Mardi Gras – The Etiquette – The Alcohol – The Survival Kit

It’s that time of year again!  Parties, parades, friends, family, crawfish, crowds, cocktails, cocktails, oh good Lord all of the cocktails.  It’s Mardi Gras and I know we are all ready for it!

Each year, locals pull out the ladders, the ice chests, the NOLA t-shirts, the koozies and bagged chairs and we head on out to Metairie or Uptown (whichever your preference might be) with the hope of catching some unique throws and making more Mardi Gras memories.  We spend the first weekend getting back into the swing of it all and spend the work week in between doing mediocre work while chatting with our co-workers (or anyone who will listen) about where we are standing for Nyx and Muses and where we’ll be dropped off for Endymion and Bacchus.  We head out on Endymion Saturday and barely make it to Lundi Gras before realizing that we have two more days of parties so perhaps a sober day wouldn’t be a bad idea.

It’s a cycle of 2 weeks (give or take a day here and there) where we wake up thinking about when we are going out to the route and we go to bed wondering if you can actually drink another day, deal with the children another day or fight the traffic another day.  We can – always!  So we get back up and head out to the route again.  We love it and why shouldn’t we?

While drinking is a big part of Mardi Gras, every local and tourist alike should know that it is not all about the cocktails.  What it IS all about is having fun with family and friends, and complete strangers that inevitably end up becoming our best friends for life!  So watch yourself and be respectful.  There are children in the area!  As a matter of fact, there are families all over St. Charles Avenue, and Veterans too.  So many sites to see and so many fun people dancing and celebrating waiting for parades to start.

It is suggested that Mardi Gras consists of nothing more than beads and booze, but the only thing you see more than that is FOOD!  Fried chicken, crawfish, sandwiches, BBQ, any snack you could ever want, king cake, donuts…. you name it, someone has it and they will probably share.  And if they don’t, then you know they aren’t from New Orleans!  There are so many ways to spot a tourist.  Do you want to know a few ways to recognize a non-New Orleanian?  Here’s a list of misconceptions so you don’t look so out of place and desperate while visiting our wonderful city!

  1. We DO NOT flash, especially for beads – this is definitely something that someone from out of town started and everyone who ever visited followed suit – locals do not do this.
  2. We Do not show up five minutes before a parade and stand in front of the crowds of people who slept on the route the night before in order to reserve their spot – you will get your ass kicked and if you don’t, you should. Save your own spot or stand in the back.  And if you are a local and you’re doing this – leave the city immediately!!!
  3. We Do not throw beads at the floats as they pass. The idea is for the riders to throw to us and because of that they are not expecting to have something throw at them. You will not look cool or funny, but you will look like an idiot who does not get out much and who’s parents obviously failed!
  4. We Do not follow the float down the street, unless we know someone riding on that float. There will be another float right behind the one that just passed. Wait patiently and get out of the street.
  5. We Do not fight a child for a pair of beads; actually, do not fight anyone. Beads cost nickels and dimes – essentially worth nothing. Although fun to have, catching beads is not a life-or-death situation; there’s plenty for everyone.
  6. If the person standing next to you at a parade is calling out the name of someone on a float, help them to get the person’s attention. And if they are struggling to catch everything that person is throwing to them, help them out and give them the “goods.” In most cases, the person will reward you with something from their throws, but either way, at least you were a good person and helped them out!
  7. Locals are well-versed at drinking.  We had whiskey in our bottles as infants (another rumor that is untrue.)  But still, Do not try to keep up with us.  Pace yourself. The weekend leading up to Mardi Gras day/day of, most are out on the route for hours before the parade even starts. In order to make it through the whole day (and the whole season) WE pace ourselves. Do drink water and eat when you can!
  8. We Do not wear flip flops if you are planning to go to Bourbon Street (this is just a rule no matter when you are here).

Looking for more local tips?  Here is your survival kit – pack a backpack and include the following:

  1. A roll of toilet paper – bathrooms on the parade routes are hard to find, so be prepared;
  2. Antibacterial hand sanitizer or wet wipes
  3. Crackers, a sandwich or some kind of snack if you are not packing a full lunch;
  4. A koozie in case you switch to beer;
  5. A few plastic cups in case you or a friend need to make a drink on the route;
  6. A bottle or two of water – stay hydrated;
  7. A sweatshirt – you never know what the weather will be like, but 9 times out of 10, Mardi Gras weather is warm during the day and cooler as the sun goes down; be prepared;
  8. Extra of whatever alcohol or beer you are drinking. Tip: if you do not want to drag a cooler around all day, wrap your beer cans in foil and then put it in a ziploc bag with some ice. This will keep your beer cold and allow you to put them right into your backpack, rather than having to hassle with an ice chest. Shout out to my father who did this every year for Bacchus Bash! Also, to conserve space, put your alcohol in empty water bottles.

No matter what, when you come to New Orleans, you will have a blast. And, if you stick with some of the local traditions and etiquette, it will be even better! The Saturday prior to Mardi Gras, go to Orleans Avenue and spend the day people watching and cooking out before Endymion. On the Sunday prior, watch Thoth on Magazine Street and then walk up to St. Charles Avenue to catch Bacchus. If live music is your thing, go hear some of the best cover bands New Orleans has to offer at Generations Hall in the Warehouse District before watching Bacchus, which rolls right down the street. Head to Spanish Plaza on Lundi Gras for an outdoor concert and to see Rex arrive, and enjoy a huge crowd of locals and the beautiful city setting. Even in Metairie (right outside of the city), parades are rolling every night; so, if a family atmosphere and smaller crowds are more your speed, then that’s the place for you.

Take advantage of everything New Orleans and Mardi Gras has to offer, not the limited resources that we are rumored to offer.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint so calm down with the drinking.  And it’s truly a season and celebration of family, so remember that when you and your college buddies think about being punks in the middle of a crowd 20 people deep!  Don’t be THAT GUY – New Orleanians hate THAT GUY!!

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