We have taken Mardi Gras easy since we had kids but we have been doing a little bit more each year with the boys. They are just as excited about this years Mardi Gras as they were about Christmas. I feel like we have hit that year where the kids are anticipating things and really starting to enjoy certain events. They were trying their Mardi Gras vests on last night, drawing pictures of parades and playing Mardi Gras Parade. Basically we are all ready!
We are lucky that we have good friends that live on the parade route in Metairie so there is a guaranteed bathroom and place to eat before or after the parade. But what do you do when you don’t have a hookup on the route?
Last year was our first year doing a New Orleans parade. I was a little nervous before getting down there as it was unknown territory for us but we ended up having a blast and are planning more New Orleans parade this year. We take the kids to a lot of outdoor type events through out the year so I have become a pro with what to bring but Mardi Gras poses a few additional dilemmas that other events don’t. I decided to come up with a quick list…
First, this is a bonus tip, YOU CANNOT PARK ON THE NEUTRAL GROUD EVEN IF OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING IT! They will give you a ticket, tow your car or boot you sometimes. Don’t do it. Just bite the bullet and pay to park. Trust me.
Food and Drinks. I feel like this is a given with anything you take your kids to but bring food and drinks. I always pack snacks and usually some PB&J sandwiches. I also make sure to keep something for Big Daddy and I too because once the parade gets going we may not be able to sneak away to grab anything. A small ice chest or a rolling ice chest would be a great thing to have if you have a free hand to pull it. We usually bring the wagon and put the ice chest and the baby in it and make the big boys walk.
Bags. Somehow we always make this mistake and don’t have the right bags for beads and other things we catch. I don’t know why this seems to be such an issue for us. This year I am already prepared.
Bathroom. Unlike when we take the boys to French Quarter Festival or Jazz Fest the bathroom situation can pose a problem. They do have port-o-potties on the routes but it’s hard to know where they are. We try to plan a spot close to one or a business that will allow us to spend money (buy drinks and food) to use their restroom. Other friends of mine who will be on the route all day for parades like Endymion or Super Sunday use these.
Who’s riding. Get float numbers, float sides and position numbers from your friends who are riding. It is a lot harder than you realize to recognize people when they are on the float passing you by. Tell them where you are standing also and it will be easier to see them and get all the goodies.
Entering and Exit Strategy. We do this with any major event we attend. It is good to know how you are getting in and out if there is an issue with one of the kids and we need to leave early. Can we cross the parade route? Are we parked in an area that allows easy access to leave? If we do have to leave mid parade what route will we use to get out? I just like to have these things in mind in case there is an issue or we just want to leave. There is nothing worse than driving around aimlessly. Also, with the issue that they had at Endymion last year it is good to know what your emergency plan is. With any large event it is good to talk to your spouse and the other people you are attending with about where would be your meetup place in the instance there is a big emergency. This is also something we talk with the kids about.
Emergency Personnel. This is a great follow up point. I’m a mom and I am always looking for people in charge. I show the boys where the police are and they know that if they get away for us or if there is an emergency that they are to look for a police officer first. I am sure that someone is going to say that I am paranoid and overprotective but the truth is that the biggest reason kids get hurt or lost in emergency situations is that they don’t know what to do or they are scared. I am educating my kids and empowering them by telling them these things.
To ladder or not to ladder. This is a really important thing to figure out early. There is no point in dragging a ladder down to the parade route if your kids aren’t going to use it. We have rules for night parades that they have to sit in it but for day parades we usually don’t bother with in. It is definitely easier to move around if you don’t have one.
Rules. Parades are fun but they can also be dangerous for kids. You need to set ground rules for them if this is their first time going or if they are little. Truth is if someone on a float throws them a bouncy ball they are going to go after it no matter what so you need to prepare them before they get hit by a float. Obviously we are always around them but we talk to the kids before each parade.
- The floats can and will hit you so you are to keep a safe distance.
- Move back on the curb when the bands are coming. They need room and they will also run over you.
- The streets will be crowded so you are to stay close to mom and dad at all times.
- Don’t fight over beads, there is enough for everyone.
A Few of the parades we are planning to attend this year…
- Little Rascals, Metairie
- Krewe Du Vieux, New Orleans (we aren’t taking the kids to this one)
- Eve, Mandeville
- Cesar, Metairie
- Nyx, New Orleans
- Iris, New Orleans
- Orpheus, New Orleans
Enjoy your carnival season!