Best time to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras

August 29 2013

When is the best time to come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? It’s the type of question we’re often asked here and on our Facebook page.

Mardi Gras in New OrleansYou can visit New Orleans year round and get a taste of Mardi Gras via the museums and festive atmosphere. You can even buy beads and feel like you just left a parade. (Local’s tips – Don’t buy beads during Mardi Gras season – you’ll get plenty at the parades. And don’t wear beads outside of carnival season unless you want to look like a tourist.) However, nothing beats standing along St. Charles Avenue, in the middle of a crowd of all ages with everyone screaming “throw me something mista,” as a float passes down the street tossing beads, shoes and even coconuts. It’s a feeling you’ll never forget.

Carnival season begins every year on January 6. That’s the twelfth night of Christmas, also known as Epiphany, which is a Christian feast day of celebration. There are two parades that night, Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) in the French Quarter and Phunny Phorty Phellows via the streetcar Uptown. It’s also the beginning of king cake season, but if you want to see the big parades and parties, you might want to hold off on visiting for a few weeks.

In 2014, the real fun doesn’t begin until the middle of February when the parades start happening every weekend. February 15, Krewe du Vieux and Krewe Delusion march through the Marigny and French Quarter. They’re fun krewes with a little bit of an edge compared parades that come in the following weeks. It’s a great time to visit New Orleans when the crowds are more manageable and the hotel rates more checkbook friendly.

If you’re looking for the traditional parades, they start on February 21. That weekend, there are 24 parades in the New Orleans region. That’s a whole lot of parades and a great way to see the action for yourself before the craziness starts the next week. This weekend also features many of the parades that are local favorites.

Now, if you’re looking to get all crazy, Mardi Gras weekend starts with the parades Wednesday night (February 26) and continue through Fat Tuesday (March 4). Each night leading up to Mardi Gras there’s a parade, and that Saturday and Sunday there’s double doses of parades in the day and evening. The crowds will be crazy and the prices for hotels will be in the budget breaker range, but you’ll have a time that you’ll never forget.

If you can only make it for one day, come for Mardi Gras, March 4. Come early - the parades start at 8 a.m. and there will be lots of competition for the best spots. However, it’s worth it as you watch hundreds of years of traditions pass you by, the costumes that can’t be topped, and hoards of people having the time of their life on the streets of New Orleans.

Every year Mardi Gras is on a different date because it’s always the day before Ash Wednesday, which changes every year. Take a look at our list of Mardi Gras dates for 2015 and beyond.

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