Well, it’s still Mardi Gras season here in New Orleans! And we are approaching the actual day of Mardi Gras (March 5th this year). We went to a bigger parade recently in order to test the waters with our kids for some of the GIANT parades coming up. The “Super Krewe” parades are some of the biggest and longest running in the city’s history, and they get to roll the week of Mardi Gras.
The Krewe of Little Rascals was held in Metairie last weekend, just a quick drive from anywhere in the city or west bank. This parade is unique in that all of the float riders are kids! We had a great time, and we can’t wait to see some of the even bigger parades in the next two weeks. Here’s what we learned from our first “big” parade!
1. Plan out your route to get there. It’s so important to check out the parade map before you go to find out how you will actually get there. Plan on road closures along the entire parade route for hours before and after the parade. All of the parade routes can be found HERE, and this map will even overlay the route onto Google Maps so you can see it there when you’re navigating. You can also download the parade tracker to find out the current location when you’re waiting for the parade to get to you.
2. Better than driving there, take public transportation. If you’re on the west bank, drive to Algiers Point and take the ferry. A lot of the larger parades end just a few blocks from the Canal Street ferry terminal.
3. Cart your kids. Either with a stroller large enough to haul extra gear, or with a luxury wagon (on our wishlist). If you do use a wagon, feel free to deck it out and even pick a theme – do you see Super Mario below? Or if you’re true minimalists like us and your military spouse is up for a ruck/hike/hump, transport the kids in hiking packs.
4. Keep reasonable expectations for your kids. Ours made it 1.25 hours of the parade. And our oldest actually let us know he was all done with the parade. You could see it, too, in his exhausted, glazed over expression. The parades are long, LOUD, and overwhelming on the senses.
5. Speaking of loud parades, ear protection isn’t a bad idea. And do not forget sunscreen and lots of water. Yes it is winter, but that didn’t stop temperatures from reaching 80 degrees last weekend! Check out the junior military troupes marching for miles while standing tall and proud! The parents of these kids must be very proud!
6. Pack a picnic. Some local markets have ready-made picnics. This could be a special treat and also save you a lot of time. OR do like the locals and pack a lunch or Popeye’s fried chicken bucket, a bag of Zapp’s chips, and a king cake. A parade day is no day for a diet. BUT there are plenty of healthy alternatives, and we do suggest some fruits and veggies for the kids, since many floats will be throwing them candy.
7. Plan for bathroom needs. Parades will actually be much easier if your kids are still in diapers. If they are toilet trained, you’re going to either want to bring a portable toilet with you, or have a plan for finding one.
8. Have fun with your outfit. Do you remember spirit days in high school when you’d wear school colors and do crazy hair? It’s like that and anything goes. Lots of local boutiques carry cute stuff for the whole family. You don’t have to spend a lot, either. Local Walmarts have lots of inexpensive shirts and accessories.
9. Don’t try to do it all in one year. One of the good things about getting stationed in New Orleans is that you probably have a couple of years to see all the parades. If you don’t have kids, or have older kids, you could do a lot in one year. That’s because many parades run back to back. But with younger kids, you’re going to need to pace yourself.
10. And finally, two things about the beads: 1) you absolutely do not need to buy any. Trust me, just go to one parade and you’ll come home with more than your neck can support. And 2) don’t pick them up off the ground. It’s considered bad luck and they are probably broken.
Happy Parading, New Orleans Military Families!