What's the deal with Easter parade culture here?
While multiple parades thread through the Vieux Carre on Easter Sunday, the dress code and overall vibe is light years away from what you’ll find during Carnival parades. However, Easter parades occupy a similar place in this predominantly Catholic city’s imagination, as together with Mardi Gras, they bookend Lent. Lots of New Orleanians observe this 40-day period of abnegation by making a Lenten sacrifice -- it may be chocolate, it may be booze, it may be Tinder hookups. Anyway, after 40 days of piety, locals are ready to let loose a little. Keywords being a little. Strive for pastels and vague elegance in your decorum and attire (think Champagne flutes, not Solo cups), and you’ll be all set.
What are the biggest parade routes in New Orleans?
Four parades roll on Easter Sunday, becoming slightly kitschier and more over-the-top as the day progresses. Not all of them are created equal, of course...
The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade kicks off the day at 9:45am outside Antoine’s Restaurant (713 St. Louis Street), which also happens to be an excellent Easter brunch destination. It’s easily the most sedate of the parades, featuring convertibles, walking groups, and mule-drawn carriages. The parade describes a circuitous route through the Quarter before culminating at Jackson Square, where participants pause their parade to attend the 11am mass at St. Louis Cathedral. Dressed in their Sunday best, they conclude with a good, old-fashioned promenade in Jackson Square before parading back to Antoine’s.
The 35th Annual Chris Owens Easter Parade follows at 1pm, kicking off at the intersection of St. Louis and Royal Streets. Chris Owens, the Grand Duchess of the parade, the flashiest octogenarian showgirl this side of the Mississippi, and a Bourbon Street mainstay since 1956, leads in a signature float, followed by marching bands, walking groups, and more floats. The parade progresses down Royal to Canal Street, heads north on Canal and loops back into the Quarter going down Bourbon Street, turns south on St. Phillip Street, west on Decatur Street, and north on St. Louis Street, ending at the Omni Royal Orleans hotel and leaving a fabulous trail of Champagne bubbles, beads, and trinkets in its wake.
The 19th Annual Gay Easter Parade rolls at 4:30pm, starting and ending at GrandPre’s (834 Rampart Street) and passing many of the Quarter’s gay bars on the way. The parade rolls down Rampart Street to St. Ann, heads east on Bourbon Street, south on Esplanade for a block before veering west on Royal Street, then turns north on St. Louis Street and takes that avenue back to Rampart. The procession of carriages, floats, rickshaws, marching bands, and walking groups celebrates Easter as well as LGBTQ culture -- but be warned, this is no Southern Decadence. Nudity and sexually themed throws are strictly prohibited at this classy, kid-friendly event. Last year, organizers raised more than $22,000 for Food for Friends.
Krewe du Fool’s April Fool’s Day parade falls on Easter this year and brings a “Fool’s Gold” theme. Attendees can expect gold Easter eggs, the Streetcar Strutters marching group and Dancing Man 504 from the meandering walking parade, which kicks off outside Mimi’s in the Marigny (2601 Royal Street) at 5pm and concludes at Washington Square Park.