Mardi Gras has come and went in New Orleans for the 2023 season. Parades filled the street. Beads were thrown at the crowds. Elaborate costumes were found at every corner. The drinks poured and the food was plentiful. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is often ranked as one of the premier festivals to see in the world and for good reason. It’s difficult to convey the scope and energy that flows through this city during Mardi Gras. As cliché as the saying goes, you simply must be there to fully grasp this event. I had only recently moved to New Orleans a year ago. While I was able to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans in years prior, this was my first experience as a city resident. Not only this, but this was the first time I really took the time to learn the customs and traditions that go along with this time of year. In years prior, I simply showed up on the street and had assumed that all the parades were simply Mardi Gras parades. It was not until I arrived to the city that I learned that the Mardi Gras parades are actually made up of dozens of different organizations and groups that each organize their own parades. This collection of parades is then coordinated so that they flow one after the other from different sections of the city on a schedule that ensures they do not run into one another. These individual groups that organize an individual parades are known as Krewes and each Krewe has a distinct theme, culture, and personality that comes with it. While I was able to enjoy quite a few different activities and events during Mardi Gras, as far as the parades went; I spent much of my time in the Uptown section of the city by the corner of St. Charles and Napoleon to see the parades that were marching through that area of town. While parades in New Orleans start at the beginning of Carnival in January, I’ll focus this article on the parades that came through Uptown during the final week of Carnival.
The first Uptown parade during the final week of Mardi Gras 2023 began on Wednesday and was made up of two Krewes putting on back-to-back parades: Krewe of Druids and Nyx. Both parades put on a show that included extravagant floats, great music, and various beads, toys, and other throws that were tossed from the floats as they were passing by. The Krewe of Druids had decorative themes that were built around nature and trees.
The following night on Thursday; there were 3 more parades that took to the street in Uptown: The Krewes of Babylon, Chaos, and Muses. The first of 3 parades for the night were the Krewe of Babylon whose theme this year was Wonders of the World with their floats drawing inspiration from iconic world landmarks such as the Greek Parthenon, French Arc de Triumph, historic Library of Alexandria and many more. As a travel lover, I adored this theme, and the entire parade was an amazing show. The second parade krewe from Thursday night: The Krewe of Chaos also came with very decorative floats and throws a plenty during this show. In addition to the floats, there were also groups of people within this parade that carried around large neon light butterflies that they flew over the spectators in the crowd. In total, this night was filled with five hours of music, dancing, floats, and throws capped off by the Krewe of Muses and shoe themed presentation complete with a signature hand decorated shoe throw and shoe themed beads. While the Krewe of Muses is not the only group that has become known for a signature throw, they are one of the most popular ones due to how much work is clearly put into each one of the shoes that are created for this event. Many of the shoes have themes linked to Mardi Gras and New Orleans such as a green and white glitter shoe that is capped with fuzzy beignets to represent the iconic Café du Monde that is located in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Other notable signature throws include the Krewe of Tucks hand decorated plungers, the Krewe of Morpheus sleeping masks, and the Krewe of Cleopatra chalices. For many, getting one of these signature throws is the highlight of their Mardi Gras.
The parades in Uptown rolled into Friday night with the Krewe of Hermes, D’Etat, and Morpheus. The first Friday night parade was the Krewe of Hermes who rolled through Napoleon with floats styled after myths and legends, primarily Greek. The pantheon of Greek gods for floats from Zeus and Poseidon to Hermes and Aphrodite. This year's theme was the apocalypse with skulls, fire, and the 4 horsemen getting elaborate floats of their own. Anything mythology related always appeals to me, so this parade was an awesome way to start the Friday night parade lineup. Second parade of Thursday night in Uptown was the Krewe of D'Etat. This year's theme was political figures with the floats poking fun of everyone from Mayor Cantrell to Bernie Sanders. Friday night in Uptown was capped off by the Krewe of Morpheus. Named after the god of sleep, this parade had a lunar theme with moons a plenty through the 24-float parade. In addition to signature floats, most of the parades commission special throws and stuffed toys for this event that fits their theme and includes their names stitched into the toys. In the case of the Krewe of Morpheus, stuffed moons were handed out through the parades. If you can not get a signature throw, then these stuffed toys are another excellent option for being able to acquire an amazing keepsake from these parades. As a tip: if you are at the parades with small children, your chance of getting a stuffed toy rises exponentially. Within this one week of parades, I was able to collect several bags of toys with relative ease.
The all-female Krewe of Iris was the first morning parade in Uptown for Saturday. This parade features floats that combined female heroes as well as flowers, butterfly, and bird themes. As with all the previous floats, these were incredibly intricate and designed with great care. The colors were vibrant, and all the riders were in full costume and put on another great show. I was personally enthralled with several of the fictional character and superhero themed floats in this parade such as Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl. The giant Kabuki mask was also a personal favorite of mine. The last day parade of Saturday in Uptown was the Krewe of Tucks. This was one of my favorite parade Krewes so far, with hilarious floats that are centered around pop-culture references and toilet humor. Their throws included small toilets, custom decorated plungers, and even toilet paper with their seal on it. The toilet paper wound up covering the trees along St. Charles and Napoleon which added to the festivities. The floats included references to Batman, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and many more along with various Friar Tucks.
Mardi Gras weekend continued in New Orleans with 4 more parades that happened Uptown on Sunday. The Krewe of Okeanos was the first parade of Sunday and this year's theme was one I could really get behind: festivals of the world. It was so much fun to see floats that were based on festivals I had previously attended as well seeing several festivals represented that I plan on attending in the not-too-distant future. The combination of dancing in the street, international festivals, and elaborate floats is an excellent way to pass a Sunday. Second parade that rolled through Uptown was the Krewe of Thoth. This parade Krewe has an Egyptian theme with floats showing pyramids, sphinxes, pharaohs, and other symbols from Ancient Egypt. This year also marked this Krewe's 75th anniversary. This year's theme was Thoth travels the world with floats showcasing some of the places that the Krewe has visited in the past. Although I was not able to attend the mid-city parade, I returned to the crowd in time for the last parade of the day. The Krewe of Bacchus which rolled out many incredible and animatronic floats. Although every float was incredible fun to see, the one that really caught my attention was the 100 foot long, animatronic, fire breathing alligator. Seeing something that size with a moving head and steam pouring out of its mouth was so much fun to see rolling down Napoleon Avenue. The environment Uptown was very fun and family friendly as well and meeting people from all over the world, who were all more than happy to chat and get to know one another. The 40-foot-tall Brontosaurus float was also a sight to see rolling down the street. Mr. Freeze from the Batman Animated Series and Mr. T also had me jumping up and down.
Even when the weekend ended, the festivities continued with more parades on Monday. Monday parades started with the Krewe of Proteus. The Monday prior to Mardi Gras is known as Lundi Gras and New Orleans carries over the fun and festivities from the weekend into both Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras. The final uptown parade of Lundi Gras was the Krewe of Orpheus who put on a show on St. Charles. One thing I noticed about these floats was how elaborate and detailed they were. Not only was the front of the float decorated with very intricate décor but the sides, top, and back of most floats were also covered with very ornate flowers. On top of that, this Krewe was very generous with their throws as we were able to take home 2 full bags of goodies with minimal effort on our part. One specific float during this parade was especially memorable: a giant red train that went on for several floats (I believe 6). That train kept going and going and going as it passed us by, tossing out throws along its entire path.
Tuesday officially marks Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Krewe of Rex took their turn down Napoleon and St. Charles. This is the oldest parade Krewe in New Orleans, so they get the honor of having their parade end each Mardi Gras. As with all the Krewes, the designs in this 29-float parade were elaborate and vivid. One positive to seeing this parade was that while there was still a large crowd in attendance, it was a lot less packed compared with the weekend parades that took place and it was very easy to find a good place to stand and view the parades from. This marked a great way to end Carnival season in New Orleans. While this was a regular Tuesday everywhere else in the country, here in New Orleans it was Mardi Gras!
There are many more floats that occurred through Carnival season that were spread out throughout the weeks preceding Mardi Gras. Some notable ones are the Krewe of Cleopatra, the adult -themed Krewe deViue, and the science fiction themed Krewe of Chewbacchus. There are even additional parades that occurred on the week I wrote about that occurred in different sections of the city such as the Krewe of Zulu or the Krewe of Endymion (considered of most prestigious and elaborate Krewes of Mardi Gras. In addition to the parades, the crowds and nightlife that descend on the French Quarter, particularly Bourbon Street, are a sight to behold on their own. Beads are flying from the balcony, festive looking drinks are seen everywhere, and a great time is had. There is so much more than can be discussed regarding Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but those will be stories for another day…