Review of Mardi Gras Grandstands Options

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

I had been putting off writing a “review” of Mardi Gras grandstand options for a while. Mostly because I did a pretty terrible job of photographing the actual grandstands and locations. Go me. But, I figured others may find information helpful, especially because when I was researching grandstand options, I couldn’t find much information. And anyway, we have plenty of pictures that we took FROM the grandstand locations, and I figure that’s what is most important anyway, right? The view?

Mardi Gras Parade Seating in Grandstands | New Orleans Travel

I covered in this post why we were interested in getting grandstand tickets for some of the parades. But, in case you don’t feel like clicking, here’s the excerpt:

  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.

Because we weren’t sure if any of the grandstands would be particularly better than the others, we decided to spread the love among the different options.

  • For the Endymion Parade, we chose the “Place St. Charles” zone for $40 each
  • For the Bacchus Parade, we chose the “Lafayette Hotel” zone for $40 each.
  • For the Zulu and Rex parades, we chose the Hotel Intercontinental Grandstands $75 each.

Not cheap, I realize, but because of the reasons I outlined above, it was money well spent for us.

So, how did we like the grandstands? They were great! One of the common complaints about the grandstands that we had read online was that people felt too far from the action or not like you were a part of the parade. I can say that is definitely not the case! And for what it’s worth, we also watched plenty of parades from the sidewalks when we didn’t have grandstand tickets (like the Krewe of Iris, Krewe of Tucks, and others). However, we just kind of happened-upon those parades. We didn’t stake out spots or watch them for hours on end. We did end up getting closer than what I thought we would though without grandstand seats.

It’s also worth noting that sometimes these parades were VERY VERY LONG. The Bacchus parade kept getting “stuck” and there were very long waits in between each float. So, it was nice to have a spot in the grandstands to sit while waiting for the next float to come!

For those interested, here are some of the various views from the grandstand areas!

“Place St. Charles” Mardi Gras Grandstands

It was night time, so please forgive how dark the photos are! But here are the Place St. Charles grandstands before the start of Endymion:

Place St. Charles grandstands during Mardi Gras | Krewe of Endymion Place St. Charles grandstands during Mardi Gras parade

The grandstands were not very high, so there weren’t that many people behind us, and although the grandstands were full, it didn’t feel overly crowded (as you can tell by looking behind us in this selfie). (For what it’s worth, the Lafayette Hotel grandstands the next night were much emptier).

Ken and I at Place St. Charles grandstands

In fact, some of the “best” photos I got of the Place St. Charles grandstands were actually taken from across the street the next day as we were walking to a different grandstand section! They’re the white boxed-in grandstands across the street:

Place St. Charles grandstands Place St. Charles grandstands

We were in the second row of the grandstands, and we still had a great view!

Krewe of Endymion from Place St. Charles grandstands Krewe of Endymion from Place St. Charles reserved seating

In fact, when people did “get in the way” of my photos, I feel like it conveyed how fun and festive the atmosphere was!

Krewe of Endymion from Place St. Charles reserved seating

For what it’s worth, the Krewe of Endymion approached from the LEFT of our grandstands at Place St. Charles.

“Lafayette Hotel” grandstands during Krewe of Bacchus

For this parade, I didn’t take a single photo of our actual grandstands. I’d say that I liked this location LESS than the Place St. Charles grandstands, although they were still just fine. My main complaint is that there’s a lot of excess light from the nearby buildings, which kind of “takes away” from the fun lights on the floats.

For example, whatever that building is here with the columns was a bit too bright and kept affecting my photo exposures:

View from Lafayette hotel grandstands | Mardi Gras View from Lafayette hotel reserved seating | Mardi Gras View from Lafayette hotel grandstands | Mardi Gras

However, there were more grandstands in this area (Lafayette Hotel) than there were in the Place St. Charles grandstands, so it felt a little less cramped. There was also more space between the first grandstand row and the metal street barriers, meaning there was more room for people to go and take turns to stand in front of the grandstands. We We lucked out with fairly empty grandstands at this location, although that might have been because it was very cold, and that the Bacchus parade was taking FOREVER to pass because it kept getting “stuck.” So there were long delays in between almost every float and a lot of people started to leave.

We got some great photos of the parade though!

Krewe of Bacchus from Lafayette Hotel grandstands during Mardi Gras Krewe of Bacchus from Lafayette Hotel grandstands during Mardi Gras

Oh, and in case you’re interested in the “St. Charles Reserve A” grandstands, those were right across the street (parade route) from the Lafayette Hotel grandstands, so we got some pictures of the St. Charles Reserve A grandstands:

St. Charles Reserve A grandstands during Mardi Gras St. Charles Reserve A grandstands during Mardi Gras

As you can see, those ones weren’t very crowded either. But again, not sure if that’s because it was so cold.

One upside of this area though was that we could hear the parade emcee. They must broadcast from that area. We didn’t even know there was a parade emcee the night before when we were in the other grandstands!

Intercontinental Hotel Grandstands during Mardi Gras

Again, keeping with my theme of completely forgetting to take photos of the actual grandstands, here is my best photo I have of the Hotel Intercontinental Grandstands:

Hotel Intercontinental Grandstands during Mardi Gras

As you can probably tell, it is more crowded than the Lafayette Hotel grandstands, and they had higher grandstands too. But the REAL upside of these grandstands was having access to clean bathrooms inside the hotel and having a place to go to warm up after being outside during the cold weather and not having to worry about losing a good spot! (Hotels are completely closed to non-guests during Mardi Gras. But since we had grandstand tickets, we were given wristbands to enter the Intercontinental. There are porta-potties available for other parade goers). We also ate lunch at the Intercontinental in between the Zulu and Rex parades. That was a nice option too since so many restaurants are closed on Mardi Gras (it’s essentially a holiday in New Orleans).

We were a few rows up, but people frequently transitioned in and out of the front “standing room” only area, so we were able to go down for some front row photos pretty often. We still had a great view!

Krewe of Zulu from grandstands Krewe of Rex Krewe of Rex

So, there you have it! Three Mardi Gras options tried and tested! Have you been to Mardi Gras? Did you opt for any grandstands? What did you think?

Mardi Gras Parade Seating in Grandstands | New Orleans Travel

Bourbon Street Balcony Party during Mardi Gras 2016 (Bourbon Vieux)

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016


Bourbon Street Balcony Party During Mardi Gras

When I first started researching things to do in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a Bourbon Street balcony experience was near the top of my list. But, strangely, it was difficult to find any consolidated information on the different balcony options during Mardi Gras. I was able to find like two or three options, but that was it.

View of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras

I actually resorted to Google Street View. I’d look at the names of the restaurants and bars along Bourbon Street, see if they had a balcony, and then google the name of the resturant. Then, I’d email the restaurant for information. I must’ve emailed like 15 places. And not a single one ever responded.

One of the balcony options that I had consistently seen all along was Bourbon Vieux. They had pictures of their balcony party, online ticket ordering, and other good information available. It just seemed SO DAMN EXPENSIVE. That is why I wanted to comparison shop a little bit. But, since no other places ever responded to my inquiries, I went ahead and booked Bourbon Vieux.

I was really happy with that decision!

There was plenty of seating available inside. (One of the more common complaints in the online reviews for Bourbon Vieux was that they oversold their balcony parties, leaving people without seats.). I’m pretty lazy, so the idea of having to stand for 5 hours straight at party was not appealing. But, luckily, my worries were unfounded!

Inside the Balcony Party at Bourbon Vieux

Ken and I sat at a small round table inside Bourbon Vieux. The decor was great, and I thought the lighting was really well done and added a lot of Mardi Gras ambiance!

Inside Bourbon Vieux during Mardi Gras Balcony Party Table arrangements

There were quite a few people at the party, but many tables were empty, so I definitely don’t think it was a sellout.

Plenty of seating at round tables

There was a good food spread set up.

Buffet food at Bourbon Vieux’s Bourbon Street Balcony Party Food spread at Mardi Gras Party Buffet foods

There was also a dessert table, which unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of, that included different desserts including New Orleans’ famous King Cake!

The bar was well stocked and luckily there was never a long line. (The Bourbon Vieux balcony party included all food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages).

Bar at Bourbon Vieux

They also had beads for sale at the bar. We had bought some beads from Oriental Trading Company to bring with us to Mardi Gras. We figured that beads in New Orleans during Mardi Gras would be at crazy inflated prices. However, the beads we ordered online were pretty junky and tangled easily. So, we did end up buying some of the nicer beads they had for sale at Bourbon Vieux. (The junky beads we brought with us are on the right).

Beads we purchased at Bourbon Vieux

The Balcony!

Okay, so let’s get to what REALLY matters at a Mardi Gras Bourbon Street balcony party … the BALCONY!

When we arrived at Bourbon Vieux, we were given wristbands. All party guests had one of two colors. Every 45 minutes or so, there would be an announcement that it was time for the Purple wristband group to go outside on the balcony and the other wristband color to come inside. Then it would alternate every 45 minutes or so. That way, the balcony was never overly crowded.

(You could, of course come inside at any time regardless of what color you were wearing. It was just a restriction on who could go outside to the balcony. That was good because, like I mentioned in previous Mardi Gras posts, it was quite cold during our time there! Sometimes 45 minutes outside would be too much! There were space heaters just on one section of the large balcony)

Here’s how the balcony looked:

Balcony at Bourbon Vieux during Mardi Gras

We were generally able to get right up to the balcony railing. But sometimes not, we’d have to squeeze in after somebody abandoned their spot. But it never felt overly crowded or annoying.

We had a great view down Bourbon Street:

View of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras

And we had lots of fun throwing beads to the folks down below.

Throwing beads from Bourbon Street Balcony Throwing beads during Mardi Gras People catching beads thrown from Balcony People catching beads during Mardi Gras Crowds on street below Bourbon Vieux Balcony Me throwing beads from balcony during Mardi Gras Ken throwing beads from Bourbon Vieux balcony Beads closeup

And, as had been the recurring theme of what we saw during Mardi Gras, lots of religious stuff. A bunch of men in red hats carrying a cross down Bourbon Street:

Men carrying cross down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras Bible sign on Bourbon Street

It was great people-watching.

People on Bourbon Street People on Bourbon Street

Overall, we were really pleased. Although the tickets were expensive at $160 each, the fact that it included food and and all drinks was great. We liked that it wasn’t crazy crowded, and that everyone got plenty of time to spend on the balcony.

Have you gone to a Bourbon Street balcony party during Mardi Gras? Which one did you go to? How did you like it?

Mardi Gras 2016 in New Orleans – Days 3 and 4

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016


Our Mardi Gras madness continued! Our third day in New Orleans started with a trip to Mardi Gras World. (It’s open year-round, not just during Mardi Gras). Mardi Gras World makes and stores a lot of the parade floats. I was a little worried that, since Mardi Gras was currently underway, that perhaps it would be empty or not as fun to see.

Luckily, my worries were unfounded! This place was a photographer’s dream (er, in our case, an amateur photographer’s dream!)

Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans

It’s a bit off the beaten path, but Mardi Gras World operates a free round trip shuttle from various hotel stops in New Orleans. Luckily, our hotel was one of the stops, so we didn’t even have to go anywhere to pick up the shuttle! They don’t stop at every hotel automatically though, so you do have to call in advance to arrange the shuttle pickup.

Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans Mardi Gras World | New Orleans

During the tour of Mardi Gras World, you get to stop at various “stations” all throughout the warehouse to see artists designing, constructing, and painting floats. The guide mentioned that as soon as Mardi Gras ends one year, the designs and constructions start for the next year!

Here were some float designs posted!

Float design at Mardi Gras World Float design at Mardi Gras World

So many art supplies. And my god, the STYROFOAM. SO MUCH STYROFOAM.

Styrofoam at Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World

I cannot imagine the tremendous talent and patience that it must take to make rectangular styrofoam slabs and construct them into an amazing Mardi Gras Float like these!

Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World Mardi Gras World

And, look what we found there! The same gorilla that everyone threw beads at the previous night at the Bacchus Parade!

Bacchus Parade Gorilla at Mardi Gras World

We bought a few souvenirs in the gift shop after the tour was over (and after we spent a ton of time taking lots of photographs!), and then took the shuttle back to the hotel. The shuttle ride unfortunately took quite a while because traffic was a mess. That’s what happens during Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans! Lots of closed roads to accommodate the parades. But, we didn’t mind being able to relax and rest our legs on the bus.

French Quarter During Mardi Gras

After we were dropped off at the hotel, the next order of business was getting lunch! And more walking around the madness that is the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

New Orleans French Quarter

More Jesus signs, just like the day before.

Funny signs in New Orleans French Quarter

This dude in a motorized scooter had gotten into an argument with a guy in an SUV, and they were racing in the snail-paced traffic.

French quarter

And beads in trees EVERYWHERE!

Beads in trees during Mardi Gras

And, of course, a stop at Cafe du Monde for some beignets and hot chocolate. It was, expectedly, MUCH more crowded than our off-season visit in October 2008! There was a long line, but it moved quickly.

Beignets from Cafe du Monde in New Orleanse Long lines outside Cafe du Monde during Mardi Gras Cafe du Monde menu board Cafe du Monde seating during Mardi Gras Ken and I at Cafe du Monde Beignets from Cafe du Monde

We stopped by a mask shop and bought a fun Mardi Gras mask (just for our display shelves at home!).

Mardi Gras Mask Store Mardi Gras Mask Store

Then, we headed back to the hotel for a while. We had Bourbon Street balcony party tickets for later that night, and wanted to get some rest since it was likely to be a late night. (I’ll cover the Bourbon Street Balcony Party in an entirely separate post).

Fat Tuesday!

We woke up bright and early for the parades on Fat Tuesday! We had grandstand tickets at the Hotel Intercontinental, and the parades start around 8AM on Fat Tuesday.

The Zulu parade comes first.

Krewe of Zulu

Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016

This year’s Zulu parade had an amusement park theme, and I was so tickled to see the Cedar Point float. That was an amusement park I went to many times as a kid!

Cedar Point float | Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016 Zulu parade | Mardi Gras 2016

The most coveted “throw” from the Krewe of Zulu are little handpainted coconuts. Apparently those riding in Zulu are no longer permitted to throw the coconuts into the crowds. They have to gently hand them off to people. So, more experienced Mardi Gras goers come prepared with little baskets and nets that they can extend to the float and hopefully get a coconut placed in their basket!

Like the orange basket below which says “coconut please.”

Coconut basket | Krewe of Zulu

We were enjoying the parade, but damn, we were getting cold. The winds that day were 30+ MPH, and as I mentioned in our previous Mardi Gras posts, we were woefully unprepared clothing-wise.

Ken and I at Krewe of Zulu | Mardi Gras 2016

As Zulu was wrapping up, we decided to go inside the Hotel Intercontinental to get some lunch. Many restaurants are closed on Fat Tuesday, and since we were right there, we decided that the hotel was a good option. We warmed up with some soup and hearty burgers.

Soup at Hotel Intercontinental New Orleans Burgers at Hotel Intercontinental New Orleans

We stayed inside for a while longer until we started to hear marching bands playing outside the hotel again. That was the sure sign that the next parade, Rex, was starting up.

Krewe of Rex

Rex, Latin for “King,” reigns as “King of Mardi Gras.” It is one of the last parades of the entire season.

Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016

Apparently a big piece of one of the floats had fallen off earlier during the route! That big shell-looking thing was being towed in the back of a truck!

Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016 Krewe of Rex | Mardi Gras 2016

And, of course, lots of folks were dressed up for the occasion, including this guy wearing thong underwear on his head:

Costumes during Mardi Gras Parades Costumes during Mardi Gras Parades

There was a bull float that came by that seemed to be incredibly popular. Although it took me a while to find out the information, it seems to be that it symbolizes the last meat eaten before Lent.

Bull float | Krewe of Rex Bull float | Krewe of Rex Krewe of Rex

Right as the parade was wrapping up, we started to head back to the hotel to get packed up for our flight that was departing that evening.

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.


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?