Next — Plan ahead: Make your hotel reservations early. Most of the Central Business District (CBD) and French Quarter hotels require 4- or 5-day minimum stays, and book blocks of rooms beginning as early as August. The key is to book as far in advance as possible. Check out recommended hotels close to the action or BestNewOrleansHotels.com.
Plan your transportation: During Mardi Gras weekend, the French Quarter is closed to vehicular traffic. Only French Quarter residents and hotel guests with special parking passes can get by the police barricades. Off-site commercial parking lots can be expensive and fill up fast, and taxicabs are more difficult to find. So make sure you know how far away your hotel will be, and ask your hotel concierge or front desk to help you with route times, traffic and parking.
Do not double-park or park in driveways, on neutral grounds (medians), in front of water hydrants, within 15 feet of curb corners, too far from the curb, or on the parade route within 3 hours of a parade. Your car will get towed away and/or you’ll receive a fine.
Get there early: For the biggest parades rolling in the evenings on the weekend before Mardi Gras, plan to get there about 4 hours ahead of time to get a great spot. Parade routes can look empty one moment, but the crowd size can swell fast within an hour or two of the parade, making that front-row spot four or five people deep.
Check the weather forecast: It can be very warm or it can be very cold, so plan accordingly. Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and layered clothing.
Catch Mardi Gras throws: Bring a large, sturdy plastic or cloth bag to hold all your caught treasure. Enjoy jumping up to catch beads, doubloons, cups, coconuts, ladies shoes, stuffed animals, etc. Feel free to yell at the float riders “Throw me something, Mister!”
Don’t reach down to pick up beads, doubloons, etc.: Don’t reach down to pick up beads, doubloons, etc. unless you are very careful. Otherwise, your fingers will never be the same. Put your foot on it, and when it’s safe (between floats), you can bend down to pick it up. Also, floats cannot stop on a dime so make sure children do not get too close when reaching for throws and no running into the street between floats for a trinket.
Plan your meals ahead: Restaurants on the parade route are usually full, so make your plans early with those that accept reservations. If they don’t, plan to wait a while to get a table, eat street vendor food, or pack your own snacks and sandwiches. Also, bring wet wipes or tissues with you to clean up before eating. Your hands will get very dirty, and it won’t be easy to find a sink and soap.
Have a meeting place: Make sure everyone knows where to meet in case anyone gets lost; and give your children notecards with your name, address, hotel phone numbers, and pre-arranged meeting place on them just in case. Thousands of people are on the street, and it is very easy to get separated.