Mardi Gras in New Orleans: A Gallery of What You Missed
Mardi Gras isn't only about topless girls and drunken antics on New Orleans' Bourbon Street – though there's definitely plenty of that among the city's tourist population – it's also about spending time with family and friends, putting work on hold and forgetting about life's hardships, if only for a few days. Children joined drunken partiers along the parade route, though few could be found in the French Quarter, with the occasional youngster tossing beads from a balcony.
Celebrations begin weeks before Fat Tuesday, with the first parade marching down St. Charles Avenue just a few days after New Year's. This year, the party really started to heat up when the city shut down last week – classes were canceled at local universities, major streetcar lines ceased operation, and businesses away from the French Quarter limited opening hours. Locals joined hordes of tourists, lining the streets several rows back for dozens of high budget parades, which featured celebrities such as Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa, who tossed beads during Endymion, and less formal celebrations.
The party comes to a complete halt on Ash Wednesday, when locals return to work, the streetcars resume operation, and tourists head to the airport. During my own ride to the airport today, I didn't spot a single costumed tourist or filthy street – in stark contrast to the thousands of discarded beer cans and broken beads that lined the streets just yesterday, the city seemed to have transformed completely as I slept last night.
Zach Honig has visited nearly 30 countries on 5 continents. He is on Twitter as @JetDude and his blog is Tech, Travel and Tuna.