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Top 39+ Tips to Survive Mardi Gras in New Orleans With or Without Parades

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Are you looking to spend a few days or the weekend celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans? Well, you are in luck.

Even though things might be changing, you can never squash the Mardi Gras spirit. New and old traditions are coming together, and you will be able to create wonderful purple, green, and gold memories.

After reading my Top Tips to Survive Mardi Gras with or without parades, you will be able to party Mardi Gras in New Orleans like a local successfully.

This post contains affiliate links, advertisements, and links to Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. To learn more, go to my Disclosure page. This post was originally published in 2018 and was recently updated.

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is a carnival held in many cities in the United States to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

It is also known as the Greatest Free Show on Earth.

Even though many of Mardi Gras’s images may not seem too Catholic friendly, Mardi Gras is the last celebration before Lent’s fasting season.

The Mardi Gras season begins on January 6, the Epiphany or Twelfth Night as known in New Orleans.

The legend has it that a local group of New Orleanians came together on January 6 and had a drunk king cake party.

The rest was history.

What is Twelfth Night?

Once the clock strikes 12:01 am on January 6 – you are more than welcome to wear purple, green, and gold, say “Happy Mardi Gras” to everyone, and best of all, eat a slice of your first king cake.

Honestly, January 6 is my favorite day of Carnival season because that means I can ruin my New Year’s diet with a delicious King Cake.

Twelfth Night is also known as All King’s Day to the Catholics because this is when the three kings traveled to Bethlehem and met Baby Jesus.

On this day, they brought Myrrh, an anointing oil, frankincense, a perfume, and gold – which what newborn doesn’t want gold?

It is the last day of the Christmas Holidays and the first day of Mardi Gras.

But when is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras changes every year, but it is technically always in Winter. The actual day depends on when Easter falls.

In Western Christianity, Easter Sunday falls on the next full moon after the Spring Equinox (March 20 or 21).

Ash Wednesday is 40 days and 40 nights, minus Sundays, before Easter. Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday.

This year, Easter is on April 4, 2021, while Mardi Gras falls on February 16, 2021. The short answer is – I google “Mardi Gras 20xx” each year to quickly find out the date.

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38 ways to survive mardi gras without parades

When should I visit for Mardi Gras?

Well, that answer depends on what you want to do.

Typically, I tell all travels and tourists to come the Friday before Mardi Gras through Ash Wednesday.

If you could swing a whole week, Thursday-Thursday would give you the full experience of attending some of the local parades, greasing of the poles, Mardi Gras Day, and finishing up with getting Ashes on Ash Wednesday.

A girl with brown hair, drinking tea, wearing a glitter lips shirt and a elephant nose

Where should I stay?

Where you want to stay depends on what you are looking for.

I typically parade Uptown, and even though there are not many mainstream hotels up there, you can stay at the Ponchatrain Hotel or the St Charles Coach house.

When one of my friends was in town, he stayed at the JW Marriot, and it was nice to be on the downtown route.

Mardi Gras 2021 Tips

Ok, let’s remove the elephant out of the room – Mardi Gras looks a little different in 2021.

In 2021, all of the parades and many of the festivities are canceled.

Mardi Gras at home can still be fun!

These tips will prepare you for what to do in 2021 and hopefully start new traditions with your family and friends.

Things to eat during Mardi Gras

Eating is a significant thing to do in New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras. Some shirts say King Cake Calories don’t count for a reason.

Look at the tips below to see some of the best things to eat this year.

1. King Cake Tasting

King Cake is a significant part of Mardi Gras, and this is the perfect time to buy a couple of king cakes.

With a new work from home life, I do not have any coworkers to share all my delicious King Cake findings.

Instead, one of my best friends and I are splitting each King Cake we want to try. This allows us to split the cost of the King Cake while also not wasting any king cake.

King Cake from a King Cake Party.

King Cake from a King Cake Party.

2. Drink and eat at Barcadia

Barcadia decorates its bar each year with the best Mardi Gras decorations.

They even have a specialized menu for cocktails and appetizers.

Plaid Shirt Yoga Pants at Mardi Gras

3. Try a Black-Owned Restaurant

Mardi Gras typically falls in February or early March, but since February is Black History Month, it is perfect for trying out a Black-Owned Restaurant or Bakery!

Black Owned restaurants in new orleans

4. Try Mardi Gras and King Cake Flavored Foods

If king cake wasn’t enough to get you excited about Mardi Gras, then king cake flavored and Mardi Gras inspired menus will get you excited.

There are many yummy desserts, from a doberge slice from Debbie on the Levee to king cake flavored beignets at the Vintage.

In fact, throughout the years, I have tried and tasted King Cake ice cream, donuts, pretzels, lattes, milkshakes, bread pudding, soda, and beer! King Cake treats can be hit or miss, so choose carefully – or try them all!

Reginelli's king cake bread pudding

5. King Cake and Mardi Gras Daiquiris

Daiquiris is synonymous with Mardi Gras; I never really drink them except during the carnival season.

A few different areas offer unique flavors during carnival, including the Gris Gris King Cake Daquiri, the Bourree King Cake Daiquiri ad the New Orleans Daquari Mardi Gras Mash.

6. Dine at Cochon Butcher

Mardi Gras is more than just New Orleans. There are carnivals worldwide, and Cochon Butcher is celebrating with menus around the world.

Mardi Gras at Home

You may want to stay at home during Mardi Gras, or you might live out of state and want to bring Mardi Gras to your house. These tips will help you Let the good times roll.

7. Decorate your house

One of the best ways to pass up seasonal affective is order is to decorate!

After taking down all of those Christmas and Winter decorations, the next best thing is to decorate with masks, beads, and everything purple, green, and gold.

8. Participate in Crafting

Now is the perfect time to get into crafting.

Maybe you want to take a stab at glittering your pair of shoes. Perhaps there is a fun craft you’ve wanted to do but never had the time to do it!

Just make sure your craft has purple, green, and gold – bam, it is a Mardi Gras Craft.

Mardi Gras decorations and crafting supplies

9. Create a shoebox float

If you are not from New Orleans or Louisiana, then you might not have heard about a shoebox float! In grammar school, each year we would take a shoebox and turn it into a float with arts and craft supplies.

Shoebox floats are a fun way to make your own Mardi Gras float at home. 

10. Enjoy a special Mardi Gras meal at home

Food is deeply engrained with Mardi Gras tradition.

One of my favorite memories from high school was diving into a 100 piece box of fried chicken.

For me, the perfect Mardi Gras menu includes fried chicken, jambalaya, red beans and rice, Zapp’s potato chips, and of course, king cake.

Each year my friends host a pig roast, but I’m not so sure my family of three could cook and dig into a whole pig!

Mallory judging at fried chicken fest

Doing what I do best – judging food and having a fun time!

11. Bake your own King Cake with a King Cake Kit

If running around and buying King Cake wasn’t fun enough, you can easily bake your king cake at home with a king cake kit from a Gracious Bakery!

12. Make King Cake inspired Jello Shots

Usually, for the parade route, I go all out and make hundreds of Jello shots. Jello shots tend to keep for a few weeks, but my favorite Jello shot uses King Cake Vodka, Gelatin, and Sugar.

If you are looking for more recipes, my go-to are Purple and Vodka, Lime and Soco (or tequila), and Pineapple and rum.

13. Mardi Gras Beers

Everyone has their to-go beer on the parade route, but this is the perfect time to try some Mardi Gras inspired beers. Many of the local breweries create specialty beers to celebrate Mardi Gras.

One of my favorites is a Tin Roof’s Parade Ground. 

14. Buzz Box Cocktails

No matter where you are located, these made in California cocktails are not too far away. You can drink traditional cocktails like a Classic Cosmo or a Whiskey Lemonade, but why not have a hurricane at your fingertips. 

Buzz Box cocktails at mardi gras hurricane

14. Watch a Mardi Gras documentary

Take this time to curl up on the couch and watch a documentary on Mardi Gras. If you do not want to rent something, you can always turn on WYES and see what documentary they have.

15 Check out the official Mardi Gras Broadcast

Yup, you heard me right! hosts an official Mardi Gras Broadcast this year to entertain you in your den!

16. Bacchus App

This year, Bacchus is going completely virtual! You can download the Throw Me Something Mister app, stream the parade on Bacchus Sunday and try to win some awesome throws!

Things to buy

Every so often, your Mardi Gras wardrobe needs a refresher, and this is the best time to do that! Whether you need new accessories, T-shirts, or a collared shirt, now is the best time to freshen up y.oh wardrobe.

17. Buy local or from a small business online.

Mardi Gras shirts are the best.

I adore the sayings and adorable shirts that everyone wears during Mardi Gras.

Purple, green, and gold is the way to go, but this super cute shirt on Etsy is my favorite.

You can also buy some super cute King Cake Earrings.

18. Buy a book on Mardi Gras

With so much to do during a regular season, make sure to slow down and buy a book on Mardi Gras – Seriously!

You can learn about the History of Mardi Gras; You can see Beautiful photos or learn more about New Orleans Cuisine.

19. Buy some Mardi Gras Art

If you want to buy a beautiful photograph for your living room, one of my favorite bloggers and Etsy shop owners are Julie Clements! She sells her photography on Etsy and has some really fabulous photos. My favorite photo of her’s is the Bead and Bob.

Bead and Bob by Julie

Mardi Gras Things to Do

Just because parades are canceled or rained out doesn’t mean that you cannot have a ton of fun celebrating!

These activities are great to do during Mardi Gras or any other trip to New Orleans.

20. Check out house floats around the city

New Orleans citizens always love decorating their houses.

But in 2021, with the lack of parades, many locals are decorating their house with the Krewe of house floats. In fact, over 3,000 house floats were decorated in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, and the United States.

Some locals are even hiring artists to decorate their entire house.

I hope that this becomes a tradition in the future! One of my favorite things is seeing all of the Christmas lights in the city, and these House Floats are amazing!
Mardi Gras house Float in New Orleans

21. Do a French Quarter Staycation

If you’ve been cooped up in the house like me, a staycation downtown might be just the thing for you.

You can easily explore the French Quarter and the Central Business District without having to drive.

22. Visit JAMNola

Have you heard of the newest, instagrammable museum in New Orleans? This place was made for a rainy day or anytime when parades are canceled.

To keep the museum as interactive as possible, they are introducing a few key Mardi Gras highlights.

Even without the unique additions, JamNola is full of Mardi Gras murals, rooms, and fun.

Visiting JAMNOLA costs $29 for adults, $20 for Children, Students, Seniors, Military, and first responders. Children 2 and under are free.

Use code PAY to save 10% through Feb 1, 2022.

Visit Jam Nola - Mallory with a crawfish boiling her alive

23. Visit Mardi Gras World

If the floats cannot come to you, you can go to the floats.

At Mardi Gras World, you can get up close and personal with some of the most famous Mardi Gras floats.

It costs $22 for adults, $17 for Military, Students, and Seniors, and $14 for children to view the floats. You can also visit if you purchase the New Orleans Flex Pass.

24. Visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is a permanent exhibit that displays the historic and beautiful costumes of the Mardi Gras Indians.

Exploring this museum helps support the rich African American culture within New Orleans.

This historical collection is $12 (cash only) to view and is well worth the experience.

25. Zulu Mardi Gras Costume Display

Every year at Lakeside Mall in Metairie, you can view the Zulu Mardi Gras Costume in the main shopping area! 

Take this time to step away from the cold or a parade free day to check out these beautiful costumes from one of the most historic Mardi Gras floats.

26. Arnaud’s Mardi Gras Museum

Arnaud’s Mardi Gras Museum brings together more than 13 queen costumes.

This priceless collection is free for the public to view during restaurant hours. If you want to see more Free and Cheap Things to do in New Orleans check out this post!

27. Ride a streetcar in your Purple, Green, and Gold

Just because no one is throwing beads and there isn’t a crowd doesn’t mean you can’t make your parade!

Put on your purple, green, and gold and wave to any passer-byers on St Charles. You will feel like you are in your parade!

28.Floats in the Oaks

An age-old tradition New Orleans is visiting Celebration in the Oaks during the Christmas Season! In 2021, also known as the year with no parades. City Park was able to pull together a new concept for family and Mardi Gras Lovers to drive through the park and view floats that they would enjoy.

29. Get a cute mask or a cute face mask!

Masks have always been a part of Mardi Gras. Now is the perfect time to invest in a purple, green, and gold cute face mask.

Plaid Shirt Yoga Pants at wearing a Mardi Gras Mask.jpg

When the Parades Return

One day soon, parades will return to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and you need to be prepared for that!

Surviving Mardi Gras is all about what you are wearing, eating, and of course, surviving.

What to wear – Mardi Gras Clothing

30. Wear Purple, Green, and Gold

I typically wear my vintage purple, green, and gold collard shirt (my mother’s from the 80s) during the season.

You can purchase a polo from Etsy either in short sleeves or long sleeves!

31. Leave your beads at home

But whatever you do, do not wear beads to the parade route. I repeat, do not show up with beads.

You will catch so many beads at the parade that showing up with your own will let everyone know you are a tourist.

32. Costumes are encouraged

Yes! Another day of the year you can wear costumes.

I am a purist and only wear costumes on actual Fat Tuesday. But costumes have been increasingly creeping into the other parade days.

33. Headpieces for the win

If you are not a costume person – why not make a super awesome headpiece?

You can DIY a headpiece or find one on Etsy!

34. Be prepared for all types of weather

Parades roll all day, all weekend long.

So make sure you wear layers for cooler afternoons.

Hopefully, we will be blessed with perfect weather, but this is a Mardi Gras survival guide so that it may rain.

Have a rain jacket for any nasty weather. And keep shorts on your for those sometimes hot Mardi Gras Days.

Rainboots are a must for those sloppy, rainy days.

35. Wear Comfy Shoes

Oh, you thought since you were going to your friend’s house with an excellent spot on the parade route, you were not going to walk?

Walking is a significant part of Mardi Gras.

Walking to get drinks. Walking to the restroom. Walking to get more pizza.

Comfortable shoes are a must because you will be hanging out on the parade route for quite a few hours.

Mallory and Sis wearing purple green and gold.

Purple Green and Gold is the way to go during Mardi Gras!


36. Fried Chicken

What? Haven’t you had Fried Chicken in New Orleans yet?

Well, that is just a shame.

Eating Fried Chicken during Mardi Gras is one of my favorite past times.

I can easily remember Mardi Gras 2003, hanging out with my high school friends, and they pulled up with a box of 100 pieces of spicy chicken.

It was a glorious moment.

37. King Cake

Every time someone has king cake, eat it.

Mardi Gras is your time to try every bakery, grocery store, and homemade king cake you can find.

My favorite is a cream cheese from Haydel’s or the Ponchatoula king cake from Maurice’s French Pastries.

You get double points if you can get a slice of the coveted Dong Phuong Bakery.

Small plastic baby in a King Cake.

What happens when you get the plastic baby in a King Cake?

38 Buy enough Drinks to Share

I drink one of three things on the parade routes – 190 Octane daiquiris, beer, or Jello Shots.

Mardi Gras is free for all, so if you think you will sip on a six-pack all day long, buy two!

That way, there is enough for you and enough to go around. Besides, no one likes a guest who doesn’t bring something for the host!

I typically sip on sparkling wine and Jello Shots as my to-go beverages, but check out some of these classic New Orleans Cocktails.

A fridge full of Jello Shots

Jello shots are my drinks of choice for Mardi Gras.



Charge your phone, Charge your external charger, Charge your charger. Well, you can’t charge a charger, but you get it.

Cell service gets pretty spotty around the parade route, and it will cause a drain on your battery.

You want to make sure your phone is still holding a charge at the end of the Night.


Parade tracking technology has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years.

If you are in the Central Business District, you can see what is happening Uptown and preventing the parade from making its way downtown.

Parades are usually delayed or breakdown halfway through, so you need to know when you have a good break coming up.

Using this technology when you are away from the parade route ensures that you do not miss any part of the parade while eating Popeyes and King Cake.


Just in case you get separated from your friends, download the Find My Friend App and enable it.

Having this app on your phone and ensuring that it is working correctly will help you wander from St Charles to Bourbon Street and back.

Mardi Gras Find your Friends app success.

Using the Find My Friend app while at Mardi Gras is a sure way to find your friends – and cousins!



Make sure you figure out your bathroom situation as soon as possible.

I typically hang out on St Charles and Napoleon, where I can quickly run back to my friend’s house to use the bathroom.

Before my friend lived on that corner, I had to find alternate plans – through Porta-Potties and Church bathrooms.

My favorite place to use the restroom is at the local churches.

Usually, for the low rate of $5 a day, you can use a clean restroom (or Port-a-potty) with complimentary hand sanitizer.


Even though we live in a world where Credit is King, it is easier to have cash.

With spotty wifi and cell service, some street vendors won’t run their credit card machines.

Also, some bars run a strict cash-only business during Mardi Gras.

Bring some cash in different denominations with you so you can ensure you have enough money on hand to pay for your goodies.


Probably the most important tip on this list DON’T drink and drive.

There will be plenty of drunks and over the limit people on the road, so it’s better not to drink and drive.

I typically leave my car at my friend’s house or in the neighborhood if I’ve drunk too much and use Uber, Lyft, or the local taxi.

Now, Uber sends out a comprehensive guide on how to take a ride-sharing app during Mardi Gras, so make sure to read it. Be prepared to pay for surge pricing if using a ride-sharing app.

If you haven’t signed up for Uber or Lyft please look, at those services and use my coupon code to save.


Mardi Gras truly is a family-friendly holiday. At the beginning of the parade, you will see that the areas are more family-friendly.

The closer to Canal Street, the later the parade will arrive, and the less family-friendly the area gets.

I hope that this guide will help you plan your best Mardi Gras with or without parades.

Need a place to stay in New Orleans?

There are so many great places to stay while visiting New Orleans.  Here are some of our favorites:

Omni Royal Orleans – In the heart of the French Quarter, you barely have to think twice about transportation because everything is within walking distance.

The Eliza Jane – If you are looking for modern suites and an easy way to be in the middle of downtown, the Eliza Jane is my favorite hotel.

The Pontchartrain Hotel – Right on St Charles, the Pontchartrain Hotel keeps you out of downtown but still close to all of the action. With beautiful rooms, delicious dining, and a rooftop bar, you may nerver want to leave.

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