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Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans

Mardi Gras in New Orleans = parades. Every year, over 70 parades roll through the city in the days leading up to the holiday, bringing large floats, music, performers, and of course, beads.

The parades are so popular, and so prevalent, that there are permanent street signs around New Orleans designating the parade routes.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Every day in New Orleans is a beautiful day for a parade!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The first parade that we caught was held by the Krewe of Iris. A “krewe” (pronounced just like “crew”) is what they call organizations that put on a parade or ball during Mardi Gras season.

The Krewe of Iris is the oldest and one of the largest female carnival organizations for women. The members must always wear masks and white gloves to maintain the mystery of the season. It was a special year for the Krewe of Iris, as the group was celebrating its 99th birthday!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I thought that the floats were pretty impressive. But as my friends warned me, and as this post goes on, you’ll see that this is actually a small parade for Mardi Gras standards!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The night before, I caught exactly zero beads on Bourbon Street. So I was incredibly excited to finally catch some beads being thrown down from the floats!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Nothing!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

After several floats went by, and I still caught nothing, I was beginning to feel discouraged. Would I be the only person to come back from Mardi Gras bead-less?!

A few more floats went by, and finally, I was successful.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I didn’t even care that I had to shed blood (and fight off the man next to me!) to catch those beads!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Ok, not a lot of blood, but this story needed more drama!

And my bead collection just got bigger from there.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I ended up with so many beads!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Anton was successful too. Turns out the revelers on the parade floats also throw goodies like cups, sunglasses, bags, hats, balls and… parrot stuffed animals.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Now this is how you win at Mardi Gras:

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Side note for those of you who are curious. You do not (and, in fact, should not) need to flash for beads during the parades. The parades are family events, and the people on the floats will throw beads down to anyone. So keep your shirt down, and your hands in the air!

As you’re about to see, not all parades are created equal. Mardi Gras has three “super krewes” which produce the city’s most visually-stunning parades. They are the Krewe of Orpheus, the Krewe of Bacchus, and the Krewe of Endymion. And we got to see all three!

The Krewe of Bacchus parade was the following evening, and we were lucky enough to watch it from across the street of a family friend’s home in the Garden District.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I had an excellent vantage point, inspired by the two year old next to us!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The Krewe of Bacchus parade has a reputation as being the most innovative. It’s also known for its celebrity kings. Will Ferrell, Nicholas Cage, Drew Carey, Dennis Quaid, Larry King and Dick Clark have all reigned during past parades!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Every time a float would go by, the masses on the ground below would rush up, begging for the beads and treats that were being thrown.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Not all beads are created equal. Some are made with unique materials, and others are collectors items. So it’s especially exciting when you score something unique.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

I didn’t need to rush up to the floats. I was so tall that the revelers on the floats would just hand me cool things, like a drumstick, beads, and a light stick.

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

The floats were incredible, and exceeded all of my expectations. It was my favorite parade-watching experience of the week!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

And we all were successful in our spoils!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

A good rule of thumb for beads is that you can wear them around after the parades, but once you go home and change clothes, you shouldn’t put them back on to go out. Instead, you should have a blank slate so you’re free to catch more beads!

While we were out on Lundi Gras, the Krewe of Orpheus‘ parade went by. We were parade pros by this time!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

These floats were also impressive, but if I had to vote, I think the Krewe of Bacchus wins!

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

Mardi Gras Parades - New Orleans travel tips - Wanderlust in the City

For a complete list of Mardi Gras parades, including parade routes, click here.

Stay tuned for more on the third super krewe, the Krewe of Endymion (this parade came directly through the black-tie party I was attending!).

~A

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