Are you looking for the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans?
If you’re looking for things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year, here are some awesome suggestions to keep you busy and make your trip the best ever!
Spending Mardi Gras in Orleans is so much fun, and it’s definitely one of the best times to visit the city! Not only is there plenty to see and lots of things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but the weather in New Orleans in February is also great!
Top tip! If you’re looking for things to do in New Orleans, that aren’t Mardi Gras themed, then take a read of our ultimate list of 100+ things to do in New Orleans.
So, let’s get into our list of things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
Here are the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
Attend the Mardi Gras parades
We couldn’t possibly write a guide to the top things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans without mentioning the main event: the parades! Mardi Gras is known for its colorful parades thrown by famous “krewes”, and you can decide which events to attend based on your preferences.
We highly recommend checking out all parade routes before attending, as some spots are better for viewing than others.
If you didn’t know, all revelers on parade floats are required to wear masks and festival garb, so prepare to see vibrant patterns and crazy costumes making an appearance!
The best parades begin the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday rolls around, so you’ll have just under a week to catch the best of the festivities. You won’t need to worry about cost either – this is one of the things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans that’s totally free! Hooray!
Click here for our recommendations on where to watch the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.
Grab some King Cake
Another one of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans is to grab some of King Cake. This amazing cake is sold every year at Mardi Gras, and it’s basically a delicate puff pastry that’s packed with almond cream.
It’s decadent, but worth every calorie. To be honest, they’re more like enormous pastries, but they’re colorful, tasty, and totally Instagrammable which is always a plus in our book.
Read more about visiting New Orleans: Top 15 upscale restaurants in New Orleans
Head to the best bars
When it comes to the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it’s ALL about the bars and having a good time. The French Quarter is an excellent place to visit for top-tier drinks and signature cocktails, but several spots around town are worth checking out.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat before checking out the parades, you really can’t beat Superior Seafood for frozen cocktails and perfectly cooked seafood.
For a pub atmosphere with a jazz feel, Maison Bourbon is perfect. There are so many amazing bars to celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans, so we feel it’s best you feel things out and grab a drink wherever takes your fancy!
Head to Bourbon Street for parties
If you’re looking for things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans that will make you experience the carnival as the locals do, then you need to march down to Bourbon Street – stat.
Here, you’ll find revelers taking to the streets to party, and you’ll even experience the cheeky “Greasing of the Poles” event that’s become something of a Mardi Gras tradition.
Along the street, you’ll find strip clubs, nightclubs, bars, and general tomfoolery, so come prepared for anything. For obvious reasons, this is one of the things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans that’s strictly rated R. No kiddos allowed – trust us.
Admire the Mardi Gras Masks
One of the best parts of Mardi Gras is the colorful masks that are displayed throughout the city and worn by performers on parade floats.
If you’re looking for things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans with kids in tow, why not spend time admiring the Mardi Gras masks?
If you didn’t know, masks are required by law on the floats, so you’re bound to see plenty of outrageous ones. With everything from full headgear to ostentatious beaded masks on display, kids are sure to find this fascinating.
If you’d like to grab a mask as a souvenir, The Mask Store in the French Quarter is an excellent place to check out.
Carrying more high-quality masks than all of Venice, exploring this shop is one of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans in itself! Just don’t get carried away – it can quickly add up!
Check out the French Quarter
We need to warn you to keep kids away from the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. However, if you’re operating as an adults-only party, then you’ve totally got the green light.
The French Quarter is bustling during the carnival period, and it offers some of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Featuring heavily on the parade routes, throwing street parties, and hosting general naughtiness, the French Quarter is the perfect place to visit for X-Rated revelry.
Thank goodness for the mild weather in February and March – we wouldn’t want you to freeze in your skimpy attire!
Just be safe, folks – capiche?
Visit the WWII Museum
Okay, so this isn’t one of the things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans that you might expect, but it’s so worth adding to your itinerary.
This extensive museum is often said to be the finest tourist attraction in the city, and if you’re visiting New Orleans for the first time, it’s a must-do. If you didn’t believe us, Congress even named it the official WWII museum of the USA.
You won’t be able to visit during Mardi Gras Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday!), but it’s open for the rest of the year. As it’s quite extensive, we’d say you need to dedicate a few hours to explore it properly.
No festival is complete with dressing up and looking the part. If you’re searching for things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then why not spend some time planning and purchasing your outfits?
If you want to go all out, there are several costume stores around that will kit you out. Otherwise, just stick with the classic Mardi Gras colors!
Back in the day, the King of the Carnival would wear green, purple, and gold to represent freedom and expressiveness. So, why not channel your royal flair and be like the Mardi Gras kings and queens?
Come on, it is one of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, after all!
You may have heard of the mythical “throws” that the krewe members release from the floats each year. If not, you can learn more about this tradition in our post about what happens during Mardi Gras!
Now that you’re clued up, we can let you know that collecting throws is one of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
The beads are so unique, and you can make a game out of collecting as many as possible. Some throws are better than others, so if you happen to catch a gem, be sure to show it off – within reason, of course.
Check out the Flambeaux
Ah, the Flambeaux. If you have no idea what these are, a flambeaux is an iron pole that is used to light the parades on the Mardi Gras route.
It may not sound fascinating, but watching the parades light up is one of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans by a long shot. This is a long-running tradition, and though we could use LED lights or other fake alternatives, Mardi Gras keeps this alive by taking things back to basics.
The walkers that carry the flames are brave souls, as the flames can get extremely hot and spit sparks. Exciting stuff indeed.
Enjoy some jazz
New Orleans is the home of jazz, so we couldn’t create a list of things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans without mentioning the smooth, sultry music itself!
You’ll find plenty of jazz played on the streets during Mardi Gras, but you can also head to several popular bars to experience live jazz nights during the entire two-week period leading up to the carnival.
Click here to learn all about the best jazz bars in New Orleans.
Grab some New Orleans delicacies
We suggest starting your day off with a beignet and a coffee, but once you’re ready to dial things up, you should hit the best restaurants in town for a bite to eat. New Orleans is famous for so much great food!
Food-based activities are among the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, as this city offers so many excellent delicacies. Of course, these dishes are available year-round, but they take on a special charm during Mardi Gras – it must be something in the air. That sneaky carnival spirit, perhaps!
Gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffee are our top picks, but there are endless restaurants dotted around the French Quarter that you won’t regret visiting.
If you’re short on time, we recommend checking out a couple of the local creole restaurants. They usually serve the best crawfish and alligator for prices that won’t leave your wallet empty.
Check out the Mardi Gras balls
Okay, so you may not be able to attend these. However, if you can, you’ll agree that they’re one of the best things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans!
The Mardi Gras balls are infamous for their exclusivity and appeal, but only members of the krewe who are deemed socially important enough are allowed to attend. Yeah, it bites – but it’s tradition!
At the balls, you’ll find everything from general revelry to debutante introductions taking place. It’s a total mixed bag, but it’s an exciting part of Mardi Gras tradition that’s adored by all.
Enjoy the LGBTQ+ celebrations
The final thing on our list of things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year? It’s the LGBT+ celebrations of course!
Mardi Gras is known for its accepting culture and refusal to give in to traditional expectations, so the LGBT+ community runs with this theme and takes it to new heights.
Not only will you see several queer groups watching the parades, but you’ll see dedicated carnival krewes (the Krewe of Yuga is the most famous) taking the parade by storm.
Whether you’re part of the community or a proud ally, this is one of the things to do at Mardi Gras in New Orleans that’s not to be missed.