Yes, Mardi Gras Is Happening This Year: Here's What to Expect

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

After a two-year hiatus, America’s most legendary street festival is back, baby: Mardi Gras. And in New Orleans, the energy is palpable. People have a proverbial pep in their step; the city’s hundreds of mouthwatering restaurants and high-spirited bars are finally busy again; hotels are packed to the brim (or about to be); and you just know those French Quarter palm readers are working around the clock to foresee tourists’ fortunes (bright and rosy, we hope!).

Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday” for those rusty on their French) dates back hundreds of years and marks the days before Lent, a tradition much of New Orleans’ predominantly Catholic population observes by giving up luxuries and temptations for six weeks. This year, Mardi Gras kicks off on March 1, but parties and parades have been wilin’ out since Three Kings Day on January 6.

Mardi Gras is best known for its street parades led by costume-wearing krewes—clubs that walk, dance, march, drive floats, and host balls. Some of the season’s earliest parties featured krewes like the Chewbacchus, a sci-fi-themed parade with a flying saucer float and plenty of Yodas, and the raunchy Krewe du Vieux, which featured a giant flaccid penis and satirical, pandemic-related gags for its theme, “Vaxxed and Confused.” But if you missed those, rest assured that the wildest parties are still to come.

COVID-19 restrictions & other things to know for Mardi Gras 2022

Considering Mardis Gras was one of America's first superspreader events back in 2020, the city has implemented a few COVID-19 restrictions to avoid a repeat fiasco. This year, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test and wear a mask when headed indoors, including bars, restaurants, events, and stores. While it’s not obligatory, authorities recommend wearing a mask while in a crowd, too.

It’s worth mentioning that, due to a reduced number of first-responders, parade routes have been shortened this year. Also, to step up security measures, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that both the New Orleans Police Department and the feds will be on patrol during the festivities. There’s also been a recent uptick in crime including carjackings and break-ins, so keep your wits about you, don’t walk alone on low-lit streets, and consider parking your car away from the action and using the city’s sweet electric-assisted blue bikes to get from place to place, instead. Now, onto the goods!

Flickr/GPA Photo Archive

What does the 2022 parade schedule look like?

On the weekend of February 19, there’s Krewe of Freret, followed by one of the best local music acts of the season, Shorty Gras, and Krewe of Barkus, where thousands of four-legged good boys march through the streets in costume. The following week will feature the all-female Krewe of Muses (February 24) and two of the wildest parades, Endymion (February 26) and Bacchus (February 27).

Come Lundi Gras (February 28), Krewe of Red Beans tosses out beads made of dried beans instead of those toxic flame retardant-bathed plastic ones, and the Krewe of Orpheus hosts one of the few krewe balls open to the public (get tickets here).

But the big day is, well, the biggest. Mardi Gras kicks off at 5 am when Northside Skull and Bones Gang knocks on doors to scare local children from committing violence. Later on, Krewe of Zulu hands out coconuts, Mardi Gras Indians do their thing, and finally, Rex, the King of Carnival who’s celebrating his 150th anniversary, closes the event.

Suffice to say, something’s always going on in and around New Orleans for Mardi Gras season, so check out the full parade schedule and be sure to download the parade tracker app.

What else should I do while I’m in town?

There’s no such thing as an exhaustive list of things to do in New Orleans. Between parties and parades this year, check out recent additions to the city’s near-endless arts and culture scene, including JAMNOLA, an interactive art exhibition, and Sazerac House, a snazzy museum devoted to one of America’s first cocktails (they also offer free tastings!).

Obviously, you’ll also want to eat as much as humanly possible. After you’ve sampled New Orleans’ must-try meals—po’boys at Parasol’s, Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, king cake from Dong Phuong, turtle soup from Commander’s Palace, et cetera—dig into the latest hype-worthy spots. There’s Palm & Pine in the French Quarter, which mixes Louisiana cuisine with Mexican, Caribbean, and Central American flavors; Haitian street food spot Fritai; and Uptown supper club Mosquito.

When you’re ready to wash everything down, try a few bars that aren’t on Bourbon Street, including Bacchanal Wine, where you’ll feel like you’re at a backyard wedding. There’s also Elysian Bar, located in a church rectory from 1875 that features low ABV cocktails such as the tasty Grasshopper with bourbon, mint, cacao, oat milk, and nutmeg. And if your liver is still in good nick afterward, hit Pal’s Lounge and R-Bar, a pair of absolutely essential local watering holes.

Many of the city’s best accommodations are probably booked by now. But if you can, stay at La Belle Esplanade, whose owners have as much character as its bright orange facade, or Marigny’s Hotel Peter and Paul located in a historic Catholic church and school from 1860. Otherwise, check out the NOPSI Hotel with its rooftop pool, or opt for an Airbnb like this French Quarter spot with a pool or this room in a mansion that’ll make you feel utterly resplendent.

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Joel Balsam is a Canadian freelance journalist and guidebook author who writes for Lonely Planet, National Geographic, TIME, BBC Travel, and more. His home base is Montreal, but he can often be found tasting his way through a packed market somewhere.