There are 4.9 miles of parades nightly in New Orleans, and where you stand to watch them makes all the difference.
And when I say, “Where you stand” I don’t mean like, “it sucks if you’re standing next to someone who’s super drunk and leaning all over you,” because that can happen anywhere, anytime. (P.S. Uhhh sorry about that. Ha.)
No, Mardi Gras parades are a lot more involved than that. There are several things to keep in mind when you’re dealing with professional parade viewing:
Insert voice of Dwight Shrute from The Office:
Booze and Babies
I try to hold out on peeing as long as possible, but when you’re drinking
a case of Miller High Life on the street for three hours, not even Superman could hold it in.
So you must place yourself near a bathroom, preferably one with indoor plumbing. Port-a-potties aren’t terrible if you can find one (Napoleon and Prytania Streets) but situating yourself near a friend’s house or a bar is the most comfortable. At the very least, a dark alley in which to squat, can enhance your Mardi Gras experience. If you go that route, bring toilet paper.
For me - and many - the marching bands are by far the most exciting part of the parades. They are local high school bands but they go all out...hard. And they have accompanying dancers in glittery leotards and boots with tassles!!
But, while at any given time, the drummers are rat-tat...tuh-tat-tat....-ing as they walk the parade route, the bands can’t very well play for the whole three hours (at least not the brass section), so you must situate yourself in what I like to call the “play zone.”
This is hard to do and there’s a lot of trial and error. The best place to see the bands go crazy is under the interstate near the end of the parade. (For a video click here for last year’s blog and scroll down to the video).
Bring earplugs for the kiddies if you watch here.
There’s no open container law in New Orleans, which I’ve long said I’d make a national law if I were president. So you can drink whatever your heart desires and bring it with you in a cooler or a backpack. However, you must think about how cumbersome your alcohol is since many people walk a ways from their car to the route. Coolers with wheels are helpful. So is packing light – beer cans instead of bottles, plastic liquor bottles instead of glass. I made the mistake of lugging an industrial-sized bottle of champagne with me last night, but I was determined to celebrate. And I worked it out.
Another option is to just watch the parade outside a bar and go in and order. That eliminates the lugging around of stuff, but it’s also like ten times more expensive
when you’re ordering doubles.
There are certain areas of the parades that people stand with their children and I like to avoid those areas. But if you’ve got a young one, that’s your jam -- there are other kids, usually no profanity or cigarette smoking, blah blah blah. I like to find these places so I can avoid these places. Also, as my friend pointed out, you’re not going to get very many beads if there’s a freakin cute kid behind you sitting atop a ladder. Those bastards get all the loot.
Over the years, I’ve managed to hit three out of the four benchmarks. I situate myself near a bathroom, bring booze and avoid babies.
The bands thing I’m still working on.
If I remember next year, I may call the schools beforehand and beg to speak to the band leader and ask him/her what streets they plan to go crazy on during the route.
Maybe I’ll make him/her a deal: tell me where your band plans to go nuts and I’ll give you some champagne from my industrial-sized bottle.
And offer up my friend’s bathroom.
See y'all out there.