New Orleans Carnival the Local Way

Article by: Adam Karlin|@adamkarlin

Tue February 25, 2014 | 00:00 AM

Mardi Gras isn't just about Fat Tuesday. The two-and-a-half weeks leading up to the big day are known as Carnival, a time when the city of New Orleans loses much of its collective head in riotous displays of public celebration. Here are some tips for enjoying carnival like a local; sadly, two of these events have already passed, but there's always next year…


Photo credit: C. Paul Counts via Flickr Creative Commons

Two Saturdays before Mardi Gras, a band of space cadet revelers takes to the bohemian neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny for the parade and party thrown by the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. This isn't just a sci-fi themed parade (although it is that). It's a passion project by nerds who wear the label with pride, folks who know New Orleans loves embracing social outcasts and giving them a space to perform. And perform they do, with mind boggling costumes and floats—this year included a scale-sized Death Star on wheels complete with green laser.


Photo credit:  Tulane Public Relations via Flickr Creative Commons 

Barkus 'rolls,' as it were, two Sundays before Mardi Gras. It's a parade for the dogs, and we mean that in the most literal sense. If you're with your pooch in New Orleans, you can even enter them into Barkus for $50 on the day of the parade. Just make sure to get them into a costume, because folks here don’t play when it comes to dressing up dogs.

Muses & Le Krewe d'Etat

Photo credit:  Derek Bridges via Flickr Creative Commons

One of the major components of carnival is the Uptown parade. In some ways, this is the Mardi Gras of popular association: huge floats roll down St Charles Avenue, while masked members of 'krewes'—New Orleans parading societies—toss beads, toys and other 'throws' to a cheering crowd. The Thursday night before Mardi Gras features the all female Krewe of Muses, while on Friday you can see Le Krewe d'Etat. Both groups bring clever floats with sharply satirical themes; d'Etat trends a little right and Muses a bit left, but neither leaves potential targets unscathed. One of the most prized throws of Mardi Gras are one of the Muses' individualized, hand-decorated shoes.

Box of Wine

Photo credit: Derek Bridges via Flickr Creative Commons

On the Sunday before Mardi Gras, the old line Krewe of Bacchus rolls Uptown. But before Bacchus comes Box of Wine, a parade that features New Orleans artists, wackos and papier-mâché creations straight outta Burning Man . Where membership in Bacchus is based off of money and connections, membership in Box of Wine is based off of a desire to party; anyone can roll. So while Bacchus claims to carry the mystery and magic of indulgence and wine, we'd say Box of Wine—with its impressive costumes, merry pranksters and general controlled anarchy—is more keeping with the original Dionysian ideals.

Red Beans & Rice


Photo credit: Adam Karlin

On Lundi Gras—the day before Mardi Gras—folks march from the artsy Bywater to the Treme neighborhood dressed as all manner of Louisiana foodstuffs, wildlife and environmental features. Many costumes are made from the state's iconic red beans and rice (dry, of course). This is a fun one for families.