Insider’s Tips to Mardi Gras!

Sixty parades, 115 formal balls, 1200 floats, 600 bands, 4,000,000 pounds of beads and a cast of thousands. Sound like a Hollywood monster movie production starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? No, it’s Mardi Gras 2010!

If you’ve been before, you know! If you have not, consider yourself clueless and that lack of expertise in this case can make or break your Mardi Gras experience. So read on, and think seriously about coming to Mardi Gras at least once in your lifetime. It (your life) won’t be complete without it. Trust me!

Q&A-Some basics:

Does Mardi Gras have anything to do with religion and how are the dates selected?

Why yes it is.  The Carnival season precedes the Easter season, as mandated by the Catholic Church.  In olden times, it was common to give up meat for the entire Lenten season.  Therefore, the Catholic Church denoted Carnival (meaning “farewell to flesh”) as a time of feasting before the strict demands of the Easter season.  Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”) is THE last day of this fasting, and is traditionally a day of overindulgence.  As time went on, Lent also became a common time to give up vices, which explains the revelry that happens during Carnival of today.  So Mardi Gras itself became the last big bash of excess before the seriousness of the Easter season, and is therefore always held the Tuesday before the Easter Season begins on Ash Wednesday.  Because the date for Easter, and therefore Lent, moves from year to year, the dates for Carnival and Mardi Gras also move right along with it.


What is a Krewe?

These are the organizations responsible for all things Carnival, whether it be a parade, floats within a parade, a Carnival ball, etc.  Basically, a Krewe is a group of people dedicated to contributing to Carnival in some way.  Most dedicate themselves to bringing their own flair and excitement to area parades via floats, music, celebrity guests, and more!  Some Krewes are known for landmark contributions.  For example, Rex Krewe originally chose the official event colors and designed the original flag, Hermes Krewe first brought neon lights to the parade, and the Mid-City Krewe first brought animation to parade floats!

What do the Carnival colors mean?

You’ll see purple, gold, and green all over the city, even outside of Carnival times.  In 1872, the Carnival King selected these three flashy colors.  In 1892 he also added the color’ meanings of justice, power, and faith.

For more on the history and details of the event and season, see the Lake Charles Mardi Gras website.

Do’s and Don’t of Mardi Gras

  • Don’t assume that it’s all decadent and wild. Mardi Gras is mostly a family experience and lots of locals bring the kids for a day of parading.
  • Don’t look for a hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation based on room rate.  Keep in mind that you will be at the parades most of the day. There are no public facilities provided by the city. If you bathroom is blocks away, you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Parking is another concern. And a place to take a “break.” Find the location first and then check the rate. Be willing to pay much more than normal for a room with a view of the parades because it will be worth it.
  • Don’t expect restaurants to be open all weekend long and on Mardi Gras. Like Christmas, everything is closed. You will need to pack a lunch in a cooler or eat at street vendor joints. There are a few restaurants that sell parade seating and all day buffet access.
  • Don’t allow kids and adults acting like kids to climb trees or utility poles to see the parades. Barricades are erected by the city to protect the public, be sure to stand behind them and avoid injury.
  • Do plan ahead. Most of the best rooms book up six months in advance.
  • Do not rent a car unless you have to do so. You really can’t go anywhere during the parades.
  • Do bring a costume for Mardi Gras day. The more lavish, the better.
  • Do have clothes for both cold and warm weather,  rain or shine. The parades roll in all kinds of circumstances and are rarely canceled.
  • Do consider purchasing a parade ladder from the local hardware store. This will allow smaller children to see the parades and catch plenty of beads. There are safety and city ordnance rules associated with these ladders. Be sure to check them out to be safe and smart.
  • Do check online for tickets to a Krewe Ball. Some of the super Krewe’s open their formal function to the public. Its like no other party you have ever attended.  Dress to impress- attire is always formal.
  • Do leave valuables at home. This is not a time to break out the bling.


Have you been to Mardi Gras? We would love to hear about your experiences and what you recommend for others considering a visit to the biggest party in the country. Make your comments below.

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