I’m a born and raised Gulf Coast mom but my heart lives in New Orleans, especially during Mardi Gras.
My family and I have been in love with New Orleans since as long as I can remember. We have taken my son Quinn to the city for nearly every celebration occasion and he loves it. So much so that for his new room décor, he requested “New Orleans Hotel” theme and we delivered with Ritz-Carlton swag straight from the hotel including an arm chair with ottoman, a giant dresser and a mini-fridge!
Our family loves all the festivities that the city has to offer that we ended up getting a little place for our frequent visits, one of which is always Mardi Gras! I have gotten all kinds of judgy looks from people when we say we are headed to New Orleans Mardi Gras. And some of you who know me personally know that looks of haughty derision just fuel my fire.
Many fellow Coasties think that New Orleans Mardi Gras is an X-rated nipple-fest that trots down Bourbon Street dragging all of your inhibitions with it through the urine laden streets. Well, I am sure you can experience that part of Mardi Gras too (if interested in this experience, please look up Krewe du Vieux and leave the kiddos and all judgment at home), but the Mardi Gras that I take the family to is the best of the best – it’s what we call “The Neutral Ground Side” Mardi Gras.
So, here are some tips from our many years sitting on St. Charles Street Neutral Ground. I hope you find these helpful:
1. The Setup
Bring wire or zip ties. Tie the handles of your coolers and chairs together. This creates a beautiful boundary for kids (especially if you are behind a barricade) but also prevents those Parade Creepers* from encroaching into your area.
*Parade Creeper is that person with a red solo cup who never makes eye contact and always begins by standing all the way at the back. Then by the time the 3rd float goes by, he is basically sitting on your shoulders as his beer sloshes all over your King Cake.
2. The Wardrobe
If you plan to attend 5 parades, you need 5 parade outfits. This is basically a pair of leggings/jeans for each day plus an awesome shirt. I like to have ¾ Raglan shirts because they are thin enough to tolerate those years that we have warm weather but don’t bulk up if you need to layer a few sweatshirts for the freezing Mardi Gras times. Also, since we have all basically been out of the sun for 6 months, it’s great for preventing sunburn. Fleurty Girl is my favorite New Orleans store to purchase great Mardi Gras gear.
3. Head Gear is a MUST
This means outrageous feathers, hats with bling, headbands with sequins, or whatever you can pin to your head needs to be properly prepared and secured with E6000 and ready for you to match to each outfit. And yes, you need a different one for each parade. Duh!
If you need a custom one, email email@example.com – I always make a few extra and can probably custom make you something awesome.
4. The Eats and Drinks
Morning parades are always better with a Bloody Mary and Mimosas and you all likely have no problem packing a cooler with your other choices, but don’t forget tons of water and juice for the kiddos!
As for food, stop and pick up a pizza and wings before you head to the route. For the local parades, we plan on calling ahead early and picking up pizza and wings from Lost Pizza Co. in Ocean Springs. No one wants to eat tired old grocery store fried chicken or a hamburger cooked off the back of a flatbed. Make sure that you pack chips, King Cake and cookies. Those kids get han-gry!
5. The Wagon
An easily portable pack-up wagon is essential for any true parade-goer. We got ours at Academy years ago and it’s still holding strong. Make sure that you sling your camping chairs over your back for easy transport and put all of your bead bags and food in the wagon as you head to your spot. And we always get the most unpopular colors for chairs – like drab brown or dark green because it’s easier to spot from the route than the standard blue or black ones.
If you have little ones, they can usually stand in the wagon if you place it right against the barricade and that gets them high enough over the railing so they can see. Trust me, this tip will save your back, but if not, here’s the contact to a local Chiropractor who can help you with your Parade Paralysis: Tell Dr. Johnson you didn’t heed Lauren’s wagon advice.
Now, if you really want to do it right, you have to have a ladder. Quinn is too big for one now, but if your little one is still small, think about making one of these. Here’s some easy instructions on how to build your own Parade Ladder or a direct link to buy one if you aren’t around any hardware stores in Mississippi/Louisiana to pick one up.