Mardi Gras for Groups

We are pleased to hear of your interest in visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras Day is always the day before Ash Wednesday, and will always fall sometime between February 3 and March 9. The daily festivities begin approximately 12 days prior to Mardi Gras Day. The season starts out with day and night parades on Saturday and Sunday. Night parades are every night Monday-Friday. The most popular time to experience Mardi Gras is beginning on the Thursday before Mardi Gras Day. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day) are very exciting with the largest activities.Jester Float

Hotel accommodations fill very quickly. Many hotels will only accept arrival on or before the Friday just before Mardi Gras Day, and most will require a minimum of a three or four night stay.

If we can be of further assistance, or if you need help getting room rates for a group of 10 rooms or more, please do not hesitate to contact the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, Tourism Department at 1-800-748-8695, or visit our website at www.neworleanscvb.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

What does 'Mardi Gras' mean?
"Mardi Gras" is French for "Fat Tuesday". The previous day is Lundi Gras, or Fat Monday . . . and so on.

When Is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras day is scheduled on a different date each year and is set to occur 46 days before Easter (the 40 days of Lent plus six Sundays.) So, just check your calendar and look for Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras Day is always the day before Ash Wednesday.

When Are The Actual Parades?
Local parish ordinances dictate that the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade season officially begins on the second Friday before Fat Tuesday. During the 12-day period leading up to Mardi Gras, nearly 60 parades are held in the three-parish area of Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard. (Check parade schedules.)

Three DudesWhat Is A Parade?
Almost all Carnival parades follow a standard parade format. The King and Queen lead the parade followed by, for example, an 18- float procession of a 200-member krewe. A parade of this size may actually feature more than 100 units. When band members, dancing groups, horse & rider units, clown units, and motorcycle units are all totaled up, it is not uncommon for the number of participants to total more than 3,000.

What Makes Mardi Gras Parades Different From All Other Parades?
THROWS turn New Orleans parades into crowd participation events. The most popular items are those that bear the krewe's insignia, such as DOUBLOONS, cups and medallion emblem necklaces. Many items also illustrate the parade theme, thus making them collectibles.

Where Do I Watch A Parade?
Check parade routing and join along with the many (of thousands) of locals and visitors and view the parades curbside. Or, you may wish to enjoy Mardi Gras from the vantage point other than standing at street level, such as in grandstand seats. Tickets to the City of New Orleans' reserved grandstand seats, where approx. two-dozen downtown Orleans Parish parades pass, are available to the public. To take advantage of the FREE OF CHARGE tickets available for the first weekend of parades, please contact the Mayor's Office (Ms. Tenaj Jones, V.I.G.O.R., Tel: 504-658-4055, Email: tjones@cityofno.com). All group requests must be put on company letterhead and sent to Ms. Jones at the Mayor's office. First weekend tickets are distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets for the second weekend of parades are available for purchase from Ticketmaster (Tel: 504-522-5555 or 1-800-488-5252).

Can I Purchase A Ticket To A Mardi Gras Ball?
Admission to traditional tableaux balls is by non-transferable invitation only. The carnival organizations are private clubs and invitations to tourist groups are not extended.

Are there any Mardi Gras Balls that I can attend?
Endymion, Bacchus, and Orpheus (known as the Super Krewes) each hold a supper dance type of party on the night of each of their parades. Tickets are available for purchase from each organization. Please visit their websites for more information. www.endymion.org, www.kreweofbacchus.org, www.kreweoforpheus.com.

Where can I stay?
New Orleans has many hotels in all price ranges. They fill up early for Carnival so you don't want to wait until the last minute to try to find a place to stay. The hotels nearest to the French Quarter usually fill up first.

What are the most important things to know about when watching parades? Float

  1.  Bathrooms - especially if you have children with you, figure out where the nearest facilities are. Portable bathrooms are placed in various locations but lines are usually very long. To use the restrooms in restaurants and bars, you need to purchase something. Don't expect just to walk in without getting stopped. A local group has written a popular song about this dilemma entitled "Ain't No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day."
  2. Sun screen - bad sunburns can be had in New Orleans even in February, so make sure to bring and use sunscreen. 
  3. Folding chairs - unless you will be viewing parades from a balcony or grandstand, you might want to bring folding chairs/stools with you. Standing all day long can be very exhausting. Of course, if you bring them, you have to carry them. 
  4. Water - it can get quite warm standing in the sun and watching parades and unless you want to spend a fortune on soft drinks for the kids, bring some bottled water with you. 
  5. Don't reach down with your hands to pick up beads or doubloons, you could end up with a broken finger. Step on whatever you see with your foot first. Downtown, on St. Charles and Canal, especially, do not cross barricades to pick up throws. Friendly police often will kick throws to the crowd; they are tough on barricade-busters, though. 
  6. Driving/parking/barricades - Police block traffic from major parade routes well before the parades. Allow extra time to arrive and find parking. On foot, take care not to cross police barricades. Especially on Canal Street, crossing a barricade may get you anything from a stern lecture from a police officer to manhandling or even arrest. 
  7. Comfortable shoes - you will be doing lots of walking and standing during your time at Carnival so make sure your feet are well taken care of. Your shoes will get covered with beer, dirt and other fun things so you may want to get a pair that you don't mind throwing away when the party is over.

What goes on during Mardi Gras besides parades?
Like Christmas, Mardi Gras is a season of celebration with a variety of themed activities, from the famous Mardi Gras parades to exclusive formal balls, concerts, debutante activities, sporting events, block parties and much more.

What do the purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras mean?
The colors of Carnival were chosen in 1872 by that year's Rex, the King of Carnival. The 1892 Rex parade gave the official colors meaning: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.