In the our latest exploration of The Scenic Route in the February issue of Trailer Life, we took you along for the ride as we explored one of my all-time favorite scenic byways, the Louisiana stretch of the Great River Road. If that wasn’t enough to put the Bayou State on a future itinerary, my last post here clued you in to one of the coolest holiday traditions I’ve ever run across, the Christmas Eve bonfires that line the top of the Mississippi River levees between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Now it’s time to encourage you to partake of an event that, as far as I’m concerned, is without question the most fun allowed by law.
I’m speaking about Mardi Gras, of course. While Fat Tuesday (that’d be February 12, for those of you keeping track) is still almost a month away, it’s not too early to get in on the fun. That’s because New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities begin this weekend and continue for the next four weeks.
As a former resident and a veteran of my share of Mardi Gras celebrations, here are my suggestions for three great ways to experience the Carnival season:
Part Of The Crowd
If you’ve never experienced Mardi Gras before, it’s best to start with the basics by attending some of the 50 parades taking place in and around New Orleans. If you’re not sure where to start, pick up a copy of my friend Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide which contains everything you need to know about the parades, from routes to special collectable throws. In short, this little book is a must-have for both visitors and locals.
Part Of The Spectacle
If you’ve been to your share of Mardi Gras parades and are looking for a slightly different perspective, consider joining one of the parade organizations (better known as ‘krewes’) that allow anyone to sign up to ride aboard their colorful floats. It’s not cheap, but I can tell you from personal experience, it is a ride you will never forget. The folks I rode with, the Krewe of Orpheus, can accommodate new members interested in riding right up until just days before their February 11th parade.
Part Of The Tradition
For a completely different take on Mardi Gras, head to southwest Louisiana for a simpler celebration known as Courir de Mardi Gras. These rural festivities involve “runs” where riders on horseback beg ingredients from each household they pass, all of which will go into a community pot of gumbo cooked up for the pre-Lenten feast. One of the easiest runs for visitors to access is the small town of Eunice’s annual Courir de Mardi Gras that begins at 8 a.m. on Fat Tuesday and continues all day with live music and Cajun food until the riders return to parade through town in mid-afternoon.
Regardless of which way you go, I can guarantee you you’ll come to understand what locals mean when they say “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” Let the good times roll indeed.