Mix the best of St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and Halloween into one holiday, and you’ll get a New Orleans Mardi Gras.
It has a bad reputation for being a low-brow, over-sexed Bacchanalian “boobs, beads and beer” free for all, but really that’s just one fifth of it. If you”re new to it (like we were), it’s best to be prepared. Here’s some tips to keep you afloat in the joyful mayhem.
1) We love the pro tips from GONOLA.com, especially “Write the address of where you’re staying on your arm with a Sharpie and stash a $20 for a cab in your sock.”
2) Wear a costume. Ideally it should be homemade, weigh at least 100 lbs. in glitter, OR reveal as much skin as possible. Or better yet, all of the above.
3) Stuff your backpack with beer cans. When you can’t lift it anymore, remove two and start drinking them. (Don’t pack glass – it’s illegal on the streets.)
4) When choosing which beer to drink, go for the local brews like Abita’s Mardi Gras Bock or NOLA’s Pecan Pale Ale. A local told us Schlitz gives you the shits (while handing us a can of Schlitz – it’s popular here!)
5) Don’t stick to a rigid plan. Go where the wind takes you. At Mardi Gras it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.
6) Go to parades the week before Mardi Gras. You’ll get more beads and the crowds are easier to navigate. The big parades are really crowded and it seems like everyone is taller.
7) Bring a bag to the parades, you could end up with 30 pounds of beads. They can get really heavy!
8) Don’t stand next to a cute 2-year old girl sitting on daddy’s shoulders at the parade. That bitch will get everything.
9) Mardi Gras is not so much a day (“Fat Tuesday”) as it is a season with special foods, music, history and symbols. Pick up an Arthur Hardy Mardi Gras Guide to beef up on your lingo, learn the lore, and get all the parade dates and routes.
10) The coolest parades are (in our humble opinion) Krewe du Viuex, Muses, St. Anne, Barkus (with dogs) and Chewbacchus (with nerds). The coolest walkers are the 610 Stompers, the Rolling Elvi and the Half-Fast Walking Krewe. The best band is Pandora.
11) If a person isn’t friendly, they aren’t from around here. Or as local Jewish Southern artist Dr Bob (whose paintings are in nearly all the best restaurants) puts it, “Be Nice or Leave!”
12) Potato chips in a liquor store: $5.00.
13) Don’t step in the horse shit. And by the way, you just stepped in the horse shit.
14) If you’re staying near Bourbon street, expect to be lulled to sleep by incessant outside chanting: “SHOW YOUR TITS! SHOW YOUR TITS!”
16) If you can stand a Sazerac, we applaud you.
17) Pimm’s Cups are delicious. They’re the cucumber mojito of the South.
18) You’ll be tempted to eat a lot of drunk food. Do it. We hit a fried chicken place, a gyro place, a guy on the corner selling half-pans of brownies and Cafe du Monde in one night (*burp*).
20) The best throws at the parades are the personalized items like the shoes at Muses and the coconuts at Zulu. They look like Dr. Seuss Disco Christmas ornaments, and we love them for it.
21) At midnight on Bourbon Street, the police ride horses and clear the street, symbolizing the beginning of Lent (and making way for cleaning crews).
22) Whenever you see a bathroom, use it. There won’t be one when you actually need it.
23) Stake out your space early at the big parades (and don’t squeeze onto someone else’s space after they’ve claimed it). The goal is for everyone to have a good time.