By Logan Derrick
While Mardi Gras takes place every year towards the end of February, the festivities for people in New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana start as early as January. Whether you recently moved to the area or you are planning to visit during this time of the year, there are a few things you should plan to experience.
Food to Try during Mardi Gras
Places around the south are often recognized for their unique and enticing cuisine. From spicy dishes to delicious seafood, make sure you add at least a few of these items to your list of things to try.
Usually taking place at the peak of crawfish season, Mardi Gras is the perfect time to attend your first boil. These fun events happen everywhere from city restaurants to local neighborhood parks. Don’t miss out on your chance to taste these little “mudbugs” and see what they’re all about.
A French tradition that has been around since the 12th century, King Cake has long been a part of Mardi Gras festivities. After they are made, a small plastic infant representing baby Jesus is placed somewhere inside the cake for someone to find. Whoever ends up finding it in their slice of cake is believed to be blessed with good luck for the next year.
Made with a dark roux base, gumbo is a Creole stew that is often considered the state food of Louisiana. The most popular ingredients include chicken, sausage, shellfish, okra, and what is called the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables, which includes bell peppers, celery, and onions. Many other items can be added depending on the flavors you want and it is normally poured over a bowl of white rice then garnished with green onions.
Other Great Cajun Dishes
The list can go on and on, but a few other Mardi Gras foods worth a try include:
- Red beans and rice
- Dirty rice
- Shrimp and grits
2. What Are Krewes?
As you wander around New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, you’ll likely see and hear about krewes. These social organizations plan out many of the festivities that occur during this time of year such as parades, celebrations, and parties. They create extravagant floats and masks that are worn by members throughout the events.
Some of the most popular krewes you’ll see in the parades are:
- Krewe of Bacchus
- Krewe of Endymion
- Krewe of Zulu
- Krewe of Rex
- Mardi Gras Indians
During the parades, these krewes will conduct fun interactions lovingly called “throws”. Individuals on the floats and members who are walking beside them will pass out trinkets, small souvenirs, and other adornments. These include fun items like krewe branded medallions, cups, and the ever-popular Mardi Gras beads.
Most of these items feature the standard Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green, which represent justice, faith, and power.
3. Best Places to Watch Mardi Gras Parades
Although you’ll be able to see parades both big and small pretty much all over New Orleans, there are a few places to consider planting a spot depending on the experience you want to have.
Along historic Canal Street, parades have been hosted since Mardi Gras first made its way to New Orleans back in the 1800s. Although it tends to be one of the busiest parts of town during this time of year, this is where you can see some of the most authentic aspects of this exciting holiday.
St. Charles Avenue
Surrounded by French-style mansions found in between downtown and the New Orleans Garden District, St. Charles Avenue is one of the most beautiful places to see at any time of year. Crossroads at Napoleon Avenue, Lafayette Square, and others offer great views of local parades and access to some great nearby restaurants.
If you want to catch the popular Muses Parade, this is the place to be. Find a spot around Windsor Court Hotel off of Tchoupitoulas Street and catch all the “throws” you can to build your collection of Mardi Gras souvenirs.
Enjoy Mardi Gras!
With so many places to go and so many things to see during this exciting time of year, make sure you experience as much of it as you can. Try some of the scrumptious local food, always have a drink in your hand, and don’t miss out on the parades.
Happy Mardi Gras!