New Orleans is one of the most exciting cities in the American South. It’s also one of the best destinations for gay travelers. New Orleans gay bars are abundant. It’s a decadent city and it has a major arts scene. New Orleans is the home of voodoo, jazz and (allegedly) haunted buildings. Anne Rice set her vampire novels here for a reason.
The most famous event in New Orleans is, of course, Mardi Gras. It’s bawdy and it’s raucous. You’ll see some scenes along Bourbon Street. Here’s our guide to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, one of the campest things you’ll see in America.
What is the meaning of Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
Mardi Gras dates back to Pagan fertility rituals. Its roots can be traced back to ancient Roman festivals like Saturnalia and Lupercalia. It was later given a Christian makeover. Mardi Gras takes the form of a prelude to Lent. We give things up in Lent, so Mardi Gras is about indulging.
New Orleans’ culture has a strong French influence. Mardi is French for Tuesday and gras essentially means fat. Fat Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and it’s the last night of Mardi Gras.
When is Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
The opening night is 12th Night. Fat Tuesday is two weeks later. Tourists are unlikely to visit for the whole two weeks of Mardi Gras. The most popular time to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the weekend before Fat Tuesday. It will be busiest at this time and the hotels will be full. Advanced booking is highly recommended. You can visit earlier and check out the parades before Fat Tuesday. New Orleans will still be busy but not quite as heaving with crowds.
What are the best parades and parties at Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
There are so many parades and parties to check out. If you’re visiting one of the big ones over the weekend, you’ll need to get there early to find a good spot. There are around 80 parades.
Rex is done by a well-established krewe. It was founded in the 19th-century. Rex keeps the classic spirit of Mardi Gras in New Orleans alive. This one is unmissable. You should also check out Thoth, a big krewe with around 50 floats and 1,600 riders. To break things down: Endymion is the largest krewe, Orpheus the most aesthetically celebrated and Bacchus the most historic.
It’s advisable to put together a parade plan. There’s so much happening and some events will be heaving with crowds.
Do I need to dress in costume for Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
It’s isn’t mandatory but encouraged. As Anna Wintour says, “We don’t dictate, we expect.” You can show up in regular clothes, whatever you feel most comfortable in. But note that nagging voice of Wintour in your head! If you’re up for it then dress fabulous, dress outrageous. It’s Mardi Gras.
Beware of the French Quarter
The parades don’t take place in the French Quarter, but the party does. It’s strictly adults-only. The party can get very raucous in the French Quarter. Censorious newspapers often cover this parts of the city during Mardi Gras, potentially giving the festival a bad name. If you would like a raucous party, then head to the French Quarter and check it out.
by Alex | On: Gay New Orleans