Mardi Gras in New Orleans is considered by locals to be the “Greatest Free Show on Earth”. There are parades, throws, food and wandering street musicians and magicians. There are so many things to please young children, it is natural for parents to believe that Mardi Gras is a great atmosphere to take their little ones.
Overall, Mardi Gras is a family celebration. Unfortunately, many visitors mistakenly reserve rooms for their Mardi Gras visit in the French Quarter, often on Bourbon Street. This is an error in judgment this guide hopes to prevent.
Plan for Long Waits
Unless Mardi Gras visiting parents plan to fight the crowds at the beginning of the parade routes, it will be necessary to find a viewing location at least one hour before the beginning time of the parade. After that initial one-hour wait, it could be more than another hour before the parade actually begins to pass by.
Public restrooms are few and far between, and speaking from experience, the rent-a-johns should be avoided at all costs. Most businesses (restaurants included) do not permit Mardi Gras visitors to enter for the sole purpose of using the restroom, even for a small child. If the child is not in diapers, planning a viewing area very close to the hotel is the best option. Most hotels will provide wristbands for all family members, and they should be worn at all times during a Mardi Gras visit.
Parents visiting Mardi Gras should remember snacks and drinks for their children, and small toys to keep them occupied during the wait.
Catching Parade Throws with Small Children
While Mardi Gras parades are considered family events, there are children of all ages watching and hoping to catch the throws from the floats. While most people do stay aware of small children nearby, accidents do happen.
Parents viewing Mardi Gras parades with their young children should buy a bag of beads to keep hidden until needed. There is stiff competition for the trinkets, and adults’ arms will reach higher and often prevent children from catching beads. The occasional mysterious strand of beads appearing above their heads should keep most young children fulfilled with their catch.
At all costs, small children should be kept on the sidewalks or neutral ground and not be permitted to step into the street to pick up throws. Barriers are often in place, but not always. The floats are very large and cannot easily stop to prevent accidents.
No Parade Routes Include Bourbon Street
If visiting parents are hoping to provide a safe environment for their children to catch parade throws, a Bourbon Street hotel balcony is not the correct place. A parade of people will pass by, and many strands of beads may be tossed. Sadly, children may also get a glimpse of drunken behavior that parents will later regret. It’s difficult to explain to a four-year old why the slobbering co-ed continues to raise her shirt.
The best viewing for the largest Super Sunday Mardi Gras parades – Mid City and Bacchus – is found Uptown. A hotel located Uptown or in the Garden District will put visiting parents within a relatively easy group walk with their young children. Even if the young child believes he is too old for a stroller, take one along. The sidewalks are crowded and the wait for the parade to begin passing by will be long.
The largest Mardi Gras day parades begin at 8:00 with an uptown route. Zulu begins the procession, followed by Rex at 10:00 am. When Rex finally winds to an end, it is followed by the Elks Orleans and Crescent City parades.
Another family-friendly parade is in Metairie, just a short drive from New Orleans. The Krewe of Napoleon is well-known for the quantities of throws descending from the floats.
Finally, the Krewe of Barkus parades through the French Quarter on Sunday February 15, 2009 – a week before Super Sunday. This family-friendly parade is all about the canine population.