Blues'n'Jazz, endless partying, melting pot of people, creole & cajun cuisine, carnival parades... and there's so much more, that the charming city of New Orleans has to offer during Mardi Gras. The Carnival period in New Orleans starts on the 6th January each year, and it lasts til fat-tuesday. It reaches its peak of celebrations the last 4 days before "Mardi Gras".
I've been to Nola [New Orleans / Louisiana] twice, and each time for Mardi Gras. Sometimes I asked myself, if I shouldn't visit Nola on different dates, to get a more authentic view of the city. But if you're going for the music, the soul of the city, I guess the best annual periods to visit Nola would be for carnival in February, or for the famous music festival called "Jazz Fest" in April.
Blues, Jazz, Soul... black music is the heart of New Orleans. During Mardi Gras Nola offers you hundreds of concerts each night, in bars, clubs, or outdoor fests. Expect to meet lots of people, coming from all over the world, to enjoy the awesome music and the laidback vibe in the city.
In my case, I guess there's no other city in the world, that would offer me a better carnival. There's no doubt, that Rio's carnival in Brazil is terrific! But if music matters to you, when partying, New Orleans is the place-to-be during carnival for blues & jazz fans.
Many bars are open almost 24 hours, the party never stops. As far as I experienced Mardi Gras the last years, Burbon Street and Frenchmen Street were the busiest spots to go out at night. During daytime we loved to hang out around Woldenberg Park, just next to the Mississippi river. You could listen to the typical nola music, while watching people dance, and hear the steamboats passing by.
Mardi Gras is the paradise for photographers. Everyone wants to get photographed on those days. Everbody seems to be very outgoing in New Orleans, and on Mardi Gras, you won't see any people without a costume on the streets. Dancing & partying all over the city. As for myself, I took my best portraits photos ever in New Orleans.
The food in New Orleans is kind of different, than in any other U.s. city. Don't expect the fine french cuisine, because of all the french [creole] words you will see everywhere in the city. To me it was more of a multicultural cusine... part french, part spanish/italian, and of course with an american touch. I never got tired of the sea food in New Orleans... delicious oysters, jambalaya [like the spanish paela], shrimp pasta or the Po'boy sandwich.
Beads, beads, beads everywhere... you can't walk through New Orleans without wearing any beaded necklace. For the carnival weekend, people throw those beads from their balcony or rooftop all over the streets. It's totally normal for the women to show off their naked boobs, to get the fanciest necklace. Expect to see lots of nudity for Mardi Gras. :) Nola is also cheaper than the bigger U.s. cities. Don't expect crazy prices for the drinks during Mardi Gras.
My favorite music bar was the B.M.C .
Balcony Music Club - New Orleans
1331 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
As a little personal tip, don't start Mardi Gras with a hangover. It's hard to resist, when you go out on monday, the day before fat-tuesday, bump into people, make new friends, and get free rounds from the people around you.
But Mardi Gras is a long & exhausting day... with lots of dancing, drinking and shouting "happy Mardi Gras". The longest parades, the loudest music. Fat-tuesday feels like a 48-hours-day.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!