Understanding Mardi Gras in New Orleans
One of the world’s most well-known festivals, the New Orleans Mardi Gras attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Louisiana’s largest city.
Famous for its street parades, music, food and nightlife, the New Orleans Mardi Gras occurs in the two weeks before and on Shrove Tuesday. Most years, the festival occurs during February or March, with major parades and events every day.
Below, we’ll provide more information on Mardi Gras, from the event’s history to crowd sizes, local culture and more. If you’re thinking of visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you’ll find a variety of useful tips and information to help you make the most of the vacation.
The History of Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Mardi Gras in New Orleans dates back to the 17th century, with the first documented festival held on March 2nd, 1699. The festival grew over the next century, incorporating a selection of parades, costumes, and musical events.
The first documented accounts of the festival’s famous Carnival balls date back to 1743. The State of Louisiana made Mardi Gras a state holiday in 1875. In the more than 140 years since the event became a state holiday, Mardi Gras has grown tremendously in popularity.
Today, Mardi Gras attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the country, most of whom take part in the event’s parties and parades. The parades are organized through local social clubs known as krewes, which each showcase their floats during the festival.
Mardi Gras Parades, Crowd Sizes, and Tips
The New Orleans Mardi Gras spans several weeks, with several parades every day in different parts of the city. A parade schedule is available online, letting you plan your visit to New Orleans and take in as many Mardi Gras events as possible.
Most visitors to New Orleans visit during the long weekend before Mardi Gras begins. This is when the most popular parades typically occur, with the city hosting a variety of celebrations aimed at locals and tourists alike.
Many of the parades during Mardi Gras attract hundreds of thousands of people, making it important to plan ahead for events you plan to visit. The Mardi Gras parade schedule linked above features location and krewe information for all of the festival’s parades.
The major Mardi Gras parades are usually held in the Uptown and Mid-City districts of New Orleans. The city can be quite crowded during Mardi Gras, making it worth planning transport arrangements ahead of time to avoid crowds, traffic, and delays.
Mardi Gras Nightlife and Parties
New Orleans takes on a new sense of energy during Mardi Gras, with a huge variety of parties and other nightlife events. The city’s most famous nightlife is found around Bourbon Street, the center of street parties, live music and other festivities in the city.
There are also other Mardi Gras nightlife events held throughout New Orleans, ranging from a variety of formal events, concerts, “underground parties,” and more.
Accommodation During Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is by far New Orleans’ largest event, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors over the course of the festivities. Because of this, it’s important to book your hotel rooms and other accommodation as early as possible to avoid overpricing or limited availability.