Think there are no family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations? Think again! New Orleans can be a blast for kids. Parades and parties throughout the city will let your kids ring in Carnival with a bang.
When Is Mardi Gras 2020?
First things first, let’s talk Carnival season. Traditionally, this is a time when we are allowed to indulge in all of the good things that we’re meant to give up during Lent.
Every year, Carnival starts at a different time. Based on the lunar calendar, the season begins seven weeks after the winter solstice. Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, and it falls on the day before Ash Wednesday.
While Mardi Gras is traditionally the final day of Carnival, it has taken on a life of its own in New Orleans. Mardi Gras 2020 lands on Tuesday, February 25, and it marks the end of the festival. Small celebrations start in early January then get into full swing in mid-February.
A Kids’ Guide to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Forget everything you know about the adult-side of Mardi Gras. Outside of the alcohol-fueled late-night parties, there is an endless line of parades that are perfect for the whole family.
When you start looking at parades, you’ll see a lot of references to krewes (it’s said just like crew). These are groups that throw parties and organize parades.
These krewes are all about the ‘throws’ (yep, they’ve got their own language in the Big Easy). These ‘throws’ are the little trinkets and candies that are tossed out during parades.
The krewes are always very kid-focused, so your little ones are sure to get some major loot if you can find a spot in the front of the parade audience.
Pro-tip- Bring an oversized tote bags to make sure that you have plenty of room for all the goodies.
The Ladders of Mardi Gras
One way that kids ensure that they get a good view and ample candy is with a ladder. As soon as you arrive at your first Mardi Gras, you will see ladders all over the place.
More than just standing on a step, these elaborate ladders have seats on top so you can secure the kids in place. You can buy one, or if you’re driving and have room to store it, a DIY Mardi Gras ladder is a fun family project.
If you decide to bring the ladder, be aware of local etiquette. There is actually a local law saying that the ladders need to go in order of height (so keep your taller ladder in back).
Thinking about driving? Read these essential tips for taking a road trip with kids before you go!
Where to Watch the Mardi Gras Parade
One of the best places to explore during Mardi Gras is the Garden District, especially the Upper Garden District. While it is right next to the French Quarter, it doesn’t get as wild. This is where the core of the family-friendly Mardi Gras celebrations happen.
You will often see St. Charles Avenue as the main parade route. A lot of the parades do go all over town, though. You’ll get a better view and a bit more room to move if you get a bit further from the Uptown area.
Check the full calendar and route of each parade so you can plan ahead rather than just walking to the street when you see the most crowded spot.
Family-Friendly Mardi Gras Celebrations
Wondering where to go in New Orleans during Mardi Gras? There are SO many options. But, of course, some are more family-friendly than others.
One of the top picks is Krewe Of Barkus. Their Pawty in the Park is a must for every family. Held on February 16, this must-see event starts in Louis Armstrong Park, with countless dogs dressed up in the most impressive puppy costumes you’ve ever seen.
Endymion is one of only three Super Krewes, and it’s a fun kid-friendly Mardi Gras pick. Another famous one is the Bacchus Krewe, which has made more than a few well-known faces amongst its ranks. Everyone from Will Farrell, and Hulk Hogan to Larry King, and Nicolas Cage have all been in the ranks.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Super Krewe, Orpheus. This impressive group puts on a show that is second to none.
Keeping Kids Safe During Mardi Gras Parades
There are a few essential safety tips for bringing your kids to parades, especially the massive ones you will find in New Orleans. While they are family-friendly, a few better-safe-than-sorry precautions will go a long way.
When you go out each day, snap a pic of your child. Should you get separated, you’ll have a current shot showing exactly what they’re wearing.
Once you’ve done this, take a washable marker and write your phone number on each kids’ arm.
Mardi Gras Treats for Kids
One thing the kids are sure to love is King Cake. This has been a must-eat for centuries, and you can’t go to New Orleans without trying at least one bite.
You will see variations all over town with different toppings and fillings. No matter where you find yours, it’s a big hollow circular shape covered in a glaze with a little plastic baby Jesus hidden inside.
Family-Friendly Hotels in New Orleans
It’s easy to find kid-friendly hotels in New Orleans. One of our go-to options is the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. This cozy option offers a two-level living space with plenty of room to spread out. There is entertainment almost every night of the week, and it’s one of the best places to try that famous Louisiana BBQ.
Another prime option is The Whitney Hotel. A National Historic Landmark, this gorgeous venue is a converted hotel that has been flawlessly remodeled. They are family-friendly year-round and offer a 365-day Mardi Gras. Their “Mardi Gras World Insider Tour Experience” gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the parades while teaching you about the history and traditions of Carnival. It’s a must if you are traveling with older kids. They’ll give you free tickets into Mardi Gras World too, along with beignets and coffee at famous Café du Monde.