Mardi Gras Frequently Asked Questions
Although many people around the world have heard of Mardi Gras, there are many questions that surround the event for people who do not live in New Orleans. Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions about Mardi Gras. Still have questions? Contact us and we'll be sure to answer you as soon as possible.
1. How does Mardi Gras benefit the New Orleans economy?
2. How is the City government involved?
3. Are Carnival and Mardi Gras the same thing?
4. Why does Mardi Gras fall on different dates each year?
5. When was the first Mardi Gras?
6. What is the significance of the Mardi Gras colors, and where did they come from?
7. Why are masks worn?
8. How is a king chosen?
9. What are Mardi Gras Balls?
10. How long have "throws" been around?
11. Can I bring my kids to Mardi Gras?
12. How can I get tickets for the parade reviewing stands on St. Charles Avenue?
13. Is there an "Official" Mardi Gras?
14. How can I find out what this year's Mardi Gras theme will be?
15. How much does it cost to go to Mardi Gras?
16. Who organizes and pays for Mardi Gras?
17. Which site was responsible for broadcasting the first Mardi Gras LIVE on the Internet?
18. Do I need to buy Mardi Gras beads and merchandise before my visit?
19. What is the weather usually like during Mardi Gras? What should I pack?
20. I only have limited time. What is the prime time to visit during Mardi Gras?
21. What are the best ways to get around New Orleans once I've arrived?
22. When does Mardi Gras start and end?
23. What happens if there is bad weather?
24. When and where do the Mardi Gras Indians parade?
A: Economic impact reports indicate that Mardi Gras generates over $1 billion in annual spending.
A: City governments are not involved in coordinating Mardi Gras parades. The governments issue parade permits, but that is the extent of their involvement. Krewes independently schedule and coordinate their own parades.
A: Don't confuse Carnival and Mardi Gras! Carnival refers to the period of feasting and fun which always begins on January 6th, The Feast of the Epiphany. Mardi Gras refers to Fat Tuesday, the final day of revelry before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
A: The date of Mardi Gras changes every year because it's connected to Easter, which can fall on any Sunday between March 23 and April 25. Mardi Gras is scheduled to be 47 days before Easter.
A: The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans on February 24, 1857 by the Krewe of Comus. They began the tradition of presenting a parade with floats and following it with a ball for the krewe and their guests.
A: Rex, the King of Carnival, selected the Mardi Gras colors and assigned meaning to them in 1892. Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.
A: By law, float riders must always have a mask on. On Fat Tuesday, masking is legal for everyone else, and the elaborate masks that some wear add to the fun.
A: The method of selecting a king varies from krewe to krewe. Some krewes hold random drawings, while others invite a celebrity guest to be their king. Rex, the King of Carnival, is chosen by the School of Design, who sponsors the Rex parade. His identity is revealed the day before the parade.
A: Balls are private affairs thrown by the krewes for members and invited guests and require formal dress (tuxedos and ball gowns.) They are typically held in the Municipal Auditorium or in hotel ballrooms. Some of the larger krewes, however, have started to hold bigger extravaganzas at the Convention Center and the Superdome.
A: The tradition of float riders throwing trinkets to the crowds began in the 1870s, and still continues today. Typical throws include beads, cups, doubloons, and stuffed animal.
A: By all means, yes! Mardi Gras is a family celebration. Those of us who grew up in New Orleans felt guilty once our children had grown and we continued going to every parade ... we used to use "taking the children" as our excuse! Bring big bags (even those large garbage bags!) to hold all of the stuff they will catch .. including toys, stuffed animals, beads and more.
The only place you should avoid with kids is the French Quarter (where no parades pass anyway), although we recommend seeing the parade near its beginnings on St. Charles Avenue near Napoleon. (Parades can last until 11:00 pm near the end of the route.) The garden district area of St. Charles is a family area where you will see many families staking out their positions throughout the season, having picnics, playing ball, and having fun under the beautiful oak trees! You don't have to worry about the streetcars, as they stop running in this area during Mardi Gras.
You may also want to consider taking your kids to the parades in the suburban areas such as Metairie, only 10 minutes away from New Orleans. Metairie's Caesar parade, the Saturday before Mardi Gras weekend, is the parade Disneyworld features on Mardi Gras day -- the kids would love it!
A: For grand stand tickets, go to neworleansparadetickets.com. Be sure to bring a bag to store all the beads, trinkets, coconuts and doubloons you’ll catch right off the floats, as the parades roll just a few feet in front of you. No better way to enjoy Mardi Gras in comfort and convenience – right on St. Charles Avenue! Private access to portable restrooms and plenty of food and beverage is available in the immediate area!
A: No!! Mardi Gras is a holiday, just like Christmas and Easter. It belongs to everyone! Do not believe the claims of businesses who offer "official" Mardi Gras merchandise or an "official" Mardi Gras" web site. Using the term is just a way for them to sell their products or services to those who do not know. Products or web sites are not licensed by the government for Mardi Gras .. each individual parade krewe is responsible for all of its merchandise. (In some parts of the country, official organizations control their Mardi Gras celebration; but this is not true in New Orleans.)
A: There is no official Mardi Gras theme since there is no official Mardi Gras. However, each parade krewe decides upon its own theme each year which can be kept secret until the parade. Their costumes, floats, some of their throws, and their "official" Mardi Gras poster (if they have one) reflect this theme. After 911, patriotic themes were popular.
Most of the krewes are named after figures from Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology; some are named after the neighborhood where they parade.
A: It's free! Not only that, but you'll come back home with bags of Mardi Gras beads and throws. That's why we call it the "Greatest Free Show on Earth!"
A: Mardi Gras parade krewes are private non-profit organizations whose members get together year round to plan their parade's theme, costumes, and unique throws. Each Carnival Club, as they are known, is individually funded by its members. They support their krewe through dues, sales of krewe-related merchandise to their members, and fundraising. Mardi Gras parade krewes may not have corporate sponsors.
The city of New Orleans is not involved in coordinating Mardi Gras parades -- their only involvement is to issue parade permits to each individual Mardi Gras krewe who schedules and coordinates their own parades.
A: MardiGrasNewOrleans.com organized and presented the first live Mardi Gras in 1995 and continued sharing this with our visitors for several years with companies such as Microsoft and REAL Media. The live events showcased on MardiGrasNewOrleans.com have been covered in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, TImes PIcayune, Morning Advocate, San Diego Union Tribune, Texas Monthly, and the Discovery Channel among others .. and include radio interviews with local and British stations.
The first year, we presented the Orpheuscapade ... and soon offered live chats with celebrities, interviews with costumed revelers on the streets, and video from atop hotels in our garden district. (Our ISP the first year shared our live feed with the other Mardi Gras site they hosted the first year; this site now claims to have presented the first live event.)
A: Unless you are going to be a rider on a float, no. If you plan to watch the parades during Mardi Gras, you'll have so much you won't be able to carry it all! However, if you would like to buy anything Mardi Gras related before or after your visit, we recommend going straight to the company who has sold the product to the parade krewes for over 25 years.
The weather during Mardi Gras varies from very cold to very warm, almost hot. Since you will be spending long days outside, pack comfortable shoes and clothes that can get somewhat dirty. It’s also a good idea to layer your clothes since a chilly morning may turn into a warm afternoon. Of course, if the weather predicts rain, make sure you don’t forget your raincoat!
The weekend before Fat Tuesday is the prime time to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras. This is the weekend when Bacchus and Endymion, two of the biggest parades of the season, roll down the streets of New Orleans. The streets are packed all day Saturday and Sunday with parade watchers. If you can stay longer than a weekend, Monday (Lundi Gras) and Fat Tuesday are also great days to experience Mardi Gras. Orpheus, another big parade, rolls on Monday night, and the Zulu Lundi Gras festival goes on all day. On Fat Tuesday, walking around the French Quarter and seeing all of the costumes and masks is a unique and thrilling experience.
The best methods of transportation will be either taxi car, streetcar, or rental car - depending on where you're staying.
The Carnival season actually begins on January 6 - King’s Day (Feast of the Epiphany).
Fat Tuesday is never on the same day each year because Easter Sunday is never on the same Sunday each year. Fat Tuesday always is the day before Ash Wednesday.
Most visitors plan to arrive no later than the Saturday prior to Mardi Gras day and stay through Ash Wednesday. The Home page will reflect the date for the upcoming year’s Mardi Gras and for future dates, go to http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/mgdates.html.
The parades roll in light rain. The officials will only postpone if the weather is predicted to be severe. The local tv and radio news stations (such as WWL Radio) will receive the hour by hour updates.
The MG Indians only parade on Mardi Gras day and on Super Sunday...generally the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day in March.
The Mardi Gras day routes are not published anywhere...they happen in and around their inner city neighborhoods...but sources say that you will see the Creole Wild West tribe at the corner of LaSalle and 2nd Streets sometime between 9 -11 am, after the Krewe of Zulu passes by. Other tribes meet at the corner of Claiborne and Orleans following the Zulu parade.
The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council always has their Indian Sunday on the third Sunday of March, around St. Joseph's Day. Their festivities begin at Noon in A. L. Davis Park (at Washington & LaSalle Streets) where the Mardi Gras Indians once again dress in their feathers and suits and take to the streets to meet other "gangs."
For parade route, go to http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/supersunday.html
Also, the Tambourine and Fan organization traditionally put on their annual "Super Sunday" parade on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph's Day with their event beginning at Bayou St. John. In recent years, there has been yet a third Super Sunday called Big Sunday which falls in April during the open weekend between French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest. No specific details are available on these events at this time.