Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, takes place on February 17 this year. Each year, it’s the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of the 40-day period of Lent, celebrated by Catholics and some other Christian denominations. Last year, we talked about ways to celebrate Mardi Gras at home with the kids. Most of us will probably be doing just that, but some might want to travel to New Orleans to experience all of the revelry! At first mention, you might think that there’s nothing about Mardi Gras in NOLA that’s really child-friendly, but it’s not true! There are some family-friendly parts of the city and of the celebration itself. Here are some tips if you plan on traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras with kids:
- Stay out of the French Quarter. This is the place where most of the drunkenness and rowdiness will be happening. This is also where the famous Bourbon Street is, and that is adults-only during this season.
- Start on St. Charles Avenue. This is where the parades will often start, and it’s definitely a more family-friendly place to go during the entire season. Between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle, you’ll see people setting up picnics and barbecues along the parade routes. This is where you will want to situate yourself if possible! A benefit to being in this area is that the hotels will be a bit cheaper here than they would be in the French Quarter, as you’re out of the heart of the partying.
- Bring some type of bag to the parades. Many of the people on the floats will be throwing beads, candy and other trinkets into the crowd. Your little ones will want to pick it up, but your pockets will become stuffed quickly if you’re just storing it there. Give them each a bag and let them fill them up. You can always go through later and take out anything that isn’t wrapped well or that is a choking hazard for little ones.
- Get an all-day ticket from one of the restaurants. If you are not staying at a hotel in the vicinity of where you will be watching the parade, you’ll want to get a wristband from one of the restaurants on the route. The reason for this is because only restaurant patrons will be allowed to use the bathrooms, and your child will likely have to go at some point. The wristband will allow you to come and go to use the facilities.
- Consider getting a special ladder. If you have small ones, you can put them in seats that attach to ladders for parade-viewing. These ladders are sold at local stores. For safety, you’ll need to stay with the ladder and keep it several feet back from the road.
- Keep in mind that it will be very busy. Take all of the precautions that you normally would in a crowded area: If your child tends to wander, a backpack/harness might come in handy. Put your contact information in his pocket or backpack just in case you become separated. Talk to your kids ahead of time about what to do if they get lost (find another mom, find a police officer, go into a building such as a restaurant and ask the host or hostess to help).
While you might not consider New Orleans during Mardi Gras to be the most family-friendly vacation destination, you may be pleasantly surprised if you do decide to take the trip.
Have you been to New Orleans during Carnival or on Mardi Gras? Do you have any tips to share?