We’re Going to Mardi Gras! Here’s What We’re Doing to Prepare

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016


I mentioned in passing a few times that we were thinking about going to Mardi Gras, and then that we had decided to go to Mardi Gras in 2016.  

How we're preparing to go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

Surprisingly, it’s been difficult to find a good consolidated list of information about Mardi Gras.  For instance, where the best viewing stands are for the parades, which bars/restaurants have the best balcony options for bead throwing on Bourbon Street, and how crowded non-Mardi Gras events and venues (like the general tourist attractions) are during Mardi Gras.  It’s a bit frustrating for the compulsive planner that I am, but alas, it will be just fine.

In the absence of solid information, here is what I’m doing to prepare:

  • Booking restaurant reservations for just about every single meal during our four days in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  I anticipate large crowds, and I want to make sure that we’re not stuck after one of the parades, starving and hopelessly looking for restaurants without a two hour wait.  (I have no idea if that would actually be the case, but I’m just trying to prepare!)  So, I made reservations for each day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  For most of the restaurants, reservations windows opened 90 days in advance via OpenTable.  So, I was on OpenTable each morning in early November booking the restaurants that we wanted for that day 90 days in the future!  And I’m glad I did, because looking at some of those same restaurants now, many of them are booked!  Only one of the restaurants we booked imposes any sort of cancellation penalty, so if some other restaurant happens to catch our eye and doesn’t have a wait (like for a lot of the hole-in-the-wall type places that don’t take reservations), I can just call the restaurant we reserved and cancel, penalty free.
  • Booking viewing stands for the parades.  Information I found online about the viewing stands has been mixed.  Some people say that the only true way to experience a Mardi Gras parade is on the sidewalks in the throes of the huge crowds.  That sometimes the beads and other trinkets that are thrown from the floats don’t even reach the viewing stands.  But, even with that information, we’ve decided to buy tickets for viewing stands.  Why?  

1) Well, first and foremost, we love taking photographs.  So, I wanted to make sure we had a decent vantage point for taking pictures of all the parades!  

2) I don’t like the idea of having to arrive at a parade route 4+ hours in advance to save a good spot.  I’d rather use that time to see other sites in New Orleans!  Having tickets for a dedicated spot will allow us to arrive pretty much whenever before a parade starts and have a good viewing location!  

3) I like the idea of having a place to sit if our legs get tired as the parade route passes.  (I’ve found that some viewing stands are bleacher-like seats, while others are just platforms with no seating.  I’ve been making sure to book the ones with bleacher seats!  Even if people stand on the bleachers as the parade starts, we can still grab a seat.)  

4) Although the grandstands will be filled with people, I figure it will be LESS crowded than the streets and sidewalks, and that we won’t constantly be getting bumped into or anything.  That’s just not my cuppa tea.

I figure, if the parades really are THAT much more awesome in the midst of the crowds on the sidewalk, we can just cut our losses on the price we paid for the viewing stands and head down to the sidewalk.  

  • Figuring out the best Bourbon Street options.  No float parades transit Bourbon Street.  But, Bourbon Street is a hotbed of activity during Mardi Gras.  Although it doesn’t sound like anything I want to hang out in EVERY night during Mardi Gras, I figured we can’t experience New Orleans during Mardi Gras without heading to Bourbon Street at least one evening.  I’ve found a few options for balcony party packages on Bourbon Street.  They’re not cheap ($150-$200 per person), but considering our hotel and flights are free thanks to points and miles, we figure it’s worth the splurge. They all include food and drinks too.  I’m still weighing our options for the balcony party.  Large balcony?  Smaller balcony?  A place with a courtyard to escape the crowds and indoor heat?  You get the idea.  I’ve contacted a few places and am still waiting to hear back from some of them before I make a final decision.  But on the short list is Bourbon Vieux and the Swamp.    
  • Not renting a car.  The last time we were in New Orleans together, it was part of a big road trip, so we had our own car.  This time, we’ll just get around using public transportation and Uber or taxis. Although using Uber or taxis will cost us some money, we’ll save on hotel parking, other city parking, and of course we won’t have to deal with figuring out all the closed roads during Mardi Gras.  
  • Exploring other alternatives for parade viewing.  I’ve checked Airbnb for folks that might be renting out space on their balcony for Mardi Gras, such as in homes along St. Charles Avenue for a lot of the parade routes, but haven’t had any luck.  But, I thought I’d throw it out there to give people other ideas for what to try.  I’ve also tried to find restaurants that have balcony seating along St. Charles Avenue that perhaps you can eat as the parade goes by, but I haven’t been able to find any information on options like these.  Kinda frustrating!  
  • Learning more about nighttime parade photography.  I’ve never quite been able to get the hang of photographing moving objects at night without blur or excessive grain.  Since at least two of the Mardi Gras parades we’ll be seeing will take place at night, I want to make sure I’m fully up to speed on what some of the better camera settings are to capture the nighttime parades!  Obviously a tripod probably won’t be an option, even having the extra space in the viewing stands, but perhaps a monopod could help. Better than trying to figure it out on the fly.  

A Quick Recap of Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016


We just got back from New Orleans the other night.  We have hundreds of pictures to sort through, pants that are tighter from all the food indulgences, and a newly developed sense of respect for all that New Orleans does to put on such a crazy celebration every year.  

Catching Mardi Gras throws

A full trip report will be forthcoming, of course, but I wanted to do a quick postmortem / recap while things are still fresh in my mind.

 

  • I had low expectations. To be honest, I was kind of anticipating that I’d have the following reaction to Mardi Gras: “It was okay. I’m glad I went, but I’m not in any real hurry to go back. At least it’s crossed off my bucket list.”

But Mardi Gras far exceeded that relatively low bar I had set! I was worried that people would be obnoxiously drunk, pushy, and/or rude. While there were definitely drunk people all around, the atmosphere was so festive and friendly. Even Ken says that the rudest person he encountered was “The 60-year-old lady filming a parade with her iPad and got mad when I had to walk in front of her.”

 

  • The floats far exceeded my expectations as well. I wasn’t sure if the majority of parade floats would be kinda hokey or silly. That maybe only the really “good” floats are the ones you see pictures of. But nope, all the floats were so fantastic! A photographer’s dream!

 

  • I seriously cannot believe how fast the city of New Orleans can get the streets cleaned up after parades. This is what the streets looked like one night after walking back from dinner. It looks like some sort of post-apocalyptic scene, no? Within a few hours, the street was sparkling clean. And I do mean sparkling. There were literally soapy suds left behind where the streets had been scrubbed. This took place EVERY night!
Streets after Mardi Gras parades
  • Pay attention to the side of the street you watch the parade from. We watched the Bacchus parade from the “even number” side of St. Charles Avenue. Well, it was freezing cold that night, the parade was about 3 hours late, and unfortunately there was some sort of problem with the parade flow. Instead of it being one big parade, there’d be a marching band, one float, and then nothing for 5 minutes. Then repeat. We were talking to some locals, who definitely said that it was a fluke. And it was definitely not what we had experienced while watching the Endymion parade the night before. That one was a solid flow of floats.  So, we decided to cut out early from Bacchus and go back to our hotel room to put on warmer clothes, and then grab some dinner.  But, we found ourselves essentially “trapped” on that side of St. Charles Avenue. We couldn’t find a place to cross the street anywhere, which we needed to do to get back to our hotel.  We finally found a crossing location at St. Charles and Poydras. The police would allow people to cross when there was a big enough gap in the parade. So, if you expect to want to leave the parade early, make sure you don’t need to cross any part of the parade route, or you may find yourself stuck for a while!

 

  • There was a lot less, ahem, flashing, than I was led to believe. I was expecting to see this left and right on Bourbon Street. While there were some occasional boobage, it wasn’t like what the media or pop culture led me to believe. Not sure if that’s a positive thing or a negative thing for some people interested in going to Mardi Gras!

 

  • We splurged on some tickets for a Bourbon Street balcony party one night. That was a LOT of fun. Once again, I was kinda afraid it might be too obnoxious, but it was great. People have such looks of genuine joy on their faces when you toss them beads from the balcony. It was great!

 

  • Remember all those meal reservations I made in an effort to avoid long lines and crowds at restaurants? Well, we kinda ran into some problems. The first night, we showed up at the restaurant where we made dinner reservations. They said, “reservations??  This is Mardi Gras, we don’t accept reservations during Mardi Gras!” And I was like, “Umm, nope, I have the reservation right here on my phone. Confirmed via OpenTable.”  Then there was always some confusion that ensued.  What likely happened is that the restaurants didn’t close off those dates for reservations until AFTER I had already made the reservations. And I guess OpenTable didn’t notify the restaurants to say, “oh hey, these folks already made reservations, maybe you should contact them?”  Anyway, it was somewhat surprising that we only encountered one long wait for a restaurant. Three of our dining reservations had that problem.  Luckily it wasn’t too much of an issue. Despite the crowds for Mardi Gras, restaurants had little to no wait, even the very popular ones. We tried to go to one restaurant (that didn’t take reservations anyway) and it was a 1+ hour wait, so we decided to just go elsewhere that didn’t have a wait. It all worked out just fine!  

 

  • Ken wants to go again, but bring nieces and nephews then. Kids get some REALLY awesome throws from the parade krewes! And kids have such a fantastic time watching the floats and catching all the fun beads and other trinkets!
Mardi Gras float at night

 

 

To summarize, we had a fantastic time! It was a great way to celebrate my 35th birthday. Funny enough, Mardi Gras falls on my birthday again in 2027, so maybe we’ll have to make a trip back then!  Mardi Gras has also given me a hankering for seeing other famous parades. I promptly started looking up information on another bucket list parade, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City! 2017 I think!

 

Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans (Mardi Gras Hotel Review)

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016

Back in February, Ken and I took a bucket list trip! Mardi Gras! I did a quick recap post when we got home, but I’m starting the full trip report today! Starting with a review of our hotel, the The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria property.

Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans sign Roosevelt Hotel Lobby

We booked our hotel for Mardi Gras 11 months in advance. I opted for the Roosevelt, a Waldorf Astoria property in New Orleans. It was close to most of the major parade routes, close to the French Quarter (just across Canal Street), and had good points redemption options through Hilton (at 50,000 points per night.) Be aware that it looks like the hotel may now be up to 70,000 points per night. I booked 3 nights, using a mix of HHonors points as well as some Amex Membership Rewards points that I transferred to HHonors at a rate of 1MR for 2HHonors.

I was a little hesitant about booking this hotel. Our last stay at a Waldorf Astoria property was VERY underwhelming. But, this stay in New Orleans was perfect.

The Roosevelt was what I would describe as a very “old world” hotel. Those typically aren’t my style, but in this case, and for New Orleans which already has such an “old world” feel, it was fantastic.

We booked a King Bed Superior Room, Non-Smoking.

The room was quite spacious.

King Bed Superior Room at Roosevelt Waldofr Astoria

The bed was literally the most amazing hotel bed I have every slept on. Within a month of our return, Ken and I started buying Waldorf Astoria bedding, like their featherbed. We’re waiting to splurge on the actual Waldorf Astoria mattress though. 🙂

The sleep was HEAVEN

Room at Roosevelt

I always like having an extra (non-bed) sitting space in a hotel room, so the couch was perfect for that.

Couch in Hotel Room | Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria Couch in Hotel Room | Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria

The only TV in the room was on a bit of a weird angle to the bed. It’s not a huge deal, but sometimes I like to watch the local news or something as I’m laying in bed before falling asleep. But, it was great for watching from the couch.

The bathroom was fairly basic. It didn’t have any terribly fancy finishes like the Park Hyatt Moscow or Andaz 5th Avenue, but the water pressure was great and the towels were luxurious, so I always find that to be a plus.

Bathroom | Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria Bathroom | Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria Bathroom | Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria

There was also a decent size closet:

Closet in hotel room

One minor annoyance about the room was that we could hear church bells ring every morning at 7AM. I’m not sure where the church was located, but if you’re a light sleeper or want to sleep past 7AM, you might want to request a room away from the church bell sounds!

The hallways in the hotel were so wide, definitely a sign of an old world hotel.

Hallways at Roosevelt Hotel

Even the area on room floors near the elevataors were spacious and had fun decorative touches.

Hallways at Roosevelt Hotel Hallways at Roosevelt Hotel

The lobby was also glamorous with high ceilings and lots of chandeliers.

Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans

There were two entrances to the hotel, one on Roosevelt Way, and One on Baronne Street. Each side was staffed with helpful doormen. Since it was Mardi Gras, we were required to wear wristbands (a different color denoting each day), and had to show them to the doormen when we entered the hotel. They were checked once again when we wanted to get on an elevator to go up to our hotel room.

Lobby at Roosevelt New Orleans

There were several restaurants and lounges on the first floor of the hotel.

Restaurants at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria | New Orleans Hotel Review during Mardi Gras Restaurants at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria | New Orleans Hotel Review during Mardi Gras Restaurants at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria | New Orleans Hotel Review during Mardi Gras Restaurants at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria | New Orleans Hotel Review during Mardi Gras Restaurants at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria | New Orleans Hotel Review during Mardi Gras

I never got a great picture of it from outside, but I also loved the signs for the Roosevelt Hotel. You can see it in this photo, on the top right. The sign for the Roosevelt had a fun art deco look. (The street we were crossing here was Canal Street, shortly after a parade had ended. So you can see just how close the hotel is to the parade route!

View of Roosevelt Hotel from Canal Street | New Orleans

I’d definitely recommend the Roosevelt to anybody planning a trip to New Orleans, whether during Mardi Gras or not. It was also so close to one of the main parade routes, so all you had to do was walk right out the door and less than half a block away to see all the excitement.

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?

Mardi Gras 2016 in New Orleans – Day 2

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016

After our first jam packed day in New Orleans, I think we managed to cram in even MORE stuff the next day! We started out with brunch in a New Orleans neighborhood called the Magazine District (we took an Uber there from our hotel since it was about a 15 minute drive. Also, more on where we ate in New Orleans in a separate, future post!).

After brunch, we walked around the Magazine District. It was such a cute neighborhood!

Magazine District

Magazine District New Orleans Magazine District New Orleans Magazine District New Orleans Magazine District New Orleans

Of course, many of the houses and business were decorated for Mardi Gras!

Magazine District Homes decorated for New Orleans Magazine District Homes decorated for New Orleans Magazine District Homes decorated for New Orleans Magazine District Homes decorated for New Orleans

One of the interesting things we noticed during our trip to Mardi Gras is that there are a lot of um, I’m not sure how to describe them, missionaries / preachers / religious folk trying to remind Mardi Gras goers about Jesus. To the point that they were even skywriting about it:

Jesus skywriting

The next photo is not from the Magazine District, but from Bourbon Street, where we saw a group of men carrying a cross down the road.

Cross bearing men on Bourbon street during Mardi Gras

Anyway, after the Magazine District, we decided to walk around the French Quarter to take in all the daytime Mardi Gras revelry.

French Quarter during Mardi Gras French Quarter during Mardi Gras

Chuckling at the bead whore sign!

French Quarter during Mardi Gras

And bra decorations on the balconies!

French Quarter during Mardi Gras French Quarter during Mardi Gras French Quarter during Mardi Gras

We made our way to Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral area. We just walked around the area for a while and we didn’t even take that many pictures, mostly because we had visited that area extensively on our previous trip to New Orleans in 2008!

Jackson Square New Orleans

The entire area was packed!

Across from Jackson Square

We couldn’t believe it, but we were getting hungry again thanks to all the walking, and stopped by and grabbed some lunch. And then, you guessed it, we resumed walking! There was this cute open-air (but covered. Is that a thing?) market. We walked through there and did some people watching!

Farmer’s Market in New Orleans French Quarter Farmer’s Market in New Orleans French Quarter Farmer’s Market in New Orleans French Quarter Farmer’s Market in New Orleans French Quarter Farmer’s Market in New Orleans French Quarter Farmer’s Market in New Orleans French Quarter

And then, just more photos of the stunning French Quarter. I am IN LOVE with all these gorgeous buildings.

French Quarter during Mardi Gras French Quarter during Mardi Gras French Quarter during Mardi Gras

We had grandstand tickets for the Bacchus parade later that night, so we started to head back to the hotel. Our legs were aching and we tried to decide between walking back to the hotel and taking an Uber, and we just decided to keep on trekking on our sore legs.

And wouldn’t you know it, just like the previous day, we tripped across another parade on our way back to the hotel! (Not sure which krewe this is though!)

Mardi Gras Parade Mardi Gras parade

It was during this parade that I was NAILED RIGHT IN THE FOREHEAD with an enormous BAG OF BEADS that was thrown from the floats. From that moment, I was very cautious of entire bags of beads being thrown. I much preferred the strands!

Mardi Gras parade

We stood around and watched the parade for a bit.

Mardi Gras parade Mardi Gras parade Mardi Gras parade Mardi Gras parade

We relaxed at the hotel for a short while and then headed to the grandstands area for the Krewe of Bacchus.

It was COLD that night. Really, it was cold our entire trip. When we packed for our trip, I had seen that the lows in New Orleans would be like 50–55. Compared to DC’s lows of like 20 at that same time in February, 55 seemed downright balmy and we didn’t pack anything heavier than a fleece for a jacket. But man were we regretting it that night! I wish we would’ve packed our heavy winter coats! Sitting on cold metal grandstands didn’t help much either!

Anyway, a word to the wise, even if the weather seems “warm” for winter compared to northeast standards, pack a heavy jacket (and dress in layers).

See, these women were smart. Heavy coats!

Waiting for Bacchus parade to start

The parade was running crazy late. Like probably 2 hours late. But when it did finally get started, there were these two gorilla floats among the first floats. People tossed their beads AT the floats! I guess this is pretty common knowledge, and we quickly joined in, trying to toss our beads at the two gorilla floats!

Gorilla floats during Bacchus | Mardi Gras Parade Gorilla floats during Bacchus | Mardi Gras Parade Gorilla floats during Bacchus | Mardi Gras Parade

Then the bulk of the parade started. Like the other ones we had seen, it mostly followed the “float followed by marching band” order. Although there were some horses mixed in on the parade too!

Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016

The parade was the same night as the Super Bowl, and this guy marched in the parade watching the Super Bowl from a TV on the back of an SUV!

Krewe of Bacchus | Mardi Gras 2016

After a while, the wind really started to kick up, and we were getting even colder. The parade kept getting “stuck,” and sometimes there was a 5, 10, or even 15 minute wait in between the different floats and marching bands. We decided that we had seen plenty of the parade, and we wanted to go back to the hotel to warm up.

We would need to cross the street of the parade route to get back to our hotel, so we walked several blocks down the street to Canal street, where the parade route was not operating, and waited for a break in the parade and for police officers to temporarily open the street barriers (we had seen law enforcement do this several times during the other parades we had watched.)

And we waited. And waited. And waited. And the police officer there wasn’t opening the gate to cross the street, even though there were long breaks in between the floats. There was a huge crowd forming waiting to cross the street, and people started to get pushy. Somebody asked when he would open the gate to cross, since there were no floats within sight. With an extreme attitude tone, the police officer said to the crowd, “Why don’t you all just go enjoy the parade?”

And we’re like, wait, what? Does that mean he won’t open the gate at all? Ken and I were cold getting pretty tired, and I was starting to envision some sort of stampede. Someone else asked where they could go to cross the street, and once again, with that terrible attitude, he said, “GO ENJOY THE PARADE.”

Ken and I broke free from the crowd and walked back up St. Charles Avenue several blocks to another police-staffed barrier. We had just missed a opening, so at least we knew that gate was staffed by reasonable officers allowing people to cross the street. So, we just waited for a few minutes at the gate.

Waiting to cross the street during Bacchus Parade Waiting to cross the street during Bacchus Parade

Then, when there was a break of a few minutes in between the next float, the police officers opened the gate and allowed people to cross.

We still have no idea what the problem was at that first crossing point. We had seen people crossing there previously, and if the police officer didn’t want to open the gate, we don’t understand why he didn’t just say, “I can’t open the gates right now, but there’s a gate about 4 blocks away that they’re opening during breaks in between the floats.” I certainly don’t envy New Orleans police officers during Mardi Gras, and I’m sure it’s terribly stressful, but all our other encounters (including at the place we finally crossed) were just so pleasant. That “GO ENJOY THE PARADE” command just really irked us. Not a good way for law enforcement to represent their city.

We had a short walk back to our hotel. We decided that we weren’t even terribly hungry, so we just skipped dinner, cranked up the heat in the hotel room, and cozied up for the rest of the night.