Traveler Profile: Ashleigh, 35, USA
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Time of Year: February
Travel Goals: Take part in Mardi Gras festivities and experience the vibrant culture
As soon as I arrived in New Orleans, I was overwhelmed. There were so many people that my heart pounded with a mixture of anxiety and excitement as I looked around the lively streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The air was electric. The street was filled with the intoxicating blend of jazz music and laughter. Beads were hanging in the trees, and colorful floats lined the avenues.
Morning Revelry and King Cake Delight
To start my day, I headed straight to Cafe Du Monde to order the world-renowned beignets and a coffee to complete my morning. Sipping on a steaming cup of coffee, I enjoyed my French doughnut, which reminded me of a Krispy Kreme donut if you got it when the hot sign was on.
Fellow Traveler Tip: Kick off your day with a beignet and embrace the New Orleans spirit from the start.
Navigating the Parade Route and Street Performances
I came prepared with a map of the parade routes and joined the crowds lining the streets, where crowds eagerly awaited the first float of the day. Vibrant costumes, striking masks, and the rhythmic beat of marching bands created a cornucopia of colors and sounds. As the floats rolled by, I became a professional at catching throws—beads, doubloons, and trinkets. The energy was contagious, and I danced to the music alongside fellow revelers.
In between parades, I watched the lively street performances throughout the French Quarter. Acrobats, magicians, and street musicians showcased their talents, adding to the showmanship of the already over-the-top atmosphere.
Fellow Traveler Tip: Plan your parade route, and don’t stray too far from the crowds.
Afternoon Feast on Creole Cuisine
A Mardi Gras celebration is complete with tasting the rich and flavorful Cajun cuisine that defines New Orleans. I chose to stop for lunch at Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter. The aromas of gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée filled the air, making me hungry almost instantly. I ordered the softshell crab poboy, savoring each bite. The food is so fresh and full of flavor you can’t help but appreciate the unique blend of French, African, and Spanish influences.
Fellow Traveler Tip: Explore the French Quarter for hidden culinary gems and try classic Creole dishes.
Costume Shopping and Mask Making
I was eager to embrace the Mardi Gras tradition, so I went through the busy markets with stalls selling vibrant costumes, masks, and accessories. Inspired by the elaborate designs, I wanted to create my mask. I discovered the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into these iconic symbols of Mardi Gras by joining a workshop where I could design my own. I turned a plain mask into a beautiful work of art decorated with glitter, feathers, and sequins.
Fellow Traveler Tip: Dive into the creative spirit of Mardi Gras by designing your mask or picking up a unique costume from local vendors.
Evening Riverfront Cruise and Fireworks Spectacle
As the sun dipped below the horizon, I found a bar serving classic Hurricanes. I got one to sip before I boarded a riverfront cruise to see the fireworks show of Mardi Gras. The skyline lit up with multicolored fireworks that cast a magical glow over the Mississippi River. The reflection of colorful explosions bounced off the water. It was a testament to the energy of the partying crowds of people.
Fellow Traveler Tip: Conclude your Mardi Gras experience with a riverfront cruise for an unbelievable view of the spectacular fireworks display.
The Bottom Line
New Orleans during Mardi Gras is a sensory explosion of colors, flavors, and music. To ensure safety, don’t stray from the crowds. This party city can be much fun if you keep your wits about you. One Hurricane mixed drink was closer to the alcohol content of two or three drinks.
Tourist Information: neworleans.com/mardigras
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Chuck Wagner.