Mardi Gras is unlike anything else you've ever experienced. Colloquially, it is called Carnival. It celebrates the final days leading up to Fat Tuesday, which commences the 40 days of Lent. Some call it the biggest party in the world. For Tulane students (me being one of them), it is the most anticipated part of the year -- bigger than any tradition at any other school, be it a tailgate, rivalry, frat party, or concert. Mardi Gras is the end all-be all of parties, and some students, like myself, are fortunate enough to live here for four years to experience it. For those visiting, you're in for one hell of a ride. Here are 12 tips for a successful Mardi Gras:
1. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Don't be that person who has too much to drink at the pregame and can't make it to the parade. Carnival is weeks long and the end of Mardi Gras is six long days. Pace yourself.
2. Don't pee in public. It will be your single hardest challenge during this long weekend, and your biggest regret if you get caught. Public urination one of the leading causes of arrests during the holiday. Furthermore, The New Orleans Police Department doesn't release anyone from central lockup until after Fat Tuesday, so your bladder could cost you days behind bars and missed festivities. Find a secret hiding spot or pay someone to use their porta potty.
3. Work the buddy system. The crowds during these few days are massive and you don't want to end up lost or alone. Be safe. Stick with friends.
4. Load up on your supply of Advil beforehand. These are going to come in handy when you need to take at least four every morning.
5. Make friends with the McDonald's at St. Charles Ave and Louisiana Ave. Don't lie to yourself; you are not going to eat well this weekend. This fine dining establishment is going to be your best friend. Conveniently located right along the parade route, this fast and cheap option will answer all of your drunken munchie dreams.
6. Respect the families and children along the parade route. Many think the holiday is full of obscenity and bare-chested women. This may be the case uptown around Tulane or downtown in the quarter, but along the parade route on St. Charles it is more of a family affair. The locals are actually some of the best people to celebrate with. Respect their territory and they may even share some food or better yet, a cold beer with you.
7. Acquire a pair of Mardi Gras shoes that you don't care about, because they WILL get ruined. Pick something preferably more water resistant.
8. Wear anything purple, green, or gold in your wardrobe. Better yet, wear anything odd in your closet that you wouldn't normally, be it a Halloween costume or something that you've always questioned when you would ever wear it. Trust me, you'll see weirder.
9. Order a Hurricane from The Boot. $8 gets you one massive drink in one of the most cliché Mardi Gras cups one can ask for. One of these and you'll be feeling great and ready to go.
10. Visit the Quarter/Bourbon at least once. It can be hectic with wall-to-wall crowds, but it's worth it to wander down at least once to see the debauchery that goes on.
11. Make eye contact with the people throwing beads on the floats. Eye contact and a little begging motion will get you the said bead, toy, or gadget the person on the float is handing out.
12. Keep an open mind. Try not to say no, unless it regards your safety. This is your shot at Mardi Gras. Don't regret it later by wishing you had more fun.
Good luck and as the Cajun French like to say, laissez les bons temps rouler. Literal translation: let the good times roll! Let Mardi Gras 2014 commence!