If you ever wanted to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, remember that it’s a month long celebration that ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday. My wife and I had the opportunity to view multiple parades this past Wednesday & Thursday. A few of the most popular were the Krewe of NYX, which is known for throwing out purses and the Krewe of Muses parade, which is known for passing out glamorously packaged shoes. These parades bring together thousands of families along the parade routes who wait for the chance to walk away with the highly coveted float “swag.”
There is a ton of advice out there, including telling every float “it’s my birthday” or the sympathy move “I need a shoe for my wife.” These tactics might have some limited success, but after attending these parades, we believe that it’s important to be proactive. Don’t just wait for a shoe to come to you…
1) Use social media to reach out to the “Krewe’s” beforehand.
These Krewes spend a great deal of time and preparation decorating these purses or shoes and are proud to show off their work. Imagine if you had put in all of this work (some of the shoes even have names,) only to see it thrown to someone who was just out to sell it and make a quick $95 bucks on E-bay. Sometimes a simple Facebook comment with a promise to post an update can give you a leg up on the competition. You won’t necessarily be promised a shoe or purse, but knowing a person’s name, float number, and informing them of where you’ll be on the parade route can often increase your chances.
2) Use the parade tracker app.
Coordinating the logistics of an entire parade takes time and the start times aren’t always exact. Each parade has 15-20 minute breaks in between (a perfect time to grab another beverage or hit the bathroom). Using the tracker can give you real-time updates to stay informed.
3) Consider the VIP viewing stands.
Some of these viewing stands vary in prices depending on the day (prices spike for Mardi Gras, and Lundi Gras). The viewing stand at the intercontinental cost $150 and included open bar, food and access to the hotel bathrooms. (some hotels charge as much as $20 for bathroom access). If you can fit it in your budget for one night, do it. Btw, be sure to get a covered stand in case of rain.
4) Go to the parades when the weather is terrible.
These parades run pretty much rain or shine and the swag is going out no matter who is there. If you can wear layers and grab a poncho there’s a lot less competition for swag in less than perfect weather. It was pouring rain at this year’s NYX parade, plus it was windy and cold. That is probably why we got more swag than we could carry, especially towards the end as the crowds tailed off to escape the rain.
5) Go to New Orleans with an empty bag
Whether you’re coming home with 25 lbs of beads or 10 boxes of pralines, make sure you have lots of room in your carry on, or pack an empty bag and stick it in your suitcase. This can save you a lot of hassle and time when you’re packing up for the airport.
New Orleans is a foodies dream come true…so plan ahead.
6) When eating – use apps like Nowait.
You can use apps like the Nowait app to secure a place in line without physically having to be there. We had brunch at Ruby slipper, which was the best brunch dish I’ve ever had – the Grilled Fish ‘St Peter’, (Grilled fish of the day over a cheesy grit cake, topped with sautéed spinach & tomatoes, a skewer of grilled shrimp, finished with creole mustard hollandaise). It was also a great customer experience with the best service from a waiter who moonlights as a professional wrestler named “Danny Flamingo”.
7) For popular restaurants, eat during off times and don’t automatically get “in line”.
My wife and I have been to New Orleans several times and we only recently discovered that you can eat at Café Du Monde without actually getting in line. Just sit down at any empty table, like a local. Additionally, this was our first time eating at Acme Oyster house. We normally find there to be a 45-1 hour wait for their famous Chargrilled Oysters, but there was only a five minute wait at 3:30 P.M.
This year marks the 300-year anniversary of the city of New Orleans and there will be many more parade seasons. If you plan to attend, make sure you go early.