More than 2 million people crammed onto a street no wider than Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. Beer, beads and flesh as far as the eye can see. Roaring club music muffled by the chants and cheers of drunken revelers, and so many cameras it looks like a movie set.
All that makes another exciting night in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
The annual celebration attracts people from all around the world, and for the second consecutive year, and my third out of the past four, I was among the many people to roam Bourbon Street during one of the biggest bashes in the world.
From my experiences in the Big Easy, I’ll shed some light on what you could do and expect if you decide to travel to Mardi Gras in the future.
The weekend before Fat Tuesday (tomorrow), marks the culmination of the half-month-long celebration. It’s definitely the best time to be in New Orleans, which makes it the most crowded.
If you get frustrated with the crowds at Gasparilla, then Mardi Gras is not for you. It’s arm-to-arm on Bourbon Street at night, including Gasparilla-size crowds three blocks in either direction. But if crowds don’t bother you, then it’s time to party.
For a pre-party excursion, it’s probably best to spend your mornings on Bourbon Street. It gives you an opportunity to look around in some of the shops and provides an opportunity to view possible places to go later on in the evening.
I’ve never been to a bad club or bar on Bourbon Street, but there are a few that stand out from the rest. The key is to look for the fountains. If there is a fountain somewhere in the club, then it offers 3-for-1 during happy hour. It’s not a rule; it’s just something I noticed. Happy hour runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in New Orleans, so be sure to pace yourself. Razzo, which is always my first stop, Utopia and The Big Bad Wolf are great places to party, and all three have fountains. But the No. 1 spot to go is The Original Pat O’Briens. This place is famous for the Hurricane, which is a potent rum mixture. Drink a few of these and you’ll understand where the name comes from.
In the afternoon, it’s best to go get something to eat before the party really gets going. Head toward Decatur Street for the best restaurants. The best place I’ve found is The French Market. I always order the Jambalaya. Also, look for the family-owned restaurants. Most of the time they have great food at a cheap price.
At night, it’s time for the parades. There are 31 parades and usually two or three are going on at the same time, but at different locations. Most parades end up on Canal Street, but that is where the most people stand.
If you want a good chance at grabbing some beads, head towards St. Charles Street. Obviously, ladies get the majority of the beads, but guys can stand at the back of the crowd for their share.
But the best part of Mardi Gras is when everyone collapses on Bourbon Street after the parades are over to partake in the traditional “bead exchange.” I don’t think I need to elaborate when I say, “Anything goes.” I’ve seen some things I will never forget, mainly because I recorded it. If you’re in the crowd and watching someone flash some skin, watch out. Those beads don’t feel very good when they hit you on the side of your face.
As for me, I had a great time over the weekend. Although this year wasn’t nearly as great as last year, I had some memorable moments.
I saw Hugh Hefner, along with the Playboy Bunnies. I ran into Mr. Hanky from South Park, but I bid him a quick hidy-ho for refusing to buy me a shot. Unfortunately, I also saw The Naked Cowboy, again, but the Girls Gone Wild bunch made up for that sight. I saw three parades, caught a bunch of beads and had a few hangovers. I was hustled for $80 in a side novelty shop in the first 30 minutes I was on Bourbon, but free beers at Harrah’s Casino and Club 360 made up for that. But my non-nudity highlight came while waiting for beads during Endymion, a large parade on Saturday night. My friend yelled and pointed at the person next to me. I didn’t even notice, but standing right beside me was Danny Masterson, who plays Hyde on That 70s Show. I chatted with him for a couple of minutes before Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) appeared and suggested they move on. I offered him some of my beads, but he told me to “save them for the chicks for later.” So I did.
Contact Adam Adkinsat firstname.lastname@example.org