The Rules of Mardi Gras (2023)

The Rules of Mardi Gras (1)
Photo by Lee Curran

We are approaching peak Carnival Time! There’s a whole slate ofparades to watchin the days leading up to Fat Tuesday, and things to keep in mind while gearing up for the revelry.

Here we list bothinformal guidelineshere as well as afew actual rules— i.e. ordinances related to Mardi Gras. The laws are meant to keep everyone safe and give everyone a fair chance of catching some good throws. Knowing them will also help you avoid getting arrested or fined, having to move your setup during the parade, and being (rightfully) judged by the fellow revelers.

Personal Effects Must Be 6 Feet From the Curb

It’s totally OK to bring a backpack or cooler to a parade, but remember tostore them a little off the curb. Those first few feet of grass or sidewalk are meant for everyone trying to enjoy the parade and catch beads. Also, occasionally, the parade floats have been known to jump the curb; your personal effects could be damaged in the event this happened. This rulealso applies to ladders.

No “Saving” Spots

Some parade-goers stake out “their spot” along the parade route with chairs, trash cans, sofas, rope, yellow tape, spray paint — whatever comes in handy (have you heard of Krewe of Chad?). Not only this is very uncool and frowned upon but there’s an actualban on roping off territoryif you are in the public right of way. The curb and the neutral ground are fair game to all who attend the parades. If you want to have a good spot, you’ll have to come early and wait in the spot to keep it. Seasoned revelers usually show upat leasttwo hours before the parade rolls (and much earlier for the most popular parades like the Muses, Endymion and Bacchus).

Don’t Move Other People’s Stuff

Please do not move unoccupied chairs and ladders, as well as unattended coolers and personal belongings along the parade route to carve your own spot. We can guarantee thatsomeone is watching this space and will be right back. Plus, families tend to use the same spots year after year. And they might also have little kids or seniors or disabled persons in their group and need the space to accommodate everyone comfortably.

Don’t Interfere With the Parade


Running along with the moving float for a short while, begging for a Muses shoe or a Zulu coconut, is socially acceptable, butdon’t run into the streetbetween the floats to pick up a covetable throw. Floats are massive and can’t just stop quickly. You can get seriously hurt. Also, getting in a band’s way, hanging on a float, joining the parade by marching along, acting aggressively toward anyone in the parade, or jumping over the barricade are all surefireways to get yourself arrested.

No Nudity

You’ve probably seen or heard about the way some people come by beads. Police officers might be somewhat lenient about that sort of behavior on Bourbon Street, but itisn’t tolerated along the parade routes. Keep all your clothes on!

Contrary to popular belief outside of New Orleans, Carnival is overwhelmingly a family-friendly holiday. Many New Orleanians take their kids to parades, and a good rule to apply here is, if you wouldn’t do something in front of kids in your hometown, you shouldn’t do it here (exceptions to this rule include screaming, dancing and waving your arms to score beads). Plus, in this day and age you will probably end on the Internet, and not in a good way. We can’t stress this enough:Do NOT flash for beads.

No Glass Containers

As the night (or day) progresses, trash from the parades tends to pile up on the streets and curbs around the route. Glass bottles and even cans are potentially dangerous when discarded on the ground, although the official ban only applies to glass. You can alwayspour your drink into a plastic cup, or order one to go from one of the many bars you will find along the parade route.

Plan Wisely for Transportation and Parking

During Mardi Gras, and during the parades especially, parking violations are vigorously enforced. Parking on Napoleon and St. Charles is prohibited onboth sides of the neutral ground, not just the parade side, starting two hours before the parade. This rule is strictly enforced, andyou will be towed. Also, do not double-park or park in driveways, in front of water hydrants, within 15 feet of curb corners, or too far from the curb.

TheFrench Quarter is closed to vehicular trafficduring Mardi Gras weekend (the weekend leading up to Fat Tuesday, which falls onFebruary 25, 2020) except to residents and hotel guests with special parking passes. You won’t get past the police barricades.

Please also remember that parking lots fills up fast during parades and tend to charge more than usual. Bus and streetcar routes and schedules also often change during Carnival season. And cabs might be delayed due to the demand and traffic congestion, so plan ahead or consider walking or biking, if it’s feasible.

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Respect the Authority

The local police are consummate pros at handling all kinds of behavior during the Carnival and had seen it all. They are also amazing at controlling the crowds and tolerating all that goes on as long as it doesn’t involve breaking the law. So, as you enjoy the festivities please do remember that the rules like no-glass, no public urination, and the drinking agewill be enforced. You will get arrested if you act obnoxiously, threaten anyone, act overly intoxicated, or break the law in any other way. The police presence is very robust at the parades, and in the French Quarter during the Mardi Gras weekend.

Finally, if you’re out and about enjoying the parades and the parties on Mardi Gras Day, don’t be surprised when midnight strikes and you’re asked to clear off the street. Mardi Gras is officially over and the street cleanup begins, though you are of course free to continue partying indoors.

“Ain’t No Place…”

One of the most famous Mardi Gras songs is the Benny Grunch classic, “Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day.” As the saying goes, it’s funny because it’s true — or at least it can feel that way. There are somepublic restrooms along the parade routes— the most prominent ones are around Lafayette Square near St. Charles Ave. and Poydras St. You might think that you can sneak into a hotel or a restaurant, but those places usually strictly reserve their restrooms for guests or paying customers.

If you don’t want to wait in the long lines, some restaurants, bars, churches, or other businesses offer single-use or day-longbathroom passes.Doing your business in public is a definite no-no, as youwillget in trouble if the police catch you (also, it’s gross). And, this is an official rule: There can beno private portable toilets on the neutral groundor other public property.

Parade Etiquette

The cops won’t come for you if you break these unofficial “rules,” but if you want to keep the peace with fellow parade-goers, it’s a good idea to maintain good Mardi Gras etiquette.

Bead Rule No. 1

This is one of the spoken rules —don’t pick up beads that have fallen on the street or ground. There are a couple of safety issues involved with this rule. Picking up a bead or throw from the street puts you in direct line of the tires of the tractors or the floats. Also, the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras can get… Well, let’s just say “unsanitary.” Do yourself a favor and wait until you catch something in the air. There’s plenty to go around.

(Video) Unwritten Rules of Mardi Gras: Throws

Bead Rule No. 2

For the “good throws” — most often signature beads, but also stuffed animals, sparkly Muses shoes, hand-decorated Nyx purses, anything that lights up from Bacchus, etc. — you shouldnever get in the way of someone else’s catch. If the rider wants to throw you something from the float, they’ll make eye contact with you, usually make an exaggerated “I’m looking at you” sign, and throw in your direction. The good part, if someone else catches a throw destined for you, unless they’re clueless, they will respectfully give it up and hand it to you.

Optional Bead Rule

This one is more good-natured than the first two bead rules. As the parade progresses, you shouldwear all of the beads that you catch. You’ll look silly at the end of the night, but it will also be a mark of pride. The people with the most beads must’ve worked really hard to get all of them, right?

The Family Rule

As we keep saying,Mardi Gras is a family event. Many people make a day of big parades and their whole family, kids included. There are some places that are unofficially yet almost exclusively “Family Zones,” usually located near the beginning of parade routes, but children are welcome everywhere. So, try your best to remain on something like good behavior — there might be kids nearby. Also,never reach over a kid to catch a throw— that’s just mean.

And, theNumber 1 Rule of Mardi Gras, above any official and unofficial rules, is tohave fun! Costumes are encouraged throughout the season of Mardi Gras. Put on your fanciest wig and glitteriest outfit, and go out there!

Book a stay at a historic French Quarter boutique hotel, right in the epicenter of all of the action!

Also, check out our guide to theMardi Gras Weekend, the2020 Mardi Gras Parade Schedule, and our tips and recommendations onHow to Dress for Mardi Gras. Happy Carnival!

« Mardi Gras Parade Schedule 2020

How to Spend Valentine’s Day in the French Quarter »

(Video) Rules To Mardi Gras Bead Catching | Mardi Gras 101

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What is prohibited during Mardi Gras? ›

During Mardi Gras, and during the parades especially, parking violations are vigorously enforced. Parking on Napoleon and St. Charles is prohibited on both sides of the neutral ground, not just the parade side, starting two hours before the parade. This rule is strictly enforced, and you will be towed.

What is not allowed on Mardi Gras floats? ›

It has been illegal since 1999 for spectators at Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans to throw any objects, even beads, at float riders or other parade participants.

Why should I not pick up beads in New Orleans? ›

It's tempting to pick them up from the ground – you want a keepsake of your first Mardi Gras experience, after all. But this is actually frowned upon among locals. Picking up beads from the floor is considered bad luck in New Orleans. The streets also get rather unsanitary during Carnival season.

What does wearing beads in New Orleans mean? ›

Beads used on Mardi Gras (known as Shrove Tuesday in some regions) are purple, green, and gold, with these three colors containing the Christian symbolism of justice, faith, and power, respectively.

What happens during Fat Tuesday? ›

The last day of Carnival and the day before Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday is the intertwining of a period of festivals and feasts that lead to a time of fasting and reflection. Also known as Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras, this enduring celebration has many traditions and deep roots around the world.

Why do they call it Fat Tuesday? ›

It's called Fat Tuesday because it's the last day that many people eat meat and fatty foods before Lent begins. Today, Mardi Gras season in New Orleans is a time of merry-making and festivity.

What do you do on Fat Tuesday? ›

During Shrove Tuesday, many Christians participate in confession, burn their palms from the previous Palm Sunday (which is the Sunday before Easter), and finalize their Lenten sacrifice or the penance they'll practice, like volunteering or praying more.

How do you greet someone on Fat Tuesday? ›

Joyeux Mardi Gras ! Laissez les bons temps rouler ! Happy Fat Tuesday! Let the good times roll!

What happens on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans? ›

Mardi Gras Day - also known as Fat Tuesday - marks the final day of Carnival Season! It is always the day before Ash Wednesday, and is the biggest day of celebration during Mardi Gras. Zulu and Rex parades roll, but other parties and city-wide celebrations occur as well.

What should I avoid in New Orleans? ›

Here are the ones that you really need to avoid...
  • Hand Grenade number four. ...
  • Open-toed shoes on Bourbon St. ...
  • Taking home someone you met at the toilet-themed bar. ...
  • Walking home alone after some drinks, late at night/early in the morning. ...
  • Eating Bourbon St pizza, EVER. ...
  • Eating a Lucky Dog after one too many during a night out.
9 Dec 2014

Do girls flash for beads in New Orleans? ›

No, most people get beads at parades just by waving their hands. We aren't going to say flashing doesn't happen, but it's not as prevalent as "Girls Gone Wild" would like you to think.

What do black beads mean? ›

Black beads are believed to symbolize the ability to hold onto hope in the face of adversity and also to be positive in unhappy times. By keeping hope and keeping the faith when the going gets tough, you think something great could come out of it.

What does it mean when a girl wears beads? ›

Worn by women or sometimes men, these beads are viewed as a symbol of femininity, fertility, sensuality, and spiritual well-being. Each bead with its different colours and shapes possess different meanings in different societies and send across messages depending on who wears and who sees it.

What do the colors of beads mean? ›

Color meanings

Blue: healing, harmony, insight, truth. Brown: earth, stability. Green: prosperity, fertility, abundance, hope, healing. Purple: spirituality, wisdom, royalty. Red: vitality, passion, bravery, confidence.

What should I bring to Fat Tuesday? ›

34 Mardi Gras Food Ideas to Celebrate Fat Tuesday at Home
  1. New Orleans-style Beignets. These pillowy bites are easier to make at home than you might think. ...
  2. Shrimp Étouffée. ...
  3. Seafood Gumbo. ...
  4. Shrimp And Andouille Jambalaya. ...
  5. Shrimp Po' Boys With Avocado-mango Slaw. ...
  6. Easy Shrimp Creole. ...
  7. Mardi Gras King Cake. ...
  8. Red Beans And Rice.
10 Feb 2022

What do you eat on Fat Tuesdays? ›

23 Mardi Gras Party Foods That'll Make You Feel Like You're In The French Quarter. Do Fat Tuesday proud. All the Cajun staples are accounted for—from entrées like jambalaya and gumbo to snacks like hush puppies and Mardi Gras Desserts (king cake, of course!), we've got you covered from start to finish.

Do you drink on Fat Tuesday? ›

Celebrate Fat Tuesday as it's meant to be celebrated: with delicious cocktails. They don't call it Fat Tuesday for nothing. Prepare to indulge with some of these extravagant cocktail recipes.

What does it mean if you get the baby in a king cake? ›

When a king cake is served at a Mardi Gras celebration, everyone wants to know who was served the slice with the baby—but what does it mean if you find one? Tradition dictates that finding the baby in your cake symbolizes luck and prosperity, and the finder becomes the "king" or "queen" of the evening.

What do Catholics do on Fat Tuesday? ›

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), observed in many Christian countries through participating in confession and absolution, the ritual burning of the previous year's Holy Week palms, finalizing one's Lenten sacrifice, as well as eating pancakes and other sweets.

Why do people eat pancakes on Fat Tuesday? ›

Why do we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? It was the last chance for a spot of indulgence before 40 days of fasting, and also an opportunity to use up food that couldn't be eaten during Lent. This included eggs, fat and milk, which were made into pancakes and eaten on that day.

What are the colors for Fat Tuesday? ›

The official colors of Fat Tuesday made their debut in 1872 at the first parade of Rex, the king of Mardi Gras. Newspapers of the day ran proclamations from the king of the carnival decreeing that balconies should be draped in purple, gold and green.

Why do people wear masks on Fat Tuesday? ›

In the beginning, masks worn during Mardi Gras allowed wearers to escape society and class constraints. When wearing a mask, carnival goers were free to be whomever they wanted to be, and mingle with whatever class they desired to mingle with.

Why do people drink on Fat Tuesday? ›

It's basically a season-long Mardi Gras. The day after Fat Tuesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. During Lent, Catholics often fast in preparation for Easter. So before the fasting takes place, those who take part in Lent indulge in their favorite foods and drinks during Carnival and Fat Tuesday.

How long do you fast after Fat Tuesday? ›

This name comes from the tradition of using up the eggs, milk, and fat in ones pantry because they were forbidden during the 40-day Lenten fast, which begins the next day (Ash Wednesday) and ends on Holy Thursday (three days before Easter Sunday).

What is the day after Fat Tuesday called? ›

The day after Fat Tuesday, when all the nonsense is to stop and you are to begin a six-week period of trying to remember what you did and ask forgiveness for it, is called Ash Wednesday.

What alcohol do they use at Fat Tuesday? ›

Fat Tuesdays use different liquors in different drinks. Drink selection can vary location to location. The White Russian for example uses vodka. There will be a description for all the drinks at the place- AND they offer free samples, so you won't be stuck with a drink you don't like.

What materials can be used Rose Parade floats? ›

FLOATS. The Rose Parade's elaborate floats have come a long way since the Tournament's early days, and the Rose Parade has stayed true to its floral beginnings. Every inch of every float must be covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds or bark.

What do you throw from a parade float? ›

So what are "throws?" Well, they are exactly what they sound like - items that krewe members on floats throw to parade-goers as the floats pass by! Throws often include doubloons, beads, cups, homemade trinkets, toys and more!

Can you bring your own float on a cruise? ›

Relaxing in the pool is a great way to enjoy time on board a cruise ship, but passengers will have to do it without any floats, inner tubes, pool noodles, beach balls or other inflatable gear, as these items are also prohibited.

What do you put on parade floats? ›

Floral Sheeting / Petal Paper

One of the most widely used products available for covering broad surfaces areas of a parade float is a product called Floral Sheeting. It is made in 36″ wide rolls by 10 yards or 30 feet long.

What happens to the Rose Bowl floats after the parade? ›

After the parade, floats are stripped to their chassis. Structural steel elements are reused where possible; organic materials and sculptural steel are recycled.

How much do Rose Bowl floats cost? ›

A: For a high quality float, design and construction costs vary and generally begin at approximately $275,000. Costs can be higher or lower depending on sophistication of design, degree of animation and the variety of floral materials. The Tournament considers floats with both smaller and larger budgets.

How much do parade floats cost? ›

Average construction costs typically range from $30,000 to $100,000 per float. Parade float supply costs add up fast, especially since a single float can contain 100 to 200 pounds of glitter.

How many pieces of candy do you need for a parade? ›

If you were hoping to target 10% of the people at the parade, you would need 800 items and need to throw one out every 2 seconds. If you have multiple people giving out things, multiply the throw rate by the number of people.

How many lbs of candy do you need for a parade? ›

Candy may be passed out along the parade route. Please make sure the candy reaches the sidewalk or have walkers pass it out. IMPORTANT ADVICE: To have enough candy for the whole parade route, you will need about 100 pounds and remember to save some for the downtown area.

How do you get the most candy at a parade? ›

Here are a few tips and tricks for bringing home the maximum amount of candy:
  1. Positioning: Don't take your chances and position yourself at the end of the parade. ...
  2. Children: Also known as, Candy Magnets. ...
  3. Acknowledgement: You'd be surprised what flashing a smile or giving a friendly wave can do.

What can I not take on a cruise? ›

Prohibited items:
  • Firearms & Ammunition, including realistic replicas.
  • Sharp Objects, including all knives and scissors. ...
  • Illegal Drugs & Substances.
  • CBD Oil / CBD Products.
  • Candles, Incense, Coffee Makers, Clothes Irons, Travel Steamers & Hot Plates. ...
  • Hoverboards.

What is not allowed on a cruise ship? ›

All weapons and any item made, adapted or intended for use as an offensive weapon: firearms (including replicas, imitations and their components), spears or spear guns, crossbows, crossbow bolts and long bow arrows; blunt weapons, including knuckle dusters, brass knuckles, clubs, coshes, batons, flails or Nunchaku; ...

Can I take food off cruise ship? ›

If you take fresh food off your cruise ship, it will be confiscated. Bags are often checked and there may even be sniffer dogs who are trained to check for food. If you deny having fruit or vegetables and then you're caught with them, you could face a hefty fine.

What should I bring to a float? ›

DO I NEED TO BRING ANYTHING? Just yourself. Towels, showers, soap and shampoo, ear-plugs, etc. for your float will be provided at check-in.

What do you pack for a parade? ›

Here's what you should pack before heading out to watch the big parade:
  • Tissues. ...
  • Hand sanitizer. ...
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses. ...
  • Plastic Bag. ...
  • Phone battery pack. ...
  • Poncho. ...
  • Water and snacks. ...
  • Cash.
12 Feb 2022

How does a parade float move? ›

A parade float is an elaborately decorated three-dimensional figure or scene, mounted on a wheeled chassis that participates in a procession as part of a specific celebration. Most parade floats are self-propelled, although they may also be towed by another vehicle or pulled by animals.


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