What kid wouldn't love Mardi Gras?
The festival seems like it was made for children, with floats derived from the depths of the most ingenious imaginations, costumes and masks that express an unending creativity, bold colors and joyous music abounding throughout the city. And most importantly, the beads, doubloons and other treats thrown to the crowds from the floats are a child's delight.
There's no need to hesitate - Mardi Gras is a fine family event. In fact, local children are brought to the parades from infancy, complete with their own miniature costumes. Uptown is the best location for families to use as their base during Mardi Gras. While there is no lack of excitement, the location is calmer than the celebrations held in the downtown area and is a great spot for families to settle before the parades begin. The street becomes one long block party as families set up elaborate camps with picnics and barbeques.
Families gravitate day and night to the tree lined neutral ground where the streetcars are replaced by children on ladders fashioned into sturdy high chairs designed for catching the beads thrown from floats, giving kids a leg up on taller parade-goers.
The Krewe of Barkus is a delightful dog parade that rolls the Sunday prior to Thoth, two weeks before Mardi Gras. It parades from Congo Square through the French Quarter and is remarkable fun for children of any age.
The Sunday before Mardi Gras is particularly family oriented, with Thoth parading down Magazine Street and Bacchus rolling later in the afternoon.
On Fat Tuesday, visitors are encouraged to join the local tradition of masking. Zulu, a historic African American parade, leads the long day of parades on Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras itself. Children scramble for hand-decorated coconuts handed down by float riders. For a closer look at African American Mardi Gras experiences, North Claiborne and Orleans Avenue is the place to be. Before Zulu rolls, see the Mardi Gras Indians and pick up some of the best soul and Creole food in the city.
Following Zulu, Rex is always a beautiful parade with elegantly designed floats. After Rex come hours of giant truck floats, each designed by different extended families or neighborhood friends. The trucks blow their horns while recorded and live music blasts from the usually comically themed floats.
While in town for the parade, don't forget the many other educational and cultural opportunities available for families in the New Orleans. The Mardi Gras exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum is a great way to teach children about the celebration's history and traditions. The masks, gowns and costumes on display are sure to catch their attention and imagination. The aquarium, zoo, insectarium, and children's museum are just a few of the other family-friendly attractions awaiting you in the city.
Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, open daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, is a great way to catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes production of New Orleans' biggest party. Children will delight in the tour of oversized paper maché floats and elaborate costumes.
Always falling 47 days before Easter, future dates for Mardi Gras are:
2015 . . . February 17
2016 . . . February 9
2017 . . . February 26
2018 . . . February 13
2019 . . . March 5
2020 . . . February 25
2021 . . . February 16
2022 . . . March 1