Mardi Gras for Kids
There were some collective gasps from our friends when we told them our plans to take our kids (ages 8 and 11) to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. “What about the crowds, the inappropriate behavior, the over-imbibing?” Yes, it’s true, Mardi Gras can be quite a scene, one that you might not want to invite your children to experience. Still, my friends who are natives to Louisiana assured me that there are locations and times when the Mardi Gras experience can be very family-friendly.
With a little pre-trip research, you can find the parades and locales that suit your family. It was well worth the research for us: we explored an historic city as a family and ate some amazing food while our kids experienced the unique joie de vivre and traditions of Mardi Gras season. They didn’t want to leave! Here are some tips we garnered on how to plan a trip to Mardi Gras for kids:
It’s All about Timing
The Mardi Gras season officially starts every January 6th or Twelfth Night. Depending on when Easter occurs each year, the parades typically start two to three weekends prior to the actual Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. What I learned from my native New Orleans friends is that the parades scheduled at the beginning of the season are the most family-friendly, and the celebrations can become more adult-themed as the season progresses towards Mardi Gras.
With that in mind, we opted to go to New Orleans two weeks before the official Mardi Gras and had a completely festive and “PG” experience. Another reason to consider visiting New Orleans earlier in the Mardi Gras season: avoiding the crowds. The weekend we visited was not at all crowded.
We were lucky to find rooms at Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue which is located directly on one of the parade routes! As many of the New Orleans hotels do, Hilton St. Charles has private parade stands set up to give its guests a prime viewing area. For a minimal cost, we had a great view, bottled water and easy access to a bathroom.
As a parent, it was a relief for me to know that my kids would have a place to watch the parades where they wouldn’t be fighting the crowds. We also watched the parades from the Garden District and in Uptown New Orleans and both locations were very family-centric.
Choose Family-friendly Parades
There are several resources available for choosing the parades you’d like to see, but two that we found most helpful were mardigras.com and neworleans.com. Many of the “Krewes” or parade groups have their own websites which will provide plenty of details to determine the kid-friendliness of a particular parade. The parades we attended were Cleopatra, Pontchartrain, Choctaw, Freret and Pygmalion. The hotel also provided us with a map that showed us the parade schedules and routes, which was handy when we were navigating to attractions and restaurants.
Pre-planning is required if your accommodations are located near a parade route as ours were. We tried unsuccessfully to take the street car to the Garden District, as they had stopped running in preparation for the day’s parades.
Visit the French Quarter Early in the Day
We visited the French Quarter to have beignets at Café du Monde, visit the VooDoo shops, take a cemetery tour and walk by the river. To avoid the eventual debauchery, the shopkeeper at Marie Leveau’s VooDoo Shop suggested that 1 pm was a good time to consider leaving the Quarter and heading uptown with the kids during Mardi Gras season.
Have a Family Emergency Plan
When traveling to a new city, we always review the safety rules in the event that our kids become separated from us. I was worried about the parade routes being so crowded that we might lose each other. Thankfully that was never the case, but we still reviewed details (name of our hotel, Mommy and Daddy’s phone numbers, etc.)
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
You may also enjoy:
- Best Mardi Gras Hotel for Families: Hilton New Orleans/St. Charles Avenue
- Top Things to do in New Orleans with Kids
- New Orleans Attractions and Restaurants for Families
- Read about all of our family vacations to New Orleans
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Erin is a native Floridian who has resided in Atlanta since 1995. Her husband Mike and she have two funny, smart, active girls and two cats.