Everything You've Heard About Mardi Gras Is Wrong

mardi gras 2012 cropped

Photo: Simone Foxman for Business Insider

You may have worn a funky mask over the weekend. You may have been to New Orleans before. You may even have seen some awesome pictures of celebrities and partiers at the event.But until you’ve been to the Big Easy for its hottest party of the year, everything you think you know about Mardi Gras is probably just plain wrong.

So we asked a handful of New Orleans natives to take us around the most epic six days of partying all year, and show us what Mardi Gras is really all about.

You've probably seen lots of pictures like this...

But believe it or not, Mardi Gras is actually a family event.

But that's not to say it's still not a ridiculous party.

Because with few open container laws (as long as it's in plastic it's cool), this guy can't arrest you.

Mardi Gras parades really take place on tree-lined streets like these.

Generally, the parades spend most of their time right on St. Charles Street--uptown--but don't enter the French Quarter.

Hours before the event, families set up ladders so there kids can see and set up tents, chairs, and coolers.

And stake out spaces to view hours and hours of epic parades.

By the way, don't expect to drive anywhere near the event.

If you have the money, then shell out for a hotel room or apartment rental right on the parade route.

The parades start as early as 8 in the morning.

All set of costumed horseback riders precede every set of floats.

And the people manning the floats look kind of like this.

The oldest and most prestigious krewes parade at night.

But all of the floats are absolutely breathtaking...




And throw TONS of free swag.

For instance, the Krewe of Tucks throws...

Plungers and toilet paper.

So beads are not really that hard to come by.

And in fact, get enough and they weigh a lot!

And we collected A LOT.

Plus a lot of other cool stuff.

And most of the women you do want to see flashing you for beads are not the ones who do.

But don't let that get you down.

Some of the costumes are out of this world.

But once you get tired of beads, the bands just blow you away.

Mostly from high schools and colleges, they take pride in the number of marches they're asked to do.

And are always accompanied by dancers.

Though there are definitely a lot of non-scholastic presenters...


Astonishingly, this whole party pretty much occurs without corporate sponsorship--this was about the most overt advertising we saw.

There's lots of fun to be had in the French Quarter, too, but a handful of tips:

The most fun to be had is definitely on the balconies.

Buy some brilliant drinks.

Listen to the live music.

And go nuts--in the middle of the street!

While you're at it, make a reservation at one of the most historic New Orleans eateries...

Hit up a bar...

Get a room...

And get comfortable...

Because between the crowds...

And the cleanup...

There's no way you're getting a cab.

By Fat Tuesday, you're probably going to have sipped a lot of beer.

Eaten a bunch of Popeye's.

And you're probably going to feel a little like this.

But hopefully, you also had a raring good time.

Ready for some more breathtaking costumes?

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