Mardi Gras with KidsWe've all heard the stories of questionable antics and outlandish behavior. However, parents shouldn't worry. Having kids doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fun and excitment of Mardi Gras anymore. In truth, experiencing Mardi Gras with kids can be a family experience that allows you to view the festivities from a different perspective. Of course, kids can absolutely have a fun and safe experience enjoying Mardi Gras parades. Here's the scoop to Mardi Gras with kids.
The Best Parades for KidsMost parades will offer kids the sense of wonder that comes with seeing ornate floats with bright colors, lights, and amazing creativity, plus kids love the costumes, not to mention the beads and trinkets that surround the masked riders on the float. But some parades stand out, and these parades are memorable.
- Caesar (Metairie) Saturday, Feb 3rd 6:00PM: Formed by more than 800 men and women members, Caesar is the largest Carnival organization in Jefferson Parish history. This organization is known for spectacular costumes for members of the royal court, with fiber-optics, neon and three-dimensional figures adorning the enormous costume collars. The Krewe of Caesar is also known as the Roma Club.
- Chewbacchus (Marigny) Saturday, Feb 3rd 7:00PM: The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus is a Sci-Fi themed Mardi Gras themed parade, as well as a self-described satirical space cult! The krewe has 900 members. This year, Chewbacchus fans rejoice - Chewbacca himself, Peter Mayhew, and Andy Richter from the Conan Obrien Show will be joining the festivities.
- Endymion (Mid-City/Downtown) Saturday, Feb 10th 4:15PM: Endymion, a figure from Greek mythology, was a mortal granted eternal youth by Zeus, at the request of the Moon Goddess who loved him for his beauty. It is also the name of Carnival's largest parade with 3,100 riders and 37 floats. Endymion is sure to delight your kids with massive floats that now come to life with high-tech LED lighting, including the Pontchartrain Beach float, the world’s largest with over 250 riders, and the “selfie” float featuring giant video screens that mirror the crowd as it rolls by.
- Bacchus (Uptown) Sunday, Feb 11th 5:15PM: Early in 1968, the Krewe of Bacchus broke with Carnival tradition by staging a Sunday night parade with bigger and more spectacular floats than anything previously seen in Carnival. They then decided to have a national celebrity king lead the parade, breaking ranks with 113 years of Carnival tradition. Bacchus, another superkrewe, features 31 animated floats, including memorable signatures like the Bacchagator, Bacchasaurus, and the three Kongs.
- ‘tit Rex (Marigny) Saturday, Feb 3rd 5PM: 'tit Rex is New Orleans first and only MicroKrewe. A group of artists, business people, teachers, workers and bon vivants founded 'tit Rex in 2009 in a response to the super krewes constantly setting records for floats, throws and extravagance. 'tit Rəx takes an opposite approach focusing instead of on massive floats that take up entire blocks, the 'tit Rəx floats are made out shoeboxes that look like full size floats. The parade’s name comes from the Cajun abbreviation of petite, used as a prefix before the name of the smaller or younger of two people who share a first name.
Best Spots for Kids to Watch ParadesThe parade routes are long and wind through various parts of the city, some of which are more family-friendly than others. Here are a few of the best parade-watching spots for kids.
- Napoleon Ave (Uptown): Napoleon Ave is a great location for two main reasons: It’s a safe and family-friendly area, and it’s at the beginning of the parade route, so the little ones can see all of the parades and still get to bed at a reasonable hour.
- Garden District portion of St. Charles Ave (Uptown): While much of St. Charles Ave Uptown is family-friendly, the Garden District (Think: Numbered streets, between Jackson Ave and Louisiana Ave) tends to feature more families with ladders and picnic blankets than other parts of the thoroughfare.
- Severn Ave or Bonnabel Ave neutral grounds (Metairie): For these Mardi Gras parades, the neutral grounds on Severn and Bonnabel offer double the fun. Your kids will love seeing the parade go by in front of them, turn around, and watch it roll right past them again (just bring enough bags to tote all the goodies home!).
- NOT the French Quarter: None of the major parades pass through the French Quarter anyway, so you don’t have much need to be there unless that’s where your hotel is. But as a rule of thumb, the French Quarter isn’t the best place to bring your kids during Mardi Gras, when neighborhood becomes the center of adults-only festivities.
What to PackPicked your parade? Picked your spot? Now, you need to figure out what to bring along.
- Bag(s) for collecting beads, trinkets, cups, etc.
- Water to stay hydrated
- Hand sanitizer
- Stroller or Wagon
- Snacks or a few dollars to grab a treat from a street vendor
- Toilet paper for bathroom breaks (not all porta potties are well equipped)
- Sunscreen (for daytime parades)
- Ponchos (in case of rain)
- Camera and memory cards
- Parade-tracking app for info about where parades are along the route (helpful during parade breakdowns when kids ask when the next float will get there)
Transportation TipsPlan ahead for transportation. Driving? Know the street closures around the parade routes and where traffic will be most backed up so you can better plan your route. If you don’t have your own car, know that public transportation will be much more limited, particularly along the parade routes, including the shutdown of the St. Charles Ave streetcar. You may need to find another mode of transportation or walk further than usual depending on your situation. If driving, consider where you’ll park. Often you will have to park in the neighborhoods, which can involve a lot of driving around looking for a spot and then plenty of walking from the car to the route, so be sure you allow extra time, if needed.
Last-minute RemindersHere are a few final pointers to ensure your kids—and you—love your visit to New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
- Tell your children to NOT run near the floats or horses, beads are not worth being trampled.
- Don't let your kids put beads or trinkets in their mouth before washing them.
- Have your child use hand sanitizer regularly, especially before eating or drinking anything.
- Like Halloween candy, inspect anything you may let your child have.