Mardi Gras season is the time leading up to the day of Mardi Gras. Various cities and towns (New Orleans, Mobile, Key West) hold Mardi Gras parades, most of which are (honestly!) family friendly. Here are my Top 6 tips to help the entire family have a safe and enjoyable Mardi Gras parade experience.
Pack the Snacks – There are some restaurants that are open on Mardi Gras Day, but do you really want to try and brave it with kids? They get whiny when tired and hungry, and let’s face it, catching all those throws is a tiring experience. Bring along a small ice chest filled with drinks and snacks for the entire family. Tip: My family is partial to rolling ice chests, because not only are they easier to maneuver, but at least two behinds can use it as a bench while waiting. I recommend these rolling ice chests.
Prepare for the Weather – Pack the sunscreen. It might be February, but in the Southern regions the sun can shine brightly like a warm spring day. Skin that hasn’t seen the sun for a while can turn red as a freshly boiled crawfish while waiting for the parades. Also, one can’t always predict a rain shower, so bringing along a few rain ponchos is a good idea. I wouldn’t recommend an umbrella, because it can be cumbersome in the crowds with your hands full. Tip: A disposable poncho can easily fit in your pocket.
Talk Safety – Arrive early so that your family can beat the larger crowds. I write my cell phone number on my children’s arms in permanent marker. Yes, permanent marker. What if it rains? You don’t want the number to wash away. Also, have a designated location in case the family is separated, and point out police officers to your children so they know to go to law enforcement in case they forget your designated spot. Tip: Be sure to discuss the rules of Mardi Gras and float safety. Each year, injuries occur from children running around near the floats while they pass by. Don’t ever let them get too close.
Stay on the Parade Route – Usually designated parade routes are the safest place for a family to be. If you wander off the regular route, your family just might encounter a few things that aren’t meant for little eyes to see. Tip: Check with your local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to find the family-friendly parade routes. New Orleans French Quarter and Canal Street is no place for kids during Mardi Gras and should be avoided during Carnival season.
Sport some Mardi Gras Fashion – This is a fun time for everyone, so let the kids dress up in costumes. Be sure everyone wears comfortable shoes (preferably waterproof) because there will be lots of walking. Masks can be worn, however they might obstruct your vision or that of your child’s, so don’t wear them until you reach your place on the route. Face painting is acceptable and also popular. Layer clothing as the weather in the southern US is unpredictable.
Share the Mardi Gras Story – Be sure to teach your children about the history of Mardi Gras and how the Carnival Season came to be. It is actually a religious time of indulgence before the Catholic period of Lent. Mardi Gras translates to Fat Tuesday and there is a meaning behind each aspect of the festival. There is history behind the colors, the meaning of a Kings Cake, doubloons, throws, and the costumes. Tip: Be sure to carry heavy duty bags to bring home all those throws.
Mardi Gras is a time for fun and enjoyment, but even experienced parade-goers can benefit from these Top Tips. No matter if you are in New Orleans or Mobile, have a great time and make some fun family memories!