Back to articles and guides

How to get ready for Mardi Gras in New Orleans

How to get ready for Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Fancy going to one of the largest carnivals the world has to offer? Beat the winter blues and head to Mardi Gras in New Orleans – make sure you read our guide before you jet off!

What is Mardi Gras?

Well, it's French for 'Fat Tuesday' and refers to the Tuesday that falls before Lent commences – also known as Shrove Tuesday. People traditionally prepared to fast during Lent by eating lots of tasty food. With particular emphasis on the last day – hence 'Fat Tuesday'!

Though the Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans originated from the Christian faith, it’s flourished into a huge festival in its own right.

The biggest parade happens on Mardi Gras day. The exact date can fall anywhere between 3rd February to 10th March.

What should I do at Mardi Gras?

What should I do at Mardi Gras?

Catch some beads

During Mardi Gras, krewes (pronounced ‘crews’) put on different parades and balls you can go along to. Join the party to watch parades of krewes float down the streets of New Orleans. Krewes to watch out for are the Zulu, Rex, Bacchus and Endymion. Be ready to catch the beads, jewels and many treasures thrown from the floats. This tradition stems back to the 19th century when the carnival king threw gems and rings to his 'loyal subjects'.

Try a King cake

You. Must. Try. King. Cake. It's a delicious brioche style dough, sprinkled with sugar and baked with a figurine of a baby inside. Wait, we can explain! Originally, the baby symbolised baby Jesus. Today, it represents luck and prosperity for whoever finds it in their slice.

Finders also must buy the king cake or host the party next year – seems fair.

Visit the Mardi Gras Museum

For some quiet time, head to the museum to learn more about the history of the festivities. The Mardi Gras museum is located in Arnaud's Restaurant. It's home to vintage Mardi Gras memorabilia including costumes, masks, and photos. It's free to the public and opens during the restaurant’s open hours so you can grab a bite to eat too.

What else should I explore in New Orleans?

What else should I explore in New Orleans?

Here are a few things you need to experience during your stay in New Orleans – Mardi or no Mardi!

Take a Swamp Tour

Take a break from the city parade and check out the wildlife in the nearby swamps and bayous. Many tour operators in New Orleans give tourists a chance to see wild boar, eagles and alligators. Who knows what you’ll find lurking in the murky waters!

Jam in Jackson Square

The French Quarter’s beating heart, also known as Jackson Square is a must-see city attraction. The picturesque park is home to the city’s creatives. Artists, musicians and performers gather from sunrise to sunset to keep the crowds entertained. From jazz to improv – the beautiful park mixes the history and talent that makes New Orleans the place to be.

Visit beautiful houses and cemeteries

You’ve got to visit the Garden District – wander the oak-lined streets admiring the beautiful, Southern-style mansions. Drop by the grand Lafayette Cemetery, where you can get guided tours.

Heathrow Parking

Park & Ride

Long-stay parking with fast, regular shuttle buses to your terminal. From £4.95* a day at Terminal 2, 3, 4 & 5.

Learn more about Park and Ride

Meet & Greet

We park your car while you take a quick walk to departures. From £7.80* a day at Terminal 2, 3, 4 & 5.

Learn more about Meet and Greet

Products are no longer available to purchase.

Read more

Read our guides and articles

Before you go

Whether you're jetting away on a city break or following the sun to the beach get ready to travel with our expert tips and guides.

Review our pre-travel checklist

Your pre-travel checklist

Preparing for your holiday should be exciting, not stressful.

Share this article