A Guide to Mardi Gras


Mardi Gras in New Orleans is like no other experience you have ever had. If you can imagine it you probably can find in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Most people come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras to party and have fun. However there are people with other intentions. New Orleans Police Department along with the assistance of several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies do an extremely well job in policing the French Quarter and parade routes however like many large cities crimes do slip through the cracks.

Some general safety rules to keep in mind are:

Stay off of Bourbon Street right after a parade

Things get pretty hectic and people are jammed in shoulder tight for blocks. You cannot know what to expect until you are in a crowd of people so tight that you literally cannot move for 15-20 minutes at a time. If you can't handle tight places you are in for trouble. Bourbon Street is not a safe or appropriate place for children

Don't park in the French Quarter or along a parade routes AT ALL

Exactly 2 hours before a parade, fleets of tow trucks come and get all the cars on the route. They move fast a city tow truck can hook-up a car and have it going in less than two minutes. The French Quarter should be avoided altogether. All vehicular traffic is limited to residential and business purposes.

Don't wander down dark alleys or dead streets

This is where the bad guys wait to get unsuspecting victims. Criminals love places where they can go about their business and not be seen or heard. Some send out feeders into the crowd to entice unsuspecting victims to follow them into these same dark places.

Don't make bets or wagers with people you don't know

Whether this is your first time to New Orleans or you have visited before you may met a guy who will bet you that he can guess where you bought your shoes. You say OK thinking that he couldn't possibly know. He says something like "a store" or "a shoe store". When you laugh and walk away he gets hostile and threatens you for the money. Just ignore these people or tell them you don't have any money.

The bathrooms available in the French Quarter are few and far between.

You must buy something in a store or bar to use the bathroom and some places will even stamp your hand so you can come back for a repeat performance. There are free ones located on several corners the French Quarter but as the days past the become very dirty and could make for an unpleasant experience.

Don't Urinate in public.

This will upset not only the residents of the French Quarter but the police also who will not hesitate to arrest you. Keep in mind how you would feel if someone walked up to your home and urinated on the door.

Be careful of where you are and what is going on around you.

Keep your eyes on what and who is around you when going to an unfamiliar area. When venturing off the main streets it does not take long to wander into a bad part of the neighborhood. It is best not to park too far from the parades routes. Parking lots and garages make good areas to park in because after the parades you will usually have a group of people walking back at the same time. Of course there will be fees but in the long run they will be worth it.

Respect barricades, ropes,or any other device that separates the street from the neutral grounds (median strip) and sidewalks.

These are clear lines put up by the city that should not be crossed. You may end up getting in a hassle with the police and possible arrested

Get into the Spirit of Mardi Gras

Have a good time. Enjoy what's happening in and around New Orleans. Wear a costume, eat and drink to your hearts content. Explore all that New Orleans haves to offer.

Feel free to consume your favorite alcohol beverages.

Public drinking has never been a big deal in New Orleans. Remember that the days are long and you may want to drink moderately as so to prevent getting sick or lost. If you become to rowdy, loud, and begin giving others a hard time the police will intercede and public drunkenness can be a direct ticket to jail. You will also want to keep in mind the "Open Container Law" in New Orleans it is legal to drink alcoholic beverages on the street, but not from glass containers or cans. Before leaving a lounge or bar place your drink in a to go cup.

DON'T talk back to police officers.

The New Orleans Police Department are the best crowd-control police in the world. They know exactly where the line is between acceptable and unacceptable behavior during Carnival. They're able to switch gears from their day-to-day routine and apply a totally different set of standards during a parade. The problem is that they do this while working two and a half weeks of 16-hour days. Most police officers hate Carnival; your revelry is their agony. They're willing to make the sacrifice, however, because they know their kids are having a good time, and they know what it means to the city. You don't want to pull a police officer's chain at a parade, if a police officer tells you to do something, do it. If he wants you to move along, move along. There's no street-lawyer discussions at Carnival time -- you do it their way or you go to jail. And, for God's sake, don't ever strike a police officer at a parade it is a one way ticket to jail. Guarantee! The NOPD aren't looking for trouble; they don't have to. It finds them. They know that, so they're going to put anyone who gets out of line in jail as quickly as possible so they can go back and be on guard for the real trouble.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000