New Orleans Mardi Gras is a perfect time to let go of your inhibitions, but that does not mean that the occasion allows you to ignore all social mores. Carnival itself comes with some unwritten rules that you must follow if you don’t want to be seen as THAT GUY, and trust me, as a native and lifelong Mardi Gras reveler, you don’t want to be that guy, or girl.
Lookin’ Like A Fool With Your Beads on the Ground
Some people are just not very good at catching beads from the parading floats and there is nothing wrong with that so don’t let your buddies mock you for being a bad Mardi Gras bead catcher. It might be tempting to pick up some beads from the streets of New Orleans but that is one of the few taboos in the city. Do NOT under any circumstance grab beads from the ground. It makes you look like an amateur and it’s gross. Do you know what has happened on that ground? New Orleans locals will be more than happy to give you some beads of your own.
Flashing for Plastic Beads from China, Really?
Now, should you flash for beads? No. And no true local who understands Carnival tradition will ever make you flash for beads in New Orleans. Think about it for a second. That’s ridiculous. Would you bare your goodies for a beer or a hamburger? No, you say? Now, remember that a strand of Chinese-made Mardi Gras beads is worth far less than either of those items. Don’t flash and don’t encourage your friends to flash.
Neutral Ground or Sidewalk Side, That Is The Question
When meeting up on the parade route, you will want to understand the distinction between the neutral ground and sidewalk side. This is your New Orleans Mardi Gras compass. The neutral ground side is the side with the streetcar track in the median. The sidewalk side is on the other side of the parade. It seems simple because it is. Know this basic bit of Crescent City knowledge and save yourself the stress of trying to say things like north and south.
Avoid the French Quarter at Street Level
The French Quarter is one of the most magical places in the world, but Bourbon Street takes on a ridiculous vibe during the final few days of Carnival. As it gets closer to actual Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the Quarter will become more and more packed. Avoid this unless you have access to a balcony. The crowds are dense and it’s not a scene you want to be in unless you are experienced at dealing with the chaos of it all. Stay on the Uptown of Mid-City parade routes and only venture into the French Quarter if you have access to a proper balcony or courtyard.
More from this contributor:
The 25 Essential Mardi Gras Songs: The Soundtrack to New Orleans Carnival
5 Essential Free Mardi Gras Apps for Your Android and iPhone Devices
Mardi Gras Defined: The 12 Terms You Should Learn Before Heading to New Orleans