Boobs and Booze, am I right? That’s what most people think of when they hear Mardi Gras. And it’s fair, but this blog is about tips from a local on doing Mardi Gras with kids.

For those of you who don’t know, I have lived in New Orleans for 10 years and I’ve been taking my kids to Mardi Gras since they were babies. I’m here to show you there’s more to Mardi Gras than what meets the eyes.

Parade with the Locals

Mardi Gras with Kids_Float

The reason why you think of boobs when you think of Mardi Gras is because of tourists. The only people showing boobs are tourists. And if you want to avoid them to censor your kids from seeing them, avoid the French Quarter. 

Most tourists stay in the French Quarter so the highest possibility of seeing boobs is in the French Quarter, if this is what you’re into. 

One of the best places to see parades is Uptown. Uptown is a local neighborhood in New Orleans known for its majestic houses. Since it’s where locals actually live, local kids attend the parades. Luckily, some of the best parades start Uptown, with most ending downtown, which isn’t too bad of a place to see the parade. Despite downtown’s proximity to the French Quarter, the likelihood you see boobs here is minimal to non-existent.

Come with a Plan

Anytime you travel with kids you need some type of plan, this is especially true for Mardi Gras. You can’t spontaneously do Mardi Gras because you will fail. You can’t run Nola, it will run you. To be successful at this, you need to understand how Mardi Gras runs.

Majority of Mardi Gras events take place within the two weeks before Fat Tuesday. Different parades run on different days and routes. Use Mardi Gras New Orleans as a reference. They do a wonderful job detailing all you need to know about Mardi Gras, including the parade schedule, krewe descriptions, history, etc. Personally, I prefer the second week of parades, but they do tend to be a bit more crowded.

Things to Consider when Planning Mardi Gras with Kids:

There’s honestly no wrong way to Mardi Gras. It all depends on your preferences and what works best for you and your family. Some of the things to consider:

  • Which week you want to attend the parades
  • If you have a preference for day or night parades. Day parades only happen on the weekends, Fat Monday, and Mardi Gras day.
  • The parade route, particularly which neighborhood you’d like to watch the parade in.

And keep in mind, it’s okay to mix and match day and night parades (a lot of the day parades turn into night) or view a parade from one neighborhood one day and another neighborhood the next. Each neighborhood has a different vibe.

My “Typical” Mardi Gras with Kids Plan

Mardi Gras with Kids_Zulu
At the Zulu parade

I personally pick the parades based on the throws they provide, and neighborhoods they roll through.

For the good throws (the goodies that the folks on the floats “throw” to the audience), my suggestion is Muses Krewe parade. They are an all female krewe that rolls the Thursday before Mardi Gras, “throwing” beautifully decorated shoes. This parade follows the traditional parade route through uptown, leading to downtown. On Fridays, I make a decision to not do a parade, but I opt to do a ball or stay-in and get some rest.  

Saturday is a big day in Nola. It’s the Endymion parade, the largest parade of them all, which rolls through mid-city. Although it doesn’t start until 4 in the afternoon, you will see people “marking their territory” days in advanced, yes, days, with an s, to get the best seat on the route. 

And on Monday (Fat Monday) there’s Lundi Gras, where the kings of the New Orleans carnival krewes Rex, the oldest krewe still rolling, and Zulu, the oldest Black krewe, meet on the Mississippi Riverfront for a Fat Tuesday “pre-party” celebration of sorts. The celebration offers food, music, and so much more. The event is free and locals, tourists, and kids are welcome to attend this Mardi Gras celebration.  

Then on the big day, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras day, the celebration kicks off with the Zulu parade at 7 a.m. There are two type of folks on Mardi Gras day, those who wake at the crack of dawn to start the festivities and those who sleep in so they can last all day for the festivities. Those with kids tend to be the former, since they’ll be up anyways. Luckily, if you’re a late riser, you can catch the later half of the Zulu parade late morning as the parade lasts at least 3-4 hours. But if you want a higher chance of getting a revered Zulu coconut, go early. Rex rolls after Zulu, on a different parade route. 

Items that Make Mardi Gras with Kids Easier

A Stroller or Wagon

Normally there is a lot of walking involved with Mardi Gras as you normally have to park blocks away from the parade route. Thus, if you have littles in tow, you should bring a wagon or stroller. This comes in handy not just to transport the kiddos to and from the car, but to carry all of the throws to the car.

Drinks and Snacks

Remember parades are at least a three-hour commitment. If your kids are anything like mines, they’ll be looking for food and drink. You may also want to consider eating immediately before coming to the parade, and potentially bringing a meal to the route with you. If you don’t, no worries. There are plenty of food vendors.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Mardi Gras with Kids_Headphones

This is debatable for infants. The parades can be loud as there are live marching bands and people yelling and screaming for throws. For our boys first Mardi Gras, where they were about 11 months, we brought them these noise cancelling headphones from Amazon.

A Sign

If you want to increase your chances of getting a special throw, like a Muses Shoe or Zulu Coconut, bring a sign. Now we’re not talking about a basic sign. We’re talking about something super creative that will catch the eyes of those on the float so they can give you the “good throws”.

Download a Mardi Gras Parade App

Things change quickly during Mardi Gras and there’s nothing you can do besides be prepared. Download the Mardi Gras Parade Tracker app to quickly view the parade schedule and route. These apps come in handy the most when the parades are actually rolling. It’ll show you the exact location of the first and last float so you can plan your schedule accordingly.

Chat the Locals Up

Whether it’s your Airbnb host, VRBO host, hotel concierge, ask the locals for the inside scoop on the parades. They especially can give you a feel of the vibe of the parade. It’s also how hidden gems are found.

Don’t Forget to Rest

You may not want to do a parade every single day and you don’t have to. Parades are three-plus hours and it is taxing, especially if you’re doing it with kids. Your kids need you at your best. Remember, when in Nola, you have to rest because Nola will tire you out and it always wins. If you want non-Mardi Gras things to do on your rest days, check out this blog post.

If you’re thinking of doing Mardi Gras with your kids and you’re worried about the experience, don’t. Mardi Gras is a family event despite what you’ve been told. Follow these tips and you’ll have a great time with your family. 

For more tips on traveling with kids, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

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