A Beginner’s Guide to Mardi Gras in New Orleans

03/08/2017 22 Comments

After spending an amazing few days in New Orleans for Mardi Gras last week, I have to spread the word. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a bucket list must! My hope is that the weather will be perfect like this past year, but if not you will still experience a beautiful celebration.

When is the best time to go?

Mardi Gras is usually celebrated over multiple weeks in January and February with the culmination happening on Fat Tuesday. There are parades and weekend celebrations throughout (click here for the schedule and routes), so anytime during January and February is worth a visit. However, the biggest parties happen the weekend prior and through Fat Tuesday. I highly suggest arriving the last Saturday before and staying through Tuesday.

Where to stay?

French Quarter

There are a couple of different areas I recommend staying in to get the most out of the celebration. If you would like to be right in the action then I suggest staying at a hotel in the French Quarter. Be prepared that it could be loud during the nights because this area hosts all the popular bars.

Another option is the downtown area which is on most parade routes and will save you in UBERS since the French Quarter and Garden District aren’t far.

Garden District

The Garden District is absolutely beautiful and more family friendly in my opinion. You can find unique hotels and Airbnbs in this higher end area.


Another option is to stay in Mid-City in an Airbnb. It’s a great walkable residential area with tons of yummy restaurants and a quieter vibe. Except for the Krewe of Endymion on the Saturday night of Mardi Gras weekend. Mid-City is the perfect spot to be since the parade route starts in this area. Residents line up early and tailgate all day long. This was one of the best experiences of my Mardi Gras trip. Don’t plan on doing anything that Saturday, you will be stuck in this area due to the parade schedules but it’s so much fun that it’s no big deal! Ubers are relatively easy to get in this area but during the big celebration days it might take longer to get around to the other areas in New Orleans. Costs of the rides can rise during this time too due to high demand, so take that into consideration for your budget.

Which parades/krewes do I go to?

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The parades are called Krewes, which refer’s to the organizations that stage the parades and events. The most popular and historic ones not to miss are:





What should I eat?

These dishes are must haves while in New Orleans! Stay tuned for a Where to Eat in New Orleans guide coming soon.

Shrimp Creole



Gumbo Shop


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Commander’s Palace


King Cakes


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Cafe Du Monde

What are your best safety tips?

Don’t go alone! Always have a friend/friends with you at all times whether you are watching the parades or hanging out on Bourbon Street. 

Watch your drinks and don’t stay out past midnight. 

I recommend not bringing a purse around Bourbon Street. Opt for a small cross body bag at most and keep it in front of you. 

Wear closed toed shoes that you don’t care about getting dirty.


Now that you have decided this is it, this is the year I’m attending Mardi Gras here are a few more tips. Don’t forget to book hotels, Airbnbs and plane tickets early! I recommend no later than October for the best deals. Bring an exciting/funny/sparkly costume! Anything goes on the actual day of Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, so share your individuality with the world 🙂


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Cupcake N Dreams

New Yorker blogging about travel and lifestyle things that make me happy!


  1. Reply

    Christine Keane


    I loooove cajun food! And it’s one of my favorite things about visiting Louisiana! I would love to do Mardi Gras in NOLA one day! What an experience! #wanderfulwednesday

    • Reply

      Cupcake N Dreams


      Ah the cajun food MIGHT have been the best part Christine! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. Reply



    I would love to go to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans it looks amazing. Thanks so much for sharing with #WanderfulWednesdays

    • Reply

      Cupcake N Dreams


      Thanks for stopping by Jo! I highly recommend it 🙂

  3. Reply

    Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders


    These are all great tips for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but also just New Orleans in general! I bet that your food post is going to be so awesome because the food is amazing in NOLA! And closed toe shoes are always a must, especially if you’re headed to Bourbon Street!

    • Reply

      Cupcake N Dreams


      Ah I’m so excited to write a food post on New Orleans because everything was so good! Yes closed toe shoes were a must on Bourbon!! Thanks Ashley 🙂

  4. Reply



    We celebrate the carnival in my hometown in Germany as well. It’s a really catholic tradition back home. Mardi Gras seems like much more fun though – plus New Orleans is so much warmer in February 😀 Would love to experience it myself!

    • Reply

      Cupcake N Dreams


      I would love to hear more about your carnival Van! Mardi Gras was a great experience in part because the weather was gorgeous and a nice change from my current northeast home. Thanks for hosting!

  5. Reply



    This is such a great post, thank you! I had hoped to get to Mardi Gras this year, but I went home to Australia for a visit instead. I’ll definitely use this to plan my trip to New Orleans. #wanderfulwednesday

    • Reply

      Cupcake N Dreams


      Ah I miss Australia, so I envy you Kat! I’m happy you found this guide helpful 🙂

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    I loved the garden district when we went to NOLA – it’s so gorgeous!! Give me all the great food again – gosh it was so delicious! xo, Biana –BlovedBoston

  7. Reply



    I’ve always wanted to go to Mardi Gras! This is a useful guide! I’ve pinned it for later! 🙂 #WanderfulWednesday

    • Reply

      Cupcake N Dreams


      Thanks Lolo! I’m thrilled you find it helpful 🙂

  8. Reply



    These are great tips!! There’s actually a float museum where you can see them being made throughout the year, which I think is pretty cool, too! I do love me some bengiets!! They are definitely my favorite things about New Orleans… though strolling the garden district is pretty nice, too. I don’t know if I could do the mardi gras crowds. 😉

  9. Reply

    Ericka @ A Quiet Girl's Musings...


    Ah, New Orleans… One of my favorite trips! I was there for New Year’s, but have always been intrigued with the pageantry and splendor of Mardi Gras. Perhaps one day I’ll get there to see it. I fell in love with the city’s vibe, the jambalaya, and the beignets. Those beignets! I swear, I can still taste them!

    This is a great overview with lots of valuable tips for folk considering going to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras. I enjoyed reading it.

  10. Reply



    Nice tips! Sounds very exciting, I’d love to make it there at some point!

  11. Reply



    I would LOVE to go to Mardi Gras someday!! Actually, I’d just love to visit New Orleans, see the beautiful architecture, and eat all that amazing food… mmmm jambalaya and beignets! I would probably want to watch the parade from a private balcony, than be in the crowd.

  12. Reply

    Marcella ~ WhatAWonderfulWorld


    What an amazing experience! Would love to go and experience it for myself someday, I just love all of the colour and vibrancy 🙂

  13. Reply

    Elizabeth (Wander Mum)


    What a fantastic experience! I’d love to visit New Orleans and sounds like during Mardis Gras is a great time to go! #citytripping

  14. Reply

    Cathy (Mummytravels)


    New Orleans is definitely on my bucket list and how fun would it be to experience Mardi Gras. Great tips too and even the thought of that food is making me hungry! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  15. Reply



    Going to Mardi Gras has been on my bucket list for so long (like many other travelers I’m sure). It’s one of those things I keep putting off, because I know I’ll go one day, but I think I need to take the plunge and do it soon. I have many friends who have gone and just rave about it. I guess it really lives up to all the hype. This is a great guide for a first-timer so I’ll definitely be pinning it for later 😀

  16. Reply

    Corey @ fifi + hop


    We are going to New Orleans next month! Obviously we won’t be there for Mardi Gras, but we’re taking a tour of how they design all the props. Can’t wait!!