Mardi Gras Parades and Events in New Orleans

It is estimated that around 800,000 people will flock to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras this year. Although the holiday originated around "Fat Tuesday," the last night of splurging before the religious season of Lent begins, in New Orleans the festivities last much longer than a single day. In fact, New Orleans has an elaborate schedule of Mari Gras parades and events, but these are the ones you don't want to miss when celebrating in the Big Easy. As the New Orleanians say, "Let the good times roll!"

Mardi Gras Misconceptions
By AOL Staff

Misconception: Everyone involved with Mardi Gras is drunk all the time.
Truth: Many of us in New Orleans don't drink alcohol at all! Instead, we enjoy the food of New Orleans (gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish), and eat many King Cakes and drink a whole lot of coffee. At Community Coffee, you can get a limited edition brew called Carnivale Cake. It's a medium roast with touches of vanilla and cinnamon. For more Mardi Gras-ness, try a gift set with a Mardi Gras traveling cup.

Misconception: Mardi Gras consists of one a big parade.
Truth: In fact, Mardi Gras is a whole season that begins on the 12th Night after Christmas and lasts until Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday, the day Lent begins. The dates this year are Jan. 6 to Feb. 16. During the last two weeks of Mardi Gras there are dozens of parades all over New Orleans and neighboring parishes. You could literally go to a parade every night for two weeks.

Misconception: Mardi Gras takes place in the French Quarter.
Truth: In fact, the French Quarter has very little to do with the Mardi Gras parades that take place all over town. Sure, the French Quarter is hopping with people staying at the wonderful hotels there and eating at the world-class restaurants. But except for the Krewe de Vieux, which is a walking parade, none of the big parades take place there.
Mardi Gras Mask Market
If you're in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you need a mask. You can pick up a Mardi Gras mask at the Mask Market, where vendors from across the country peddle homemade masks of every kind. Let the masquerade begin!
Date: Friday, February 12 through Monday, February 15, 2010
Time: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Location: Dutch Alley behind French Market (French Quarter)

Krewe of Endymion Parade and Extravaganza
In Greek mythology, Endymion was the most handsome of all men, and this parade promises to be a treat for your eyes to behold, too. The parade's motto is "Throw 'Til It Hurts," meaning your chances of taking home a parting gift of beads, cups, or a Frisbee are pretty good. This year Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, will preside over the parade, which goes out with a bang at the Superdome. Here, tens of thousands of viewers are treated to a perfect view of the procession as it rolls into the dome and circles the stadium. If you plan to sit-in on the Mardi Gras Superdome party, be sure to order your ticket soon, because the event sells out every year.
Date: Saturday, February 13, 2010
Time: 4:15 p.m.
Location: Down Canal Street, turns on St. Charles, and then snakes around to New Orleans Superdome (see website for details).

Krewe of Bacchus Parade
Named for the Roman god of wine, this Mari Gras parade has been marching every Sunday evening before Mardi Gras since 1968. The Krewe of Bacchus is famous for its spectacular floats led by celebrity grand marshals, and this year is no exception: hometown hero Drew Brees, MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, is king of the parade. Over 30 Mardi Gras marching bands will be featured during the parade, as well as some impressive signature floats such as the Bacchasaurus, Bacchagator, and Bacchatality Float-a three second homage to New Orleans hospitality industry.
Date: Sunday, February 14, 2010
Time: 5 p.m.
Location: Parade begins at the corner on Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas and concludes at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on the New Orleans riverfront (see website for details).

Krewe of Orpheus Parade
Harry Connick Jr., his father, and theater director Sonny Borey founded this music-based Krewe in 1993. Named after the Greek "father of songs," it quickly became one of New Orleans' most popular parades, partly because the krewe accepts members of either gender and race. The Mardi Gras parade actually starts on Lundi Gras (Fat Monday), and although fantastic floats are the focal point of the parade, you'll also find "flambeaux" fire throwers and stilt walkers parading the streets. After rolling through downtown New Orleans, the parade ends inside the Convention Center where Orpheuscapade-a concert with music guests Smashmouth and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy-begins. Falling in line with Super Bowl fever, this year's Orpheus Monarch is New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Date: Monday, February 15, 2010 (Lundi Gras)
Time: 5:45 p.m.
Location: Parade starts at the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas and ends at the New Orleans Convention Center (see website for details).

Zulu Parade
Founded in 1916, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure club that puts on this Mardi Gras parade is New Orlean's largest predominantly African American carnival organization. The Zulu Parade is best known for its one-of-a-kind throws of a hand painted coconuts-some of the most prized catches on Mardi Gras. The parade is also famous for krewe members wearing grass skirts and adorning themselves with face paint, as well as tribes of Zulu Indians (revelers dressed in ceremonial Native American-styled garb) adorned in elaborate costumes that dance to the beat of their own drummers. The king and queen of the Zulu Parade arrive the day before Mardi Gras on a Mississippi river barge that docks at the Lundi Gras riverside outdoor festival.
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 (Mardi Gras)
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: Begins at the intersection of Jackson and South Claiborne, concludes at Broad and Orleans (see website for details).

Rex Parade
The Rex Parade, famous for its masked riders and elegantly decked-out floats, has been a spectacle since 1872. Today, it is the largest parade on Mardi Gras Day. Rex is Latin for "king," and the king of this parade is traditionally a well-kept secret until he arrives by boat on Lundi Gras. At the riverside celebration, the Mayor of New Orleans hands over a symbolic Key to the City to the newly crowned King. This parade strays away from oversized, technologically advanced floats typical of other Mardi Gras parades such as Bacchus and Orpheus. Actually, all Rex Parade floats are built out of recycled wagons formerly used by the City of New Orleans to collect refuse. On Mardi Gras night, the Rex Organization holds a private Mardi Gras Ball that is broadcast on local television.
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 (Mardi Gras)
Time: 10 a.m.
Location: Begins at the intersection of Napoleon and South Claiborne, concludes at Canal and S. Peters (see website for details).

Bourbon Street Awards
For more than four decades, the most parade of drag queen costumes in America has been a major Mardi Gras event. Staged in the heart of New Orlean's gay and lesbian district, the costume contest actually began as an attraction to lure tourists to a hamburger joint. Top honors are given out for categories such as Best Drag, Best Leather, Best Group, and (of course) Best in Show. This year, Bud Light is sponsoring the event, and a $500 cash prize will be given to the Best Overall Costume.
Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 (Mardi Gras)
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: Corner of Bourbon and St. Ann streets

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