Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Beyond the Parades

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Mardi Gras in New Orleans is renowned worldwide for its vibrant parades, colorful beads, and exuberant celebrations. However, the festivities extend far beyond just these well-known attractions. For those looking to experience Mardi Gras like a local, the city offers a plethora of cultural and community events that provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of this unique festival.

Historical and Cultural Tours

Delve into the rich history of Mardi Gras at the Backstreet Cultural Museum located in the heart of the Treme neighborhood. This museum houses an extensive collection of costumes, photographs, and artifacts that trace the evolution of parade krewes and Mardi Gras Indians. Guided tours offer insights into the significance of these traditions and their roots in African-American culture.

Culinary Delights

Mardi Gras is also a celebration of Louisiana’s culinary heritage. Beyond the typical King Cake, visitors can indulge in a variety of local dishes that are staples during the festival season. Restaurants and pop-ups offer special menus featuring items like jambalaya, crawfish boils, and gumbo. Participating in a cooking class or food tour can be a delightful way to learn about the spices and techniques that make Creole and Cajun cuisines so distinct.

Music and Dancing

Music is the soul of New Orleans, and during Mardi Gras, the city’s musical heartbeat intensifies. Catch live performances ranging from brass bands to jazz ensembles in venues across the city. Many bars and clubs host special Mardi Gras-themed nights with local musicians and DJs, creating an ideal environment for dancing the night away.

Art and Craft Workshops

Engage in hands-on activities by attending workshops where you can learn to make traditional Mardi Gras masks and costumes. Local artisans share their skills in crafting these elaborate outfits, offering a unique opportunity to create your own piece of Mardi Gras magic.

Volunteer Opportunities

For those interested in giving back, Mardi Gras offers numerous volunteer opportunities. Many organizations seek help in areas like parade cleanup, community outreach, and event organization. Volunteering can be a rewarding way to experience Mardi Gras, providing a chance to meet locals and contribute to the community’s well-being.

River Cruises

Take a break from the bustling city streets with a relaxing river cruise on the Mississippi. These cruises often feature live music, dinner, and stunning views of the New Orleans skyline, offering a peaceful yet festive way to celebrate.

Day Trips from New Orleans

Explore beyond New Orleans with day trips to nearby attractions. Visit the historic plantations of the River Road, or explore the swamps and bayous of Louisiana for a touch of natural beauty and adventure. These excursions provide a fuller picture of the region’s cultural landscape.


While the parades are a spectacular sight, the true spirit of Mardi Gras can be found in the myriad of activities that take place throughout New Orleans. Each element of the celebration offers a different perspective on this iconic festival, allowing visitors to immerse themselves fully in the local culture.

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