I went to Mardi Gras and it was crazier than I thought it would be

This year marked my fourth time as one of the over 1.2 million people at the hottest free party in the country: Mardi Gras.

But even though I’ve gone to New Orleans to celebrate the epic festival for the past several years, each year it surprises me with just how crazy it is. Mardi Gras truly is the wildest party of the year.

Today marks Ash Wednesday, the last day of Mardi Gras, so I thought I’d share my “Mardi Pardi” experience.

I arrived on February 10, the week before Fat Tuesday, to find that Mardi Gras festivities were already well underway. There had been regular parades since January, and there were daily parades in the week leading up to Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras FloatsMali WiederkehrSome of the parade floats.

I started out at The Boot, one of the best college bars in America, which is a haven for Tulane and Loyola students as well as other visiting college kids. I found that the area was flooded with campers and Winnebagos parked outside the landmark bar. I even saw a police officer help some fraternity brothers get a keg on top of their camper

The Boot Mardi Gras

Facebook/Ted Poulton
Fraternity brothers posted up outside The Boot.

And then I headed to the parades. This is when the trees become filled with beads while the streets become filled with — well, I’d rather not know. In the future I’ll be sure to wear closed-toe shoes.

Throughout the week my friends and I found ourselves walking most places because many of the streets were blocked off and cabs were scarce (Uber, please come to New Orleans).

People camp out for hours along St. Charles Street, which is where the majority of parades take place, to secure a prime viewing spot. However, my friends and I managed to find great parade spots and score lots of swag despite arriving just minutes before the parades reached us.

Each float, called aparade Krewe,has its own story and theme. In addition to throwing beads, the people on the floats also toss different items at the crowd: I got a free Vegas-themed purse from the Krewe of Nyx, while the Krewe of Muses tossed shoes into the crowd.

Mardi gras nyx pursesLauren Browning/Business InsiderShowing off our purses after the Krewe of Nyx parade.

My favourite parade, however, was the Krewe of Tucks, which oddly tosses plungers and toilet brushes into the crowds. I saw a man on one of the floats holding one of the coveted plungers. We made eye contact, he pointed at me, and had me chase the float for my prize — totally worth it.

Mardi Gras Krewe of TucksLauren Browning/Business InsiderNote the plungers in hand.

On my last day we went to the infamous Bourbon Street. We were greeted with signs saying “Mardi On!” and people dressed in all sorts of costumes. I donned a purple tutu. First we headed to Pat O’Brien’s bar, a popular spot for 20-somethings, to meet up with friends and get some hurricanes, a signature Mardi Gras drink.

There were Christian protesters everywhere, but this year I found their messages to be much nicer than they had been in previous years.

We ended our day on one of Bourbon Street’s balconies, the best place to be in my opinion. We sipped hurricanes and tossed beads to people in the street below.

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