Mardi Gras 2016 in New Orleans – Day 1

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016

 

After we arrived in New Orleans around 12:30 in the afternoon and checked in at The Roosevelt, our room wasn’t ready yet so we headed to the French Quarter for lunch (more on where we ate in a future post!). While we were eating, we got a text from the hotel front desk that a room was ready for us. We finished our lunch, and as we headed back to our hotel, we tripped upon our first Mardi Gras parade!

Krewe of Iris | Mardi Gras Parades Watching the Krewe of Iris

This parade was the Krewe of Iris. (A Krewe is the group putting on the parade. It’s an organization, similar to a social club. Members pay to become members of the Krewe).

Parade watchers (us included) go CRAZY for the “throws” from floats, which include beads, cups, stuffed animals, and all sorts of other fun things (many are unique to each krewe).

Krewe of Iris | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Iris | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Iris | Mardi Gras 2016

And people always look so pleased when they catch something!

Catching throws at Krewe of Iris during Mardi Gras

The Krewe of Iris is female only, so there were lots of girly touches, like this giant lipstick on a float:

Krewe of Iris | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Iris | Mardi Gras 2016

We got back to the hotel (as I mentioned, the hotel was RIGHT next to where most of the parades turn around on Canal Street,) we got our hotel room key and our luggage out of storage, and went up to our hotel room to unpack and get settled.

We had tickets for “grandstand seats” later that night for the Krewe of Endymion. (I mentioned in a previous post why we decided to get grandstand tickets for some of the parades).

But first, we discovered another parade on Canal Street just a half block from our hotel. This time, it was the Krewe of Tucks! (The tail end of the parade).

Krewe of Tucks | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Tucks | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Tucks | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Tucks | Mardi Gras 2016

When I first started researching travel tips for going to Mardi Gras, I was dumbfounded by some of the jargon. One of the words I kept seeing was “neutral ground.” Usually that term was seen near the term “sidewalk side.”

Okay, native New Orleanians, please chime in here, but best I can tell is that the folks you see standing at the metal barrier gates are standing in the “neutral ground.”

Neutral ground during Mardi Gras Neutral ground during Mardi Gras Neutral ground during Mardi Gras

The neutral ground is the large median strip where the New Orleans streetcars would normally be running.

As far as I can tell, if you are in the neutral ground, you are basically stuck there the entire duration of the parade. Perhaps there might be breaks in the parades where the police might open the barriers for a short duration, but not that we saw. Since it’s basically a median strip, there are no restaurants or bathrooms. But, we did see lots of porta-potties set up in the neutral ground.

We were standing on the “street side.” I’m not sure if it was because it was close to the end of the parade, but we didn’t have any trouble getting close or seeing the floats well.

The parade ended and the gates opened and people started to walk down the streets while traffic was still closed off.

After Krewe of Tucks | Mardi Gras 2016 After Krewe of Tucks | Mardi Gras 2016

Shortly thereafter, we made our way to the grandstand area for the Krewe of Endymion. However, we couldn’t get into the grandstands yet, even though the entrance time was indicated on our tickets. Apparently the previous parade was running REALLY late, and so the folks with grandstand tickets to THAT parade were still sitting there.

We found out that this is a recurring theme of all the Mardi Gras parades. They run late and long! I mean crazy long! I’ll talk more about that in a future “Mardi Gras tips” post! It’s all good, given that it’s such a fun atmosphere. Just something to consider if you’re trying to run a tight schedule during your trip (which, for the most part, we were not).

We were finally able to get into the grandstands a little bit later.

Mardi Gras Grandstands Ken and Melissa at Mardi Gras

Since the parade wasn’t at our location yet, we were able to get in some great people watching!

Crowds at Mardi Gras Parade Crowds at Mardi Gras Parade

Lots of families would bring these ladders for their kids at the parades, so they’d have a good vantage point. They were basically a ladder with a little bench seat on top.

Mardi Gras ladders for kids

And finally, the Krewe of Endymion started! I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking here!

 

Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016

The parade followed a fairly predictable lineup, alternating floats and marching bands.

Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016

Like I mentioned earlier, people went WILD for the throws from the floats!

Catching throws at the Krewe of Endymion Catching throws at the Krewe of Endymion

Before buying grandstand tickets, I had read a lot of criticisms of them, including that it would probably be more difficult to catch the throws from the floats. I definitely found that to be UNTRUE. We went to three different parades in three different grandstands and we definitely felt “up close” enough to the parades to catch the throws!

Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016

We weren’t sure what these were at first, but we later found out that these folks, who would be carrying flames every few floats, are called “Flambeaux.” The flames were traditionally how the floats were illuminated at night. Although the floats have their own lights now, Flambeaux remain a tradition. It appears that a lot of regulars were “tipping” the Flambeaux with dollar bills, but I’m not sure about that part of the tradition.

Flambeaux at Mardi Gras Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Endymion | Mardi Gras 2016

After several hours at the parade, it still wasn’t over, and we were getting hungry. So, we left the grandstands, went back to our hotel to change around and warm up (it was COLD during the parade!), and then we headed out to dinner. We snapped this selfie in the elevator in our hotel after the parade:

Post Mardi Gras Parade Selfie

We had dinner in the French Quarter, and then started to head back to the hotel. As we crossed Canal Street on our way back from dinner, I captured my favorite photo of Mardi Gras (and maybe one of my favorite photos ever!) The AFTERMATH of a day filled with parades:

Post Mardi Gras parades mess After the Mardi Gras parade ends Canal street after a Mardi Gras parade

The photos just make me chuckle every time. It’s like some post apocalyptic scene! Especially in that one photo where the girls are kinda huddled together. For what it’s worth, the streets were GLEAMING clean by the next morning (and every morning we were there). It was amazing.

That was it for our first day in New Orleans! Man, it was a packed day considering we didn’t even land in New Orleans until noon!

Have you been to Mardi Gras? What were your favorite aspects?

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