It’s that time of year again where gorgeous people in costumes flood streets like Bourdon, drinks in hand, beads piled around their necks, with the true spirit of Mardi Gras taking over the historic (and once torn) city of New Orleans.
Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," which is when the festivities get started (this year it’s March 8th). It is a time of year when people eat fatty, heavy foods before fasting for the Lenten season, which starts on Ash Wednesday the following day. "Traditional" Mardi Gras’ are held in Catholic cities across the globe.
While these "roots" are steeped in religious ritual, the New Orleans version of Mardi Gras is a bit more… relaxed. Tourists and locals take to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter to eat, drink and be merry, while various parades take place in Uptown and Mid-City Nah’leans along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Streets, where women bare their chests in exchange for beads… a heaven on earth, many would say.
Most visitors are hitting up The Big Easy this weekend in preparation for Fat Tuesday next week (so if you haven’t booked a hotel you’re probably out of luck). If you’re lucky enough to be headed down south for Mardi Gras this year, here are a few things you should know:
– The booze will be flowing, but be sure to save some room for the local foods, such as their world-famous fried doughnuts called beignets (be sure to enjoy them with a cafe au lait (which will help with that hangover), boiled crawfish (which may not help with that hangover), a big bowl of steaming jambalaya or gumbo, and don’t forget to have a Po’ boy, a sandwich with fried meat and/or seafood served on a crusty roll.
– In addition to Bourbon and the French Quarter, Louisiana has other fantastic sites to see, like Saint Louis Cathedrale, the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the country. Tour the harbor (on an authentic steamboat!) and be sure to check out the wetlands and swamp areas where you can get up close and personal with gators and other wildlife.
– Music is at the heart of New Orleans. Hop on a mule-drawn carriage and enjoy the various musical stylings of the many street buskers who sit on practically every street corner in the downtown core of the city. If you’re a jazz-lover you’ll be especially excited, as this area of the country is credited with being the birthplace of jazz.
For a schedule of Mardi Gras events and general info on New Orleans, visit www.neworleansonline.com.