Mardi Gras New Orleans : 5 Myths
Mardi Gras in New Orleans--the craziest party in America--is subject of a lot of tall tales and fantasies. Here are five big myths about Mardi Gras.
There are several myths regarding Mardi Gras in New Orleans, that wild and raucous celebration that precedes the Catholic fasting period of Lent. Mardi Gras is often not what people expect it to be.
Orleans Parish, home to the City of New Orleans, prohibits public nudity and gives its officers full authority to arrest any violators. All those flashers on the Bourbon Street balconies are breaking the law, and several hundreds of them get arrested every year. However, many thousands flash their breasts (and nether regions) to the public below without reprimand. Why? Simply, there are not enough police officers to do the job and most of them don’t object to the show anyway.
MYTH #2: All the good parades roll through the French Quarter.
All of the famous and spectacularly grandiose Mardi Gras parades ride through other parts of the New Orleans metro area, not the French Quarter. The streets in the Quarter are too small to accommodate the massive parade floats and the sidewalks cannot hold the throngs of people waiting to catch beads and doubloons.
The biggest parades, like Rex, Zulu and Orpheus, roll down the traditional St. Charles Avenue route. The biggest parade, Endymion, rolls through Mid-City. There are over sixty parades held in the New Orleans metro area in the weeks prior to Mardi Gras. Many are in suburban areas like Jefferson Parish to the east, across the river on the West Bank, and across Lake Pontchartrain on the North Shore.
MYTH #3: There is no drinking age in Louisiana.
The drinking age in Louisiana is 21, just like everywhere else in the United States. Louisiana is lax to enforce this law, especially in New Orleans, and most assuredly not during Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is big business for French Quarter bars and carding every underage frat boy would take too long and drive away too much business. It’s only if you actually look all of your fourteen years will someone stop you from buying a daiquiri.
MYTH #4: Mardi Gras is the Greatest Free Show on Earth
Any Mardi Gras alumnus will tell that Mardi Gras is not free. Those beads you caught at Zulu? The parade riders spend anywhere from $500 to $1000 each on their throws (the word for beads, doubloons and trinkets they throw to the crowds). That hotel room on Bourbon Street? If you are lucky enough to get a room on Bourbon with a balcony, you will pay about $400 a night with a minimum five-night stay. Even a schlock hotel room on the outskirts of town will cost $150 a night. . .and then you still have to worry about parking or cabfare Those fantastic drinks that keep you buzzing all night long? Each one will set you back about $8. The only way for Mardi Gras to be a free show is if you live in New Orleans, don’t ride in a parade, have somewhere to park your car for free, and are content to drink tap water.
MYTH #5: Mardi Gras is not good for families.
The idea that Mardi Gras is not a kid-friendly place is perpetuated by the focus on the French Quarter as ground zero for Mardi Gras. The French Quarter is Party Central, with its array of topless girls, boozy crowds, and free-for-all bars. It’s not a good place for children, but New Orleans offers its younger Mardi Gras-goers so much more.
The parades are well-established as safe, family events. Most locals put their children high up on ladders with specially-fitted seats from which the kids have a bird’s-eye view of the parades. Breast flashers and compulsive streakers are not welcome amid the kids and cookouts that dot the parade routes. The cops are rather vigilant about their arrests here.
There are also musical celebrations at the zoo and all the major attractions, like the Aquarium and Audubon Zoo, are open for business.