next morning, the Bottomless Brunch Punch will fix you up in no time.