Last year I took Big to the Mardi Gras parades in Mobile AL with a friend. We had a blast. The weather was great, the crowds weren’t insane, and we got tons of swag.
This year we decided we’d up our game…NOLA.
Before y’all think I’m a wretched parent for taking my teen daughter to New Orleans, please know that NOLA and I have history. I lived there from 1995 to 2000. I met and married DH there (who, incidentally, grew up in a suburb of NOLA). I have been back at least annually, and took the kids last year (among other trips there).
I love New Orleans. Love it. It’s a part of my heart, really. Which may seem like a lot coming from a Jesus loving, non drinking, evangelical Christian.
So, I don’t think it was a stretch to go to a couple of parades in less icky parts of the city and enjoy the atmosphere.
We, of course, started at Cafe du Monde. Beignets. Frozen cafe au lait. Swoon.
We got there EARLY expecting a crowd. No crowds at 7, yet. But sunrise reflecting on the cathedral, quiet, street sweepers, and locals… It felt like my old NOLA. I remembered my love for the city as we ate breakfast and walked Royal Street. Really, New Orleans is an gem.
Rousses. There are a few in the city. Go. Buy local things. Like iced coffee concentrate. It’s amazing.
Jackson Square… before the crowds. It’s beautiful.
We needed some place to sit after the early wake up, cold temps, and walking so we headed to Starbucks on Canal Street to chill. It was a great pick with hot tea and comfortable chairs.
I decided to head out and look for our parade spot and decided on the neutral ground on Canal. I took a seat about 10:15 for the 11 am parade start.
In terms of parade swag, we had a great spot. We were right after a turn and right on the corner. We met really nice people on our corner, though closer to parade time we did need to defend our front row status a little. It was a hard balance, being kind and defending the spot we stood there for 3 hours to secure.
The parade was great. Unfortunately, it started late and that coupled with colds, no sleep, and a few other factors, we only made it through one parade. We had planned on Tucks and Iris, but only made it through Iris.
Having been to both Mobile and New Orleans parades, two of three voted for a return to Mobile over New Orleans. I might vote for New Orleans, but with some major changes. The Mobile voters preferred the smaller crowds, the family friendly atmosphere, and the casual feel of the scenes. New Orleans definitely had better swag, but the trade off was some seriously drunk people nearby, some inappropriate crowd wear (really), crowds, expense (parking was insane), and traffic. Seriously – insane traffic (which honestly, was partly my fault and planning because if we had stayed for Tucks it would have been better).
My revised New Orleans plan…
- Get there early afternoon on Friday. Sleep well.
- Skip Cafe Du Monde, sleep in, hit PJs for coffee enroute, and set up for the parade around 11.
- Park in Audobon Park or somewhere west of Napoleon.
- Watch the parade in the Garden District. Anywhere west of Lee Circle would work. Don’t forget chairs and swag bags. A cooler or thermos wouldn’t be wasted!
- Suck up the tired and hit all the parades available for one day. Push it. Wear it out.
- Sleep over Saturday night. Sleep in late Sunday.
- Travel home Sunday.
- Do Mardi Gras in Mobile. Stay Friday night, hit a parade or two Saturday, and go home.
- Then, go to New Orleans in around April when the weather is perfect. Spend a few days. Walk around. Ride the street cars, eat at all your favorite places, tour the WW2 Museum. Go to other museums. Take a cooking class. Relax. Don’t rush. Avoid crowds.
I think Big has a great idea there! Sadly, New Orleans didn’t show well this weekend. All that people who love New Orleans defend against (“Why would I go there? It’s loud/smelly/drunk people are everywhere/there are falling down drunks everywhere/people are rude/traffic is awful….”) was out in full force. It’s a shame because New Orleans is a beautiful city with a great heart, and in the past I don’t remember Mardi Gras being so glaringly negative. Maybe it was and I didn’t see it until I was looking through the lens of having a 14 year old with me. Either way, I still love the city, and I would do Mardi Gras again – but I would likely use Big’s plan. I think it’s a great one.