Laissez les bons temps rouler – Let the good times roll
Ahh, to experience Mardi Gras—the lavish costumes, the over-the-top pageantry, the tossing of beads and the fever-pitch energy of the crowd. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that takes place around the world but is widely associated in America with New Orleans.
Mardi Gras, which translates to Fat Tuesday, can fall on any Tuesday between Feb. 3 and March 9. Fat Tuesday is the last day of the Carnival season and the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This year Mardi Gras falls on Feb. 16.
New Orleans hosted its first Mardi Gras in 1857, and the city’s population swells each year as those who grew up in New Orleans but relocated return home and tourists from around the globe descend on the city for its unique revelry.
Hotels in the Crescent City begin to get booked as early as August and by December many are sold out. There are cancellations, though, and it is suggested that travelers contact hotels repeatedly. Make note that most hotels require a four- to five-day minimum stay during Mardi Gras.
Also be advised that the French Quarter is closed to vehicular traffic during Mardi Gras weekend. Only New Orleans residents and hotel guests with special parking passes can get by police barricades.
Royal balls are another Mardi Gras tradition, however, most of these are private, invitation-only events.
However the French Quarter isn’t where the true Madri Gras action takes place. None of the parades—and there are a slew of them—come through the quarter. Family-friendly parade routes include the Garden District of St. Charles and suburban areas such as Metairie. There are some 57 parades taking place during 12 days between Jan. 30 and Feb. 16 in West Bank, Mandeville, Uptown and other communities. At these parades expect to see spectacles such as the 500 female float riders of the Cleopatra Krewe, 1,200 male and female riders of the Krewe of Orpheus and the 500 male riders of Hermes. Each grand and adding its distinct style and flavor to the parade.
For tips on seeing the parades and advice to enhance one’s trip and minimize getting into trouble, visit www.mardigrasneworleans.com.
However, New Orleans isn’t the only city in Louisiana with a tradition of Fat Tuesday celebrations. Lake Charles, La., is the site of the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the state.
Located in southwest Louisiana, Lake Charles has been hosting Mardi Gras activities billed as “family friendly” for years. In fact, one of the earliest celebrations in southwest Louisiana took place in 1882.
This year visitors to Lake Charles can choose from nearly 20 events and activities taking place between Feb. 12 and Feb. 16 including:
• A zydeco dance from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13
• Krewe of Omega Parade at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13 and Krewe of Barkus Parade at 3 p.m. on Feb. 13
• Taste de la Louisiane, a $5 all-you-can-eat event on Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Cajun gumbo cookoff on Feb. 14 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Children’s Day activities on Feb. 14 from noon to 3 p.m. with a children’s parade beginning at 3 p.m.
The granddaddy of all events is the Krewe of Krewes Parade at 5:30 p.m. on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 16, that stretches from downtown to midtown Lake Charles. And unlike New Orleans where the balls are invitation only, Lake Charles has a Royal Gala that is open to the public (for a $4 to $5 admission fee) in which the kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, captains and courtesans and jesters of more than 50 krewes will parade, followed by music and dance. It involves hundreds of krewe floats, costumes, beads and more.
For full details on the festivities in Lake Charles, visit www.mardigrasswla.com or call 1-800-456-7952.