New Orleans and Mardi Gras brings to mind images of drunken debauchery, nudity and an excess of wickedness. It doesn’t necessarily make you think “kid friendly.” But wait! Our Military TravelingMom shares her guide to family friendly Mardi Gras.
New Orleans Mardi Gras – Not Just for Adults
When orders came that we were moving to New Orleans my first thought was – Mardi Gras! But then reality set in and I remembered that I had kids. How could I subject them to the Mardi Gras I’ve seen portrayed on television? Our first year in New Orleans we stuck to the suburbs and the more “family friendly” parades were. But the next year, I realized that ALL the parades are family friendly if you know the right tricks.
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Carnival season isn’t just a single day in New Orleans. It is more than a month-long celebration that culminates on Mardi Gras, otherwise known as Fat Tuesday.
Carnival starts on January 6th each year and ends on Fat Tuesday which varies depending on Easter and Ash Wednesday. And each weekend is filled with multiple parades all over Louisiana.
Kid-Friendly Mardi Gras Parades
We each had our favorites, but Tucks, Endymion, Bacchus, and Rex are at the top of our list.
All parades are family friendly, but a handful does have adult content floats that take some parental discretion, mainly the ones that run in the evening. I noticed my young ones didn’t even notice the adult-themed floats. They were just so excited to get the chance to catch the light up throws. Plus, the content was over their head so it didn’t phase them.
Where to go for Family Friendly Viewing
Head to the beginning or middle of the uptown parade route and you will find the streets lined with local families. This is where you want to be! The further you go from Canal St and the French Quarter the better.
Our go-to spot was the neutral ground along St. Charles Ave near a local Popeyes. Food and a bathroom is a win-win.
TravelingMom Tip: The neutral ground is what the rest of the United States call the median.
We did venture close to Canal Street for the daytime parades one year and it was not bad at all. We got there early and were right in front by the barriers. While I did overhear a comment about “I’m not showing my boobs! There are children.” We didn’t notice anything that may have happened behind us since we were focused on the floats going by.
What to Pack
Everything but the kitchen sink! Seriously though, you’ll see full on campsite setups with grills, tables, and lots and lots of chairs. But the best item is the Mardi Gras ladder! If you are local or road trip your way to New Orleans – you definitely need one.
- lots of snacks
- wet wipes
- bags to carry your loot
- blankets for those cold nights
- hats/sun visors
- entertainment while waiting for the parade to roll
Most weekends are full-day events, so make sure to plan ahead for meals. We always treated it like a picnic. We’d pack tons of food, snacks, and drinks.
TravelingMom Tip: Parade riders will throw out bags after it is empty of throws – GRAB them! They are great for carrying your treasures and can be reused parade after parade.
Get the Kids Involved
Most young ones don’t have a clue what Mardi Gras is about, but getting them involved will up their excitement. Let them pick out costumes to wear or crazy hats. Have them make signs with outrageous sayings. But most of all teach them to wave their hands and scream “Throw me somethin’ Mister!” at the top of their lungs. It’s all about getting noticed by the riders.
Trust me after that they will hardly be able to contain their joy at going to Mardi Gras!
Enjoy Year-round Parades
Yes, New Orleans is famous for its Mardi Gras parades, but did you know they have a parade for just about every holiday!
My absolute favorite is non-Mardi Gras parade is the Irish/Italian parade that happens over St. Patty’s day in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. Everyone laughs, but they literally throw cabbages, carrots, garlic – Just about everything you need for a good ole Irish stew!
But if you can’t make it to Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day, don’t think you’ll miss out. They have parades for Christmas, Halloween and even Easter.
No matter when we visit New Orleans we always make sure to see if there will be a parade rolling because they are full of family fun!
“Laissez les bon temps rouler!” (Let the good times roll!)