Parties have been thin on the ground this year. Some of us have enjoyed the solitude. Most of us are now just dying to get out and get lost in the clamour of a crowd of revellers. If you feel this, we got you. Let’s talk the best places to watch Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans in 2021! It is just around the corner after all.
This is arguably the event horizon of party towns when Mardi Gras rolls in. Will you brave the crowds to take part in this carnival of music, vibrant colours and pure joy? Well, if you do, we have the 5 best spots for you to take it all in.
You could ‘Mardi Gras’ like a local with our pro-tips!
When does Mardi Gras take place?
The Carnival always takes place the day before Ash Wednesday. So, the next parade day will be February 16th, 2021. It is known as Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. But what few people know is that this is what Mardi Gras actually means! Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday to you and me, signifies the last day of eating delicious fatty and sugary treats before lent.
As a originally European religious festival, there are not many places in America that mark the occasion. This is why New Orleans is the place to watch it all go down. With its French influences and generally jazzy atmosphere, you are sure to be shown a wild time. It could actually be the best Mardi Gras parade in the world. And boy do they put on a show! This is a festival that marks a celebration of life. All before religious folks give up sweets and treats, to abstain or fast during lent.
What is a festival of religious connotations has also become a veritable feast of the senses for those in need of a good time. Music, booze, food, friends and fun—soaking up some of the local culture of course!
This is what it is all about. And the fun begins way before Fat Tuesday. Weekend parades, parties and events are hosted from as early as one month before! All designed to bring the hype leading up to one final euphoric event.
And with so much going on, you want to make sure you have the best spot in town.
When to book for Mardi Gras 2021
As soon as possible! With around 1.4 million tourists flocking New Orleans each year to see parades and sample the music and food, it is worth getting organised well in advance. This means booking hotels and transfers—even pre-booking meals for specials days and popular restaurants. You could just show up and wing it, of course. There are many street food vendors and bars offering quick drinks and bites. But at the very least, sort your flights and hotel as far in advance as you can!
The parades are free to all who wish to watch them as they course through the streets. Tickets for the parade stands, however, are available to purchase for those who want better views. These aren’t too expensive, and can save you a lot of hassle on parade days. More on this below…
The 5 best places to watch Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans!
Parades follow the same pattern each year of starting uptown, before cascading through the streets toward the French Quarter. The actual route, however, does vary year on year. Picking up a copy of Gambit, the local arts and entertainment rag, will keep you ahead of the curve!
That being said, some streets will always be part of the action.
As the central circle for traffic in the city, this is most always a through-route. There are many bars and restaurants within this area that prove handy spots to pitch up.
For some local culture, head to the old local called Circle Bar. Tipped as a ‘dive bar’, it is great for cocktails, and very welcoming during Mardi Gras. On a regular day you can see live bands and sample the delicious local comfort food. This is the bar that many locals will frequent to watch some of the parade, have a drink and dance. Their tagline “we will help you make it through the night” says it all.
Canal Street Parade stands
Some of the best views of the parade floats and ‘krewes’ are from the stands in front of the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel. Locals will share the same spot with family year after year. Parents may even bring ladders along—propping them against buildings for their kids to climb for a better view. Some even have seats at the top!
In the parade stands, you can see all the action without the danger. These packages will include use of bathrooms and special Mardi Gras bars. Drink tickets can often be pre-purchased ahead of time.
Prices for these stands are generally between $45 and $90 per adult. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time.
Lafayette Square at St. Charles
Here you can find some of the best elevated stands in town. As parade participants throw beads and doubloons, you will be front and centre to catch all the parade throws you can carry! Families will love these stands as kids can get really close to the action. All without worrying about losing sight of their parents or getting squashed by crowds.
If watching more than one parade, it is recommended to select different stands for each day. This way, you get more varied views of the city and festivities!
Tickets prices range from $5 to $65 depending on the day, and can also be booked online.
CBD Social Tavern and eatery
Bars like this often offer all-inclusive packages. It’s a great way to save money and show you a great time with locals! CBD Social usually has a relaxed atmosphere and a seafood heavy menu. Less so within Mardi Gras, but it is one of the best places to watch in New Orleans!
A great place to party, meet new people and use the bathrooms for free. All in the comfort of the parade stands with the best views. Once you have paid the ticket price of course. Packages start $75-$100 per day. Not too shabby!
The French Quarter
Parades will end within this district, but the area is not for the faint of heart. Or kids for that matter! Here you will find drunken revellers and scantily clad fairies, mermaids, gypsies, kings: you name it!
Throughout the festivities, fancy dress is heartily encouraged. The more risqué the better in the French Quarter. So if you are looking for high-octane frivolity, pitch up here and join tourists and locals alike in a bacchanalian feast of the senses.
With Bars and Restaurants aplenty, there’s bound to be something that tickles your fancy.
When taking to the streets to watch the parades, this advice will serve you well. Find a bar you like, and pitch up in front. This is generally accepted, and buying food and drinks from the bar will allow you to use the facilities. Like washrooms! Make friends with the owner or bar staff if you can. Being on first name terms could afford you some extra perks.
Having a toilet close by will pay dividends! Getting caught short in the middle of this party is likely to dampen the mood (pardon the pun).
Where should I stay for Mardi Gras 2021?
If you are smart, you will find a hotel on the main streets—and a room with a balcony. This way, even if you need some chill-time, you’re still able to witness the action.
Hotels in the garden district are great for viewing the parades uptown. In terms of aesthetic, this is one of the best places to watch Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans. Hotels are stunning, full of local charm, and boutique shops and fine-dining restaurants line the avenues. Old mansions and beautiful facades add to the charm.
The beautiful and haunted Magnolia Mansion is a great one for a spooky stay! Or, for added luxury, the Pontchartrain Hotel has gorgeous rooms and excellent restaurants nearby. The Bayou Bar and Jack Rose bring you authentic New Orleans cuisine in a beautiful setting.
For more of a party atmosphere, or if the French Quarter is more of a draw, the St Christopher Hotel will fulfill your fantasies. Close to both the Warehouse District and the French Quarter, you will literally not want to sleep.
The Maison Dupuy Hotel and Hotel Provincial are well placed, with the latter just streets away from the French Quarters infamous Bourbon street!
Will you join us at the best places to watch Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans?
If you are into big crowds, music, bright colours and fancy dress: yes, this is the one for you. Booking a trip for a couple of weeks gives you the option of witnessing a few parades, and getting a few days rest in between.
With so many areas to watch the parade, party goers are spoilt for choice! Hopefully by now you are clued up on the best places to watch Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.
Be mindful though, the parades draw quite a crowd so its always wise to pitch up early in your favourite spot. Or even better! Throw some cash about and grab yourself a spot in one of those sought after parade stands. There are many options available—so make sure to do your research!
We hope to see you there. And if 2021 isn’t going to be your year for Mardi Gras, perhaps you can give these a go instead!