The Carnival season always begins on Jan. 6, which is King’s Day (Feast of the Epiphany).
Mardi Gras day (Fat Tuesday), however, is on a different day each year.
Fat Tuesday changes every year because Easter Sunday is never on the same Sunday each year. Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday.
Most visitors plan to arrive no later than the Saturday prior to Mardi Gras day and stay through Ash Wednesday.
The weather during Mardi Gras can vary from very cold to very warm, almost hot. Sometimes it will change from one extreme to the other during the same day. It’s a good idea to layer your clothes since a chilly morning may turn into a warm afternoon.
Since you will be spending long days outside, pack comfortable shoes and clothes that can get somewhat dirty. Don’t forget to check the forecast for rain. If storms are predicted, then you’ll definitely want to bring a raincoat!
By all means, yes! Contrary to public perception, Mardi Gras is a family celebration. Those of us who grew up in New Orleans feel guilty once our children have grown up and we continue going to every parade, because we used to use "taking the children" as our excuse! Bring big bags (even large garbage bags!) to hold all of the stuff they will catch. Throws often include toys, stuffed animals, beads and more.
The only place you should avoid with kids is the French Quarter (where no full-size parades pass anyway). We recommend seeing the parades when they begin on St. Charles Avenue near Napoleon, since parades can last until 11 p.m. near the end of the route. The Garden District portion of St. Charles is a family area where you will see many families staking out their parade watching position, having picnics, playing ball, and having fun under the beautiful oak trees. You don't have to worry about the streetcars, as they stop running in this area during Mardi Gras.
You may also want to consider taking your kids to the parades in the suburban areas like Metairie, which is only 10 minutes away from New Orleans. Metairie's Caesar parade, the Saturday before Mardi Gras weekend, is the parade Disneyworld features on Mardi Gras day. Kids love it!
First aid stations will be available on the following corners along St. Charles Avenue during many of our larger parades the last two weeks of Mardi Gras season:
Additionally, first aid stations will be available at Orleans Avenue and North Hennessy Street, as well as North Carrolton Avenue and Bienville Street on the Saturday before Mardi Gras for the Endymion parade.