I grew up going to Mardi Gras, just like my dad did and just like my own children will. I remember when the Arthur Hardy magazine would hit the shelves each year and scrolling through in awe at the pictures on each page. I remember the wide-eyed amazement I felt as a little girl taking in all the sights of each parade and begging my dad to put me on his shoulders each time a float was approaching. I remember the joy of seeing my hard work pay off as my bag would continue to fill up with all my Mardi Gras goodies. What’s an even more incredible experience than all of that is getting to share it now with my kids.
Few things can make my NOLA mom heart as happy as watching my kid waiting for a parade to reach our spot while playing ball in the middle of St. Charles Ave with a bunch of kids he’s never met before. We dress crazy, or all in matching shirts. We throw good sleeping habits and proper nutrition out the window. We just get to have fun.
I think the most common misconception is that Mardi Gras is only one type of fun. This is just so not true. It’s fun and safe for people of all ages. We are surrounded by cousins, aunts, grandparents and family friends of all ages. Last year my kids were 4 months old and 3 years old. We went to almost as many parades as humanly possible.
I would say if you’re new or visiting, or if you’ve never given Mardi Gras a chance, make this your year! I consider myself a self appointed Mardi Gras ambassador and try and encourage as many people to get their Carnival on as possible. It can be work with children, but like all things with little kids, proper planning is key.
Our Mardi Gras Must Haves
An ice chest (with wheels!) full of drinks for parents and kids
The 2 weekends leading up to Fat Tuesday are almost non stop all day parading. Get there early, get your spot and set up camp. You’ll want drinks for everyone: juice for kids, your favorite adult beverages, waters and sodas. You’ll also see a lot of people sharing drinks with the people camped out near them. So grab some extras of your favorite beer and be ready to share and try someone else’s. Also no glass bottles are allowed on parade routes, cans only. Don’t forget your favorite koozie!
I should probably buy stock in Uncrustables right before Mardi Gras because they’re our go to meal when we’re out all day parading. In general, I really try and monitor my kids diet. Most of that goes out the window during Carnival. We make an exception to the no juice rule; we eat things that are quick and easy to pack. Also having snacks on hand can make waiting for a parade slightly more bearable for little and big people alike.
Plenty of empty bags for all your throws (you’ll probably also catch a few as well)
I think if you’ve never been to Mardi Gras it’s almost incomprehensible how much stuff you will catch. You’ll want plenty of sturdy bags.
Camping chairs for grown ups and a ladder seat for kids
When you’re out all day, you’ll want to sit down at some point. There can also be a decent amount of waiting and you’ll be glad you decided to lug those camping chairs from the car.
Download a few parade tracker apps
I’m not sure how my parents managed to do Mardi Gras before parade tracker apps 😉 They’re pretty much a must have during Mardi Gras. There’s several out there and I download them all and they provide the route information and live real time updates of where the beginning of the parade is. I always have WWL and the WDSU app downloaded and open. Sometimes when one may be having technical difficulties, I’ve always got a back up.
Ok so this isn’t a necessity but we are glad we have them every year. Night parades are some of my favorites (I mean who doesn’t want to catch a bedazzled purse and shoe?). I buy them in bulk on Amazon and we bring them with us and share with anyone around us who wants some.
There is just nothing like New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I can’t think of anywhere else you can have that much fun for FREE. So grab a slice of king cake and Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Tara grew up all over south Louisiana and currently lives in Metairie with her husband Josh, and their two boys. Tara is a buyer for a local food-service distribution company. She has gone all in on being a boy mom and can frequently be seen playing superheroes, cleaning mud off something or someone, and constantly making snacks. She loves trying new food and she and her family love all things New Orleans, but especially Mardi Gras.