Most people around the nation consume fatty baked goods on the day known as "Mardi Gras," which means "Fat Tuesday" in French. It's a cultural time of year that marks the eve of the Lenten season, which is often accompanied by fasting. Yet, while many are content to visit their local bakery for a calorie-rich treat, others want to mark the occasion with much more of a celebration. People in the latter category often choose to come here to New Orleans, Louisiana - joining thousands of other like-minded folk - for the city's annual wild Mardi Gras celebration.
Mardi Gras takes place on February 17 in 2015, and will be marked in New Orleans with a traditional parade, and plenty of partying. Yes, Mardi Gras has been synonymous with New Orleans since 1837 - and attending the annual festivities at least once is usually on the top of many "bucket lists." But with an event that's so popular, it's needless to say that proper planning is a must for a successful adventure, especially if you want to stay in the French Quarter or Bourbon Street, where all the action happens. With that being said, here's a Mardi Gras planning guide.
Mardi Gras Planning 101
- Immediately: Make hotel reservations now! Most hotels in the French Quarter book up during December, so start making your travel plans now. It's also worth nothing that most hotels will require a four to five day minimum night stay around Mardi Gras, so don't think you'll be able to swoop into town for a night or two.
- December into January: Get to know the parade route and the rules and regulations associated with the parade. The city prohibits the likes of ladders, grills, and coolers along the parade route. You also can't claim territory along the route via chairs, tables, etc. Knowing the rules well in advance helps with planning.
- January - plan your transportation: It's an absolute zoo in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, so make sure you know how you're getting into town and then getting to the parade for the Fat Tuesday festivities. Print off a map of the French Quarter and know where you can and cannot park, the parade route and how early you should arrive. Consider also checking with the hotel to see if any transportation is provided as a courtesy to guests. (Tip: If you can, consider bringing a bike - it's a lot easier riding than driving during Mardi Gras.)
- February 17: As a final planning note, it's important to arrive to the festivities early, as in at least four hours before they begin. Check the weather to know what to wear and then get ready for a party like you've never been a part of before!
Mardi Gras is a celebration unlike any other - but a failure to properly plan can turn an otherwise fun time into a logistical nightmare. So start planning today for fun on February 17.