1.) Catching beads is more complicated than you think.
While I enjoy being asphyxiated with beads, the hardest part is actually CATCHING beads once they are thrown at you. The nicer the beads, the heavier they are! If you catch beads thrown off of a balcony or a parade float with you hands then you deserve an MVP award. For the rest of my uncoordinated friends you MAY wind up catching said beads with your face-and that ish hurts. Brought real thug tears to my eyes y'all!
2.) New Orleans Police Department does not play games.
Just because Bourbon street smells like pee doesn't mean you can potty on the street. I've watched a man get tackled by 10 NOPD cops for taking a wiz. NOPD also comes down Bourbon St on horseback. The most terrifying experience I had on Bourbon St was watching officers part the Red Sea of drunkards with an unruly horse. NOPD is only nice in Beyoncés #Formation video. Get kicked in the face by a horse if you want to!
3.) Nudity is not limited to young people.
The older NOLA crowd was #lit. The costumes, the drinks, and the lack of clothing was too real. It was like watching a "Strange Sex" documentary. The Bourbon St old heads are just as lively and drunk as everyone else and that makes Mardi Gras the experience of a lifetime.
4) Parades are a huge deal.
Before I went to Mardi Gras the biggest parade I had ever seen was a foot parade with the local fire department at the end as the large finale. NOT in New Orleans. These parade floats are sometimes bigger than 2 double decker buses put together. They are huge! And to top it off they often have 2-3 levels of people throwing all kinds of stuff to the crowd. They throw stuffed animals, Jell-O shots, panties, Moon Pies, hula hoops, and other completely random stuff! If your on the Missisippi Gulf Coast they may even throw you a beer. Just watch your face.
5) Fat Tuesday PROMPTLY ends at Midnight.
At exactly Midnight the NOPD clears Bourbon St with full force. If you are trying to stick around for 12:01am you're tryin' to get arrested. The city celebrates Ash Wednesday on time so all alcohol sells stop, stores close, and street sweeper machines and bulldozers mow down Bourbon St and move people out of the way. In true NOPD fashion the po-po's roll a patty-wagon down the street and literally pick up all the leftover drunk people. Hilarious.
6) Mardi Gras season is not just reserved to New Orleans.
The surrounding areas and states also celebrate Mardi Gras and I was lucky enough to see both this year. Don't sleep on Mississippi because the crowd was much more friendly and the parades were still big but WAY more intimate. You could easily touch the floats or hold your baby overhead and catch all the goodies. It's like the whole city is open carry and willing to share Southern Comfort with you. Win.
7) You will get tired of eating.
I cannot express how much food I ate. I would literally sit for hours and eat- but never go to the bathroom. So if you stay for more than 2 days just be warned to adjust your apple juice intake. Just being honest. This happens every time and to everyone I know who visits.
8.) During Carnival season everyone is overtly nice.
The customer service everywhere is so pleasant. I had to stop and ask myself several times "Are people really this nice? Are they messing with me?" I have gotten used to being in a larger city and completely forgot what Southern Hospitality felt like. This means being let in anyone's home and who got treated like family or getting a free shot with a drink. Kindness is contagious,right?
9) You will either absolutely love it or abosolutely hate it.
The reactions I hear about Mardi Gras are very polarized. Either people loved the wild and crazy crowd, food, parades, etc OR they hated the dirty city, drunk shady people, and thought the food was too spicy. People compare Mardi Gras to many local events- the reality is that there is no comparison. The best way I can describe it- it's insane. It's like being in a club that feels like a 3 mile long block party with thousands upon thousands of happy drunk people and 20 different songs playing-oh yeah- and there's naked people, Voodoo people, evangelists, street performers, and massive parades swirling around in the middle. I can't even fit that much chaos into one paragraph.
10) My only pieces of advice:
Take the absinthe shot. Don't go farther than the gay end of Bourbon St because New Orleans is a dangerous place. Don't wear nice clothes or nice shoes as they will be covered in God knows what or trampled. Eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde and order when you sit down because you will never see your server again. Bring Vitamin Water and Advil. You don't need more than 2 Hurricane or Hand Grenades or any drink that comes in a souvenir cup- trust me. Buy your hotel room in September for the following year- otherwise you'll pay $400+ a night for EVERY hotel in the city. Don't carry a purse- in fact don't carry anything in your hands. Wear clothing with lots of pockets. Don't let homeless people sell you anything. Take pictures in the morning because you and your phone may not make it to the evening. Download the Find My iPhone app. You cannot pet the NOPD horses. Keep your hands and eyes up to avoid catching beads with your face.
You'll be fine.