I think I’ve finished up whatever helpful information I have for Mardi Gras newbies; this is really more of a catch-all location for random tidbits that pop into my head as I am packing and planning for The Event. Rather than figure out where to shove them into the older posts, I’ll just be sloppy and list them all here in no particular order. Enjoy and laissez le bon temps rouler.
Just thinking about Mardi Gras parking gives me chest pains. Transportation is probably my biggest worry each year, whether I drive or fly in. It doesn’t need to be, but I am a worrier so I can’t help it. If you have a hotel that allows you to park without paying extra, you are golden. Most will charge @$30 per day though so budget for that. If you are driving in each day it’s possible to find free or cheap parking veeeery far away from the CBD and FQ if you roll in early enough in the morning. Some people will actually park at the airport and take the airport shuttle if they are staying a few days. The last two years I drove, I parked at Harrah’s casino. This worked great for me but they may have changed their rules so CALL AHEAD and ask about their parking fees. At the time, I got my parking ticket validated by signing up and getting a player’s card, and gambling for 30 minutes. On anything. I played penny slots for a half hour one year and it validated my parking for the entire trip. $4 for the entire trip, holy shit. Last I heard, you have to gamble 30 minutes a day for each day you are there. That’s still an awesome deal, and you might even get a free drink out of it. But I have NO IDEA if this is still the case, so do your homework. I’m assuming you don’t have friends who live in the city and will let you park at their house.
These days people are using the almighty Uber or Lyft more often to get around but I’m old-school and don’t know about any of that (yet). I think 2017 will be my first try, so here’s my thoughts on the usual MSY ground transportation. I hate cabs. HATE cabs. I will avoid cabs at all cost because they are too expensive (@$36 one way per person to CBD) and usually smell like salami. But, it is the easiest way to get from the airport to your destination (unless you are blessed with someone who will pick you up). Find some folks at the ground transportation area and see if you can’t share a cab – most of you are going downtown or the French Quarter. I’ve never taken the bus but I know such a thing exists to get downtown. You can also rent a limo. My transport of choice is normally the airport shuttle, although considering the things I hate about that, a cab might be the way to go for my sanity from now on. The shuttle is $24 one way or $44 round-trip (as of Feb. 2017), and the frustrating part of the trip is actually waiting to go. You’ll stand around for a long time and eventually you’ll be allowed on a shuttle…where you will sit for a long time, wondering what you are waiting for. The shuttle will be full. There will be other shuttles there for new folks. You’re hot and impatient and everyone will be looking at each other and wondering what the hell is going on. This process once added an extra two hours to my trip and I was ready to kill someone when I finally escaped. I mean you’re going to New Orleans during Mardi Gras – you sprinted off the plane and jumped up and down with anticipation waiting for your luggage, and now to have to sit on a full, unmoving shuttle is TORTURE. And no matter where you are staying, your hotel stop will be the last one. You’ll crawl through the FQ in that van watching people outside having a great time and you’ll be about to explode. Seriously, the cab is looking better all the time. If you do a round-trip with the shuttle, make sure you are waiting for them EARLY and have a backup plan. One year, they stopped at my Canal St. hotel either 30 minutes earlier than my pick-up time OR they didn’t come by at all (more likely) and I was almost screwed. I had to run across Canal on Fat Tuesday during parades to the Marriott and catch a cab, hyperventilating and yelling into the phone at my husband over the sounds of truck horns and sirens “I CAN’T GET OUT! I CAN’T LEAVE!”. I was ultra-pissed and they gave me a refund at the airport for the return trip, but I was freaking out about almost missing my flight. By the end of the trip every year, I am just worn to the ground and want nothing more than to be home in my own bed. By that point I have no more patience for humans, sequins, feathers or beads.
My first Mardi Gras, I spent half the time asking my friend Susan if it was really legal for me to be drinking out in the open on the street like I was. I spent the other half drinking. I’m a Yankee – I’d never heard of a “go-cup”. While it’s not cool to be drinking from glass on the street, an open plastic container with alcohol is no problem. That may not be news to you but it blew my mind.
I can’t say this enough: Take lots of pictures. Of you, of the people you are with, of the city, of the parades, of all the wonderful weirdness that is New Orleans and Mardi Gras. I’m lucky to have a ton of great people around me that are taking and posting their pictures so if I miss something, chances are good I can get a pic anyway. The moment is not lost. But you probably don’t have that 100+ person support system, you have to rely on remembering to document everything. Although I might break my own rule some years I say always take a cheap camera. One that can take a beating. Attach it to your belt or on a string of beads so you are less likely to put it down and forget it. Many a camera has been lost, broken or stolen on this trip. And yes, there is a large camera store on Canal if you find you need a new one.
Crime in New Orleans is really no different from crime in any other big city. It happens. Mostly to people who are not using common sense. So use common sense like you would anywhere else and don’t let people who have never even been there make you think you are going to be unsafe. BTW, there’s a police station on Royal Street and they have a vending machine with all sorts of NOPD shirts and trinkets. Go in and check it out – your support helps them which in turn helps all of us!
Find out where a parade starts and what time the riders start loading throws on to floats. Grab a cab and go check it out. It’s a great way to get a close up view of the floats. Bacchus loads at the Convention Center Sunday afternoon and I often show up there to see the sights before its dark and crazy with people on the parade route. I’m trying to catch throws at the parades so I don’t often notice how awesome the floats are. This gives me the time to wander around and look at the artwork and take pictures. It’s also way cool to see how the riders load up all their throws. Remember that riders are not supposed to be throwing anything during this time, so don’t bother them for beads, just appreciate all the trouble they take to give us a great party every year. If someone happens to give you something that’s a nice bonus.
Have you been invited to a ball? By all means go! Balls are not for everyone, but I say try it at least once. It’s a different way to see a parade. Many balls are open to more than the krewe members. For some, you need to know or locate a krewe member to purchase a ticket but I know for Orpheus you can purchase tickets online through their site. Tickets generally run @$125-150 so it’s not the kind of thing most people do a lot, but it’s a special experience. Pay attention to the dress code – they are serious about it. Formal attire is required so bust out that old prom dress! Okay, maybe not but you will probably need a floor length gown. I have an orange glittery number that I have worn to Bacchus, Endymion and Orpheus. I refuse to buy a new dress each time and no one knows or cares. You can party for a few hours before the parade rolls in and then you get the craziness of the parade but indoors instead of out with the masses. I actually prefer to be outside but others love the balls. Make sure you bring a sweater though – inside doesn’t mean it will be warm, especially when the floats start rolling in. You can purchase catered food for the event but are also able to bring your own – many people roll in with big coolers of food and booze. Mixers are provided (soda, seltzer) but it’s BYOB.
It’s not a Purse Holder:
That’s a urinal in the Port-O-Potty. You’re welcome.