written by: Nicholas Peddle
Kids & Carnival: Your Guide to Family-Friendly Mardi Gras
It’s Carnival Time, y’all! One of the great things about Mardi Gras in New Orleans is that there are a variety of ways to celebrate. While some among us may be putting the finishing touches on an epic costume (so. much. glitter.) for all-night dancing or renting a tuxedo for the fancy ball at a downtown hotel, parents are readying themselves for the unfettered Mardi Gras excitement from their children.
To increase your chances of a good time had by all (and decrease your chances of a meltdown), we are pleased to offer the following pro tips for celebrating Mardi Gras with little ones.
Watching Uptown Parades
While there is no wrong place to watch a parade with kids, it is recommended that you stay uptown of Lee Circle. As a general rule, the more residential the stretch of St. Charles, the more family-friendly it is. Napoleon Avenue attracts families, as long as you don’t stand right in front of Ms. Mae’s. Watching the extended route parades on Magazine Street is a good way to catch the night parades and still get home for bedtime.
Day Parades FTW
There is fun to be had at nearly all hours in New Orleans, but there is something uniquely fun about day parades. For parents, day parades bring the advantage of not interfering with bedtime and getting home in time for dinner. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
Prepare for Parking
Traffic and parking are both necessary evils for parade-goers, but you can take steps to curb the hassle. First, arrive as early as you can. You can pay to park in lots near the route, or you can search for street parking. The streets closest to St. Charles fill up early, but if you don’t mind a walk, street parking can be found. Just don’t move anyone’s trash cans, or you may find yourself in the market for new tires.
Protect the Ears
When you picture New Orleans’ favorite quarterback celebrating his Super Bowl win, you can probably see a baby in giant headphones. With marching bands, dance groups, and sirens, Mardi Gras parades are loud. Giant headphones are a worthwhile investment.
No matter how far away you live or park, a wagon is a good idea. It can hold mom and dad’s ice chest, snacks for the whole family, the inevitable mountain of throws, and the kid who is too tired to walk after the parade.
To Ladder or Not To Ladder?
Sitting your child atop a ladder is as exciting for the child as it is dangerous. While there are different schools of thought about whether or not to get a parade ladder, one thing is for sure: the City has rules about ladders, and you need to follow them.
Know Your Nearest Bathroom—Always
Kids have a nasty habit of waiting until the very last second to tell you they need to pee. Don’t let it become an emergency: know your nearest bathroom, and still expect to wait in line. If you don’t have a friend who lives nearby, look for churches and schools that raise money by charging admission to porta potties.
Family Gras & French Quarter: Beyond the Parades
Not all of the Mardi Gras fun happens on the Uptown parade route. Metairie hosts its share of parades, as do the North Shore and Westbank. The annual Family Gras festival takes place in Metairie during the first Mardi Gras weekend, and it always features a top music lineup. Finally, the French Quarter on Mardi Gras Day offers epic people watching and costume admiring. As long as you go early (and leave early), it is family friendly.
Here’s wishing you and yours a safe and happy Mardi Gras! By taking a few extra steps in preparation, you can ensure that Mardi Gras is fun for the whole family. Beyond that, it is a time to bask in the sunshine, the music, the company of others, and the knowledge that everywhere else, it’s just a Tuesday.
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