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A first-timers experience at Mardi Gras: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

My #1 goal for a while, since living in Georgia has been to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans. An easy 7-hour drive to the Bayou State. Lucky for me, this past trip opened my eyes to new experiences and a different outlook on what it means to party at Mardi. I went in with no expectations and left with an overwhelming feeling of happiness. We did it! Our group conquered Mardi Gras!

For most, the idea of Mardi Gras can easily be categorized as a drunken-street filled festival with boobs out and beads being thrown. And while yes, that was the case in some aspects…there was far more to see and do than I ever thought possible.

Like every awesome event or travel destination..there are always different sides to every story. I’m here to show you the good, the bad and the ugly of attending Mardi Gras so you get the most authentic first-timers view.

mardi gras

The GOOD

Can we just talk about how over the top these festival-goers do costumes? If Halloween + EDM festival had a baby–it would be Mardi Gras (Without all the scariness and stages).

Seriously, you just have to see it to believe it. One of my favorite things to do when I go ANYWHERE is people watch…and boy, oh boy are there some creative creatures around those parts. Their outfits were both hilarious and downright crazy, but the joy of celebrating is expressing yourself…anyway you freakin’ please.

outfits

One major thing you come to New Orleans (or Louisiana in general) for? THE FOOD. I can tell you first hand, this southern state knows how to eat. Those roots run deep inside this culinary wonderland of cuisine. Inspired by an eclectic background of French, African, Caribbean, Irish, Spanish, German, and American cultures. Holy shit balls. The possibilities are endless.

mardi gras food

Add in a dash of southern, sweet, Cajun and Creole…ohhhhh weeee. My mouth is watering just talking about it. The infamous King Cakes come out to play, and although crawfish isn’t quite in season; we got to try our hand at some of the freshest, most flavorful crawfish in town.

crawfish

Can’t talk about the food without washing it down with some alcohol right? Hand Grenades, Hurricanes, and frozen Irish Coffee, oh my! One of my favorites though?? The resurrection! A bright blue drink in a flashing skull cup– made with pineapple juice, rum, blue curacao and some honey syrup topped with a jalapeno garnish. At a $15 price tag…at least you can take the cup home as a souvenir.

hand grenade

One drink NONE of us were a fan of?? Absinthe. Lord have mercy on the people who have “acquired” a taste for this. Try it at The Old Absinthe House if you dare.

tropical isle

Tons of people flood the streets during Mardi Gras to express themselves in many different ways. Between the dancing, street performers, art installations, and music…there is NO POSSIBLE WAY you could have a bad time. The art around the city dives deep into the culture of New Orleans.

mardi gras graffiti

It’s amazing to me just how talented and creative human beings can be. I saw insane costumes, movie-like parade floats, little kid bands and sooooo much more. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience.

floats

Ever been to a local parade? Well, I can assure you, its got nothin’ on Mardi Gras. The floats are immaculate, the people dressed for the floats are definitely there to impress, and until you experience it first hand…you just won’t understand the sheer joy of it.

mardi gras parade

parade

The BAD

I am saying this in the most non-controversial way possible. There were Jesus people EVERYWHERE. It is astounding to me that some humans will dive head first into reading the Bible out loud, hold up crosses and picket signs to “spread the word”.

mardi gras signs

Why condemn the fact that people are just out having fun? Sure, there were people in thongs, bondage outfits and tits galore..but just let us live??? Personally, trying to shove the Bible down people’s throats seems to be taking 5 steps back in society. :: shrugs shoulders::

Speaking of the streets being gross. Let’s talk a little about the bathroom situations. It is absolutely NOT OKAY to pee on the streets. YOU WILL GET ARRESTED, and have to spend the entire festival in jail (Until Ash Wednesday actually). Here’s the problem though. Bathrooms are few and far between.

What I find to be completely insane is KNOWING you will have thousands of people drinking and not setting up the necessary means for them to do their business. On parade days, most bars, restaurants and other businesses will only allow you to use them if you are a paying customer.

mardi gras bathrooms

Some places you have to pay upwards of $10 just to pee. That’s ridiculous. Know before you go…literally.

The UGLY

As amazing as humans can be..they can cause massive environmental destruction. Sorry to be a little over dramatic…but the one thing I hated most about EVERY trip I took to New Orleans was just how dirty and disgusting it was.

mardi gras aftermath

Take Nola on a regular day + over 1 million people swarming the streets with beads, drinks, vomit, piss and anything else you can think of = a sea of trash and despair. Walking on Bourbon after the first day, was a journey in itself. Trying not to break an ankle while stepping over mounds of beads…not the prettiest sight to see.

No place is perfect, no human is perfect…but it’s our job to take care of the places we live and travel to. I won’t go into a 2-hour lecture on this…just be better, and be prepared when you visit.

mardi gras

(source)

To dig in a little deeper, another ugly side I experienced was the influx of homeless people. Some were sleeping on the streets, in the middle of the chaos of Bourbon Street. Honestly, I don’t blame them. This event brings in soooo many out-of-towners, tourists and people ready to spend money. It’s sad really. And to make matters a little bit uglier…there were a lot of junkies.

My friends and I sat down to eat at a restaurant on Frenchman street, and right outside there was a guy dancing. He was in short sleeves, it was rainy and cold, and he was jamming out. No harm right? Well, after minutes of blankly staring at him..we noticed something in his hand. A syringe. Normally, I’m not frightened by people but this was a little scary.

Be cautious of your surroundings and stay in groups!

A few insider tips

  • Download the Parade tracker to stay up to date on the schedules and routes of the parades
  • We stayed 15 minutes outside of the city in the cutest Airbnb. If you want to be in the heart of the party 24/7 then stay closer…but if you want some quiet time to rest and recharge…stay a little further out.
  • Plan on booking accommodations at least 3 months in advance. Some people plan up to a year! We booked 3 months before and Airbnb’s were scarce.
  • Don’t worry about making reservations. Even with 7 of us we never had a problem getting a table to have lunch or dinner.
  • Half of the city gets blocked off, making traffic a nightmare. Try to come early and leave late (if you aren’t staying close) to avoid the chaos.

and remember…

mardi gras signs


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