Heading to New Orleans next month? Here are some of the things you need to avoid unless you want to humiliate yourself at Mardi Gras.
1. Bring glass to the parade route.
You can drink on the street to your heart’s content during the Carnival season (and really all year), but leave the glass at home. You’re drunk, it’s dangerous, and it will get you thrown off the parade route if a cop gives you a warning and you don’t get rid of that glass beer bottle immediately.
2. Pile your stuff on top of the streetcar tracks.
Most parades take place on the Uptown Route, which runs along St. Charles Avenue. The street will close and the streetcars will stop running along the neutral ground about two hours before the parade starts, but before that it’s business as usual. Don’t be the idiot that sets up for a day-long tailgate only to have to frantically move his tent ten minutes later when the streetcar driver is plowing through at full speed.
3. Leave your car parked on the parade route.
Park your car with caution during Mardi Gras parades. Look for signs (and if you find a really great parking spot — really look for signs) warning you about tow-away zones. The parade before the parade is the fleet of tow trucks hauling off dozens of illegally parked cars.
4. Buy Mardi Gras beads.
There is nothing you can do in New Orleans that will elicit eye rolls as quickly as shelling out $20 for a pair of beads that people literally throw to you for free all day and night for the next two weeks.
5. Expose yourself for Mardi Gras beads.
Really want to humiliate yourself? Stand in the middle of a crowded street and whip out your boobs (or worse) for the cheapest pair of beads some bachelor party could find. Even worse, do it for locals who are actively tormenting and making fun of you by standing on a balcony dangling a 10 cent piece of plastic at crowds of idiot tourists below. Want to get arrested? Do it anywhere other than Bourbon Street.
6. Get wasted on the first night.
Carnival is a weeks-long season culminating with two weeks of parades leading up to the big day. If you show up Wednesday night for Nyx and get blackout drunk, or start vomiting at 11 AM on Thoth Sunday, hours before Bacchus has even begun lining up, you’re missing the point entirely. Mardi Gras is a marathon, not a sprint. Learn to day-drink before you even book your flight.
7. Urinate in public.
There are port-o-potties everywhere. The city places hundreds up and down parade routes in the days leading up to parades, and bars, churches, businesses, and enterprising homeowners have (cleaner) pay bathrooms. Do not pee in someone’s yard.
8. Fight with kids for throws.
Contrary to popular opinion, Mardi Gras is largely a family affair. People bring their babies and their grandmas and everyone in between, and if there is a child in your midst they are getting 90% of the throws. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, fight with a child or anyone for a throw… The crowd will turn on you and chances are pretty good a cop will throw you off the route.
9. Forget your manners.
There is a complicated and controversial set of written and unwritten rules when it comes to attending Mardi Gras parades, particularly those held on the Uptown Route. Generations of families come to the same parades and stand in the same spots. They will arrive early (sometimes days early) and stake out their place with ladders and ropes and tents, none of which are technically allowed on the route. Do not push through them or move their stuff. Do not eat the king cake or drink the beer they have left unattended. Do not waltz in to “their corner” like you own the place. If you cannot find an unguarded spot, accept it and watch from the back (the krewe members have good arms) or be nice and make friends and chances are you will be invited to share in their space and their spoils.