Mardi Gras And Bourbon Street For Dummies (Printable Page)

Revised February 2013
Mardi Gras in New Orleans has been called the greatest street party on earth and perhaps it is. But like any gathering involving thousands of people drinking and carrying on, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you “take it easy” in “The Big Easy….”

Mardi Gras lasts for about a month leading up to Ash Wednesday (that’s one
long party), but the festivities peak at the end, specifically, the last
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday (a.k.a. Lundi Gras) and Tuesday (a.k.a.

Fat Tuesday and/or Mardi Gras Day) before Ash Wednesday and it’s official ending.
That’s when the crowds and the parties are at their largest-that’s the best time to go.

2014 Wednesday, March 5
2015 Wednesday, February 18
2016 Wednesday, February 10
2017 Wednesday, March 1
2018 Wednesday, February 14
2019 Wednesday, March 6
2020 Wednesday, February 26
2021 Wednesday, February 17
2022 Wednesday, March 2
2023 Wednesday, February 22

One thing to keep in mind when discussing the issuue of times. For the most part (with the exception of the last Friday, Saturday(s), Sunday(s), Lundi Gras and Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a nighttime gathering heating up around 5 p.m. and going on til the wee hours of the morning. During the weekday “business hours” Bourbon Street is much like any metropolitan street with only the colorful decorations giving any indication of the wild goings on that take place mere hours away.


While New Orleans has many fine attractions, if Mardi Gras is your target, then the French Quarter, more specifically, Bourbon Street is where you’ll want to be. But don’t make the mistake many people make and forget about neighboring Royal Street. The (8) block section of Bourbon and Royal Streets between Canal and St. Ann is where the action takes place. However be warned: Although not uncommon for children to appear, for the
most part this is no place for persons under the age of 18-especially if you don’t want them being exposed to nudity.

While technically Mardi Gras officially ends at 12:00 a.m. (midnight) Ash Wednesday,
the celebration doesn’t “truly” end until a day later. On Ash Wednesday, Frenchman Street, located to the east just outside the French Quarter, is where the “locals” gather for one last colorful hurrah. Depending on your schedule (and your wallet) you’ll want to be there on those days and as many days prior as you can.

Another factor to bring to mind is that although most people associate New Orleans and Bourbon Street with the Mardi Gras Festival only, it should be pointed out that as far as nightlife is concerned, the French Quarter, and more specifically Bourbon and Royal Streets are just as party oriented all year round so make it a point to venture there whenever you’re in town.


Contrary to what you may be thinking, the parking’s not bad in downtown New Orleans with numerous public lots scattered throughout the downtown area. If you plan on staying in one of the downtown hotels there will most likely be guest parking available to you. If in doubt, call and confirm it. If you do opt to park your vehicle in a public lot park try to park facing a wall or building if possible. It lessens the chances of someone sitting on your hood and damaging it (ask us how we know that).


One of best aspects of Bourbon Street is your ability to truly “barhop” the way it was meant to be. Since you can walk down the street with your alcohol you’ll have no shortage of bars and saloons in which to wet your whistle.

Depending on your musical taste and your type of crowd some of the better bars on Bourbon are Utopia, Club Razzoo and Pat O’Brien’s. And while these are by no means the only quality establishments on Bourbon Street they’re the ones that stood out the most.

During the last week or so of Mardi Gras the bars on Bourbon are open round’ the clock. However, at some point your body gets the best of you and it’s time to head out for a little rest. For most it’s around sunrise. With that in mind we suggest you head back to the hotel, however if the adrenaline is flowin’ too furiously and you’re not in the mood to slow down, one place worthy of mention is a place called the Alibi located on Ibersville Street. This is where the “pro’s” (exotic dancers and quality of life servants) go after a hard night’s work.

Another place reluctantly mentioned is Johnny White’s. After 7 a.m. this is known as a drunkards playground. Reliable sources tell us that a man once took his own life in the bathroom and the bar never closed for business that day. (Our apologies if that isn’t true)


While on the subject of drunkenness. There’s no shortage of exotic drinks on (the aptly named) Bourbon Street. While you’re there make sure you try the “Jester”, the “Hurricane” most popularized by Pat O’Briens or Tropical Isles exclusive “Hand Grenade.” If brewski is more to your liking make sure you take advantage of the beer specials at Huge Ass Beers. However, don’t get so sauced up your first night that your too sick to enjoy the rest of your stay.


Dress warm, but not too warm. Remember Mardi Gras takes place during the winter months and the weather in New Orleans is very unpredictable. Guys will want to wear a hooded sweatshirt and comfortable shoes. Ladies dress sexy (bras optional, of course) but practical in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. Wear footwear that you don’t mind getting destroyed. Open toed footwear is not recommended as the streets

(especially at night) get to be very crowded and dirty (e.g. beads, urine, vomit, horse manure, alcohol, trash).


Umbrella, camera, beads.

Umbrella, camera, beads.

Umbrella, camera, beads. Need way say more.

Starting with the first: Although the temperatures are mild compared to the northern states during the winter months, being so close to the water the makes the weather in New Orleans very unpredictable. And being January, February or March rain is always a possibility.

Next a camera. This should be obvious but we feel the need to mention it anyway.


If people don’t see it with their own eyes, they may not believe your stories! For this reason you need to have a camera to record all of the action. Depending on how seriously you take your own photography will depend on the type (and quantity) of the equipment you bring. If you’re not a good picture taker then bring a video camera although be cautioned that there are some establishments (as hard as that may be to believe) that do not allow any filming within them.

For people who use the disposable fun cameras be warned that you get what you pay for. As a rule, those types of cameras are designed for daylight use. If using them at night keep these guidelines in mind. Shoot too closely (extreme close-ups within 1 or 2 feet) and you’ll be doomed to blurred, over-exposed images. Shoot too far away (specifically up at or down from balconies or other tall buildings) and your doomed to “black” and/or grainy images.

The typical flash bulb is only good for 5 to 10 feet. But whatever type of
equipment you choose be careful. When it gets crowded keep your gear up high (over your head) when moving through crowds to prevent damage by crushing or dropping it.


When it comes to beads you won’t find a more exotic selection than in New Orleans. Literally thousands of shapes, sizes and colors ranging from mild to (extremely) wild. The most common colors are green, gold and purple (these are the official Mardi Gras colors). All other colors (though great for variety and attention) don’t mean a thing.

At Mardi Gras beads are a dime a dozen. If you’re a guy and you want the girls to flash you had better take good beads. The more exotic and unique your beads are the better. The key here is “quality-not quantity,” we can’t stress that enough. The more your beads stand out among the whordes the more action (and attention) you’ll get. Beads that glow, flash and/or light up, are the nighttime favorites. “Big” beads are the daytime favorites. Both have advantages and disadvantages:

Big beads (and light-up beads) get lots of attention (and that’s what you’re looking for) but are expensive and can only be carried in limited quantities. Smaller beads allow more
to be carried but they can be quite heavy and cumbersome and tend to tangle
very easily. When it comes to beads on Bourbon there’s no real right or
wrong answer but one thing is certain, wear the right beads and you won’t
have to worry about asking the girls to flash, they’ll ask you. And girls
remember, if you’re gonna flash, don’t waste time on the junk (throw beads
as their commonly called)-go for the good beads, however keep these things
in mind:

Don’t promise to flash (or some other favor) and not carry through. Guys, don’t promise beads (or some other favor) and not carry through.

Girls, don’t be pressured into flashing if you don’t want to, you can get plenty of beads without flashing. Guys, don’t try to force someone to flash if they don’t want to, there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of girls who are only too happy to flash for you.

Lastly, depending on whether you’re on a balcony or at ground level watch for falling and/or flying beads-they hurt. Also, watch for beads littering the ground. Stepping on them, especially if you’re a little tipsy, is like walking on ball bearings setting you up for a very nasty (and embarrassing) fall.

As you look through the Mardi Gras photo galleries you’ll see just how exotic and wild the bead combinations can get. To get you started on your own beadquest we’ve listed the websites of where we get our own stash. Of course, you can always buy your beads right on Bourbon and in downtown but be prepared to pay ridiculously high prices for them-especially during Mardi Gras:

One last thing on the “bring” list, a good backpack (recommended) or duffel bag to carry your beads and other belongings comfortably is a must. But again be cautioned, carrying around too much weight for 8, 12 or more hours subjects you to severe body aches afterward so travel as lightly as possible.


There are many extravagant hotels (with equally extravagant price tags to match) to choose from in downtown New Orleans. And the closer you get to Mardi Gras (and Bourbon Street), the more extravagant those prices get.

A cheaper option are the hotels and motels outside of the downtown area (we stay in Metairie on Airline Highway near the airport for less than $50 a night). A fine choice if you have a vehicle with you and money’s tight (as it probably will be). And like I said earlier, parking’s not all too bad in downtown New Orleans.

Two important things to remember about hotels in New Orleans: The closer it gets to Mardi Gras the faster the hotels will sell out and the pricier they get as they do. And speaking of pricey, if you do opt for a hotel in the middle-of-it-all action on Bourbon Street, if you want a room with a balcony be prepared to sacrifice yet another arm or leg.

The bottom line is this, if you’re planning to go to Mardi Gras and want a room in or near the action the time to start making reservations is now! July or August at the lastest but be cautioned. Some hotels require you to pay for the hotel room up front when making the reservation.


It’s not likely that Mardi Gras would be Mardi Gras if not for the dozens of balconies that overlook the crowded concourse. But like any other aspect of the festivities there are upsides and downsides to them.

The upside: Balconies give you a bird’s eye perspective impossible to obtain at street level.

The downside: As far as the actions concerned, you’re limited to what’s on the balcony, or what passes by beneath. As a general rule we avoid balconies for extended periods of time as we like to be able to go where the action is.

That brings to mind one other thing. Avoid “hangin’ around” any one place for too long. Remember, Mardi Gras is a wild (8) block street party with something going on in every block and under every roof so keep moving and take in as much as you can.

Many of the bars on Bourbon have balconies available for their patrons. Most require a fee or at best a drink minumum, yet another drawback. Naturally, if you’re a pretty girl you’re chances of getting to a balcony are better than a guys. Private residences and establishments often have balconies available for rent but they’re quite expensive (as much as $40 per hour-per person!).


Avoid carrying a wallet (especially in your back pocket). Carry your I.D., and a few dollars (depending on how much you want to eat and drink) and also for cover charges in the bars. If you have an ATM, debit or credit card take it, almost every place on Bourbon Street and downtown has an ATM machine but remember to keep it in your front pockets or even your shoe if it’s not too uncomfortable.


There are few events more lucrative to networking than Mardi Gras. If you’ve got a website, video enterprise or just about anything related to partying it’s a marketers paradise with so many people from so many places in one relatively small area. Bring your business cards, stickers, t-shirts, caps and flyers or whatever promotional items you have and hand them out at every opportunity.


Unlike the run-of-the-mill, typical night out in your local area, during Mardi Gras there are thousands of interesting people of all ages, and from all parts, all with (at least) one thing in common, the desire to party. Take advantage of this situation and make as many new friends as you can-you might even meet someone special.


While there are many websites devoted to New Orleans and the many aspects of Mardi Gras for other information on this and other New Orleans events such as Jazzfest, Essencefest and the Sugarbowl try or; everything New Orleans.


2014 Wednesday, March 5
2015 Wednesday, February 18
2016 Wednesday, February 10
2017 Wednesday, March 1
2018 Wednesday, February 14
2019 Wednesday, March 6
2020 Wednesday, February 26
2021 Wednesday, February 17
2022 Wednesday, March 2
2023 Wednesday, February 22


Club Razzoo
Pat O’Brien’s
Tropical Isles
Huge Ass Beers

The following links will get you started on your quest to having the best beads on Bourbon.