Photo credit: Paul Broussard 

Go beyond the beads.

The AFAR Experiences’ Mardi Gras trip is designed to bring travelers deeper into the revelry that grips New Orleans every Carnival season. From a crawfish boil to a masquerade party to riding on a float with the famous Krewe of Orpheus, AFAR Experiences Mardi Gras will have you feeling like a rock star (you can join our waitlist here). It’s a full itinerary, but if you arrive early or stay for Fat Tuesday, here are some ways to make your Mardi Gras trip even more memorable.

Visit Mardi Gras World
A tour of this working museum is a great way to warm up for Mardi Gras: visitors will see the studios where the festive floats for New Orleans’ 40-plus annual Mardi Gras parades have been built since 1947. Visitors also can see — and try on — elaborate Mardi Gras costumes and sample the sweet staple of Fat Tuesday desserts, the King Cake. Get there on Friday if you want to go, however — for obvious reasons, Mardi Gras World is closed the Saturday to Tuesday of Mardi Gras week.

Photo credit: Paul Broussard
Drop into Arnaud’s for Shrimp and History
Arnaud’s Restaurant is one of the reigning queens of classic Creole cooking in the French Quarter. Take your shrimp with a side of history here: Germaine Cazenave Wells, the daughter of restaurant founder Arnaud Cazenave, was New Orleans royalty herself. Over the course of three decades, Wells presided over 22 Mardi Gras balls, and more than two dozen of her vintage Mardi Gras costumes (along with several Mardi Gras king’s and children’s costumes) are on display at Arnaud’s.

The Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum also includes Carnival masks, party favors, and photos of Mardi Gras parades and balls from the 1930s through the 1960s. The museum is free and open to the public, but be sure to treat yourself to a princely plate of Shrimp Arnaud, the restaurant’s signature dish made with a spicy, secret remoulade sauce since 1918. Another can’t miss? Ordering a French 75 at their elegant, gorgeous bar, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar.

Have a Ball
Among the highlights of the AFAR Experiences Mardi Gras itinerary is a surprise-filled masquerade ball set in a stunning private home on Saturday, March 2, where guests will get an exclusive local experience.

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For those sticking around through Fat Tuesday, the Bourbon Street Awards are the center of Gay Mardi Gras action. Expect a costume party and contest in the lower French Quarter that’s about as wild a scene as you might imagine. The epicenter is the stage in front of Club Oz, but the party spills from bar to bar and into the streets of New Orleans’ most famous gay neighborhood.

Make Your Own Parade
A can’t miss tradition of Mardi Gras will have you up before dawn, but your early call time will be well worth it. Grab a coffee and take in the famous Northside Skull & Bones Gang as they make their way through the Treme neighborhood, continuing a tradition that dates back nearly 200 years.

AFAR Experience’s ride in the Krewe of Orpheus parade is a rare opportunity for outsiders to experience the soul of New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition from the float side, not the sidelines.

Continue the fun on Fat Tuesday by making your way to the Faubourg Marigny by mid-morning to join the neighborhood’s informal but lively Saint Anne walking parade. If you’d rather watch than march, check out the traditional Zulu and Rex parades in Uptown.

With so much action happening in every part of the city, you can’t help but have amazing cultural experiences at Mardi Gras. Join the waitlist of AFAR Experiences Mardi Gras for your chance to get in on the action from an expertly curated and local perspective.

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