Mardi Gras

  • Feb20
  • 4 New Orleans Originals You Can’t Miss This Mardi Gras

    There’s never a bad time to visit New Orleans. Whether you’re a fan of early American history, a lover of French architectural styles or live for partying it up with other thrill-seekers, you’re sure to find something to love in New Orleans.

    But Mardi Gras season brings a host of extra reasons to visit the Big Easy. Here are four New Orleans Mardi Gras originals that you won’t find anywhere else.

    1. Cottonseed Oil Beignets from Cafe du Monde

    From po’boys to daiquiris, New Orleans is home to plenty of culinary originals. One of the most beloved is the beignet, a light, airy pastry — similar to the fried dough you’d find at a carnival or amusement park, but way better! — that’s made with cottonseed oil, confectioner’s sugar and lots of love. Cafe du Monde, a storied New Orleans bakery and restaurant, serves the best-known (and, arguably, plain old best) beignets of them all. If you’re keen on trying theirs, arrive early, as lines can stretch around the block during peak hours.

    1. It’s All About the Krewe

    You mean “crew,” right? Maybe in 49 other states, but not Louisiana. In New Orleans and the surrounding areas, “krewes” are close-knit groups — often friends, family members and neighbors — who organize Carnival parades and balls. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is! To cover expenses, such as parade floats and costumes, krewes typically assess membership fees that can range from $20 to hundreds of dollars. Because of all the organizational work involved, krewes may actively operate for months out of the year, but most parades and balls take place within a month of Mardi Gras.

    1. Historic Trolleys (Without the Hills)

    When most people think of historic trolleys and streetcars, they think of San Francisco’s iconic cable cars. But New Orleans also has a functioning network of historic streetcars — and without the City by the Bay’s unavoidable, stomach-churning ascents and descents. There are three lines: St. Charles, Riverfront, and Canal Street. Collectively, they hit or pass close to most of the major landmarks in the Garden District, French Quarter and downtown New Orleans.

    During Mardi Gras season, these public transit gems become packed with revelers. Will you be using them to get around?

    1. Mardi Gras Beads: Can You Collect Them All?

    Mardi Gras just wouldn’t be the same without the beads. Thrown from parade floats, windows and enthusiastic passers-by, the purple, gold and green beads symbolize the colorful joy of Mardi Gras. They also have a storied history: The first “beads” were actually candied almonds thrown from parade floats in the mid-1800s, but savvy businessmen quickly realized that glass beads would be cheaper and easier to produce en masse. Since the 1870s, glass (now plastic) bead necklaces have been mainstays at Mardi Gras parades throughout New Orleans.

    If you’ve ever been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (and why would you go anywhere else!?), you can probably think of a dozen more items to add to this list. What can we say? New Orleans Mardi Gras originals abound. So the next time you’re walking down Bourbon Street with a hot beignet in your hand or scrambling for stray beads with your new best friend, make a mental note to tell the folks back home.