Mardi Gras in New Orleans is arguably America's best and largest party. The general theme is "eat, drink, and be merry," and the locals take that very seriously, as this city-wide event is considered the last hurrah before the Lenten season. In the Catholic faith, fasting, abstaining from eating meat on Fridays, and ritual sacrificing is expected of parishioners during the 40 day period of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday each year.
The Future Dates of Mardi Gras from 2019–2027
Mardi Gras, which is the French term for "Fat Tuesday" falls on a different calendar date every year because it is always the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. Since Ash Wednesday coincides with the date of Easter, which always falls on the first Sunday after the spring equinox and a full moon, the ever-changing moon cycles are the cause for the ever-changing dates.
While planning a trip to Mardi Gras can seem intimidating, especially for first-time travelers, with some strategic planning you and your entire family can have one of the best vacations of your life in The Big Easy. The best advice is to plan early, and that starts with knowing the dates of Mardi Gras whether you're visiting next year or 10 years from now.
- Mardi Gras 2019 is March 5
- Mardi Gras 2020 is February 25
- Mardi Gras 2021 is February 16
- Mardi Gras 2022 is March 1
- Mardi Gras 2023 is February 21
- Mardi Gras 2024 is February 13
- Mardi Gras 2025 is March 4
- Mardi Gras 2026 is February 17
- Mardi Gras 2027 is February 9
When to Plan Your Visit
It's important to note that carnival is the season leading up Fat Tuesday. It begins in early January for "King's Day" and runs until midnight on Mardi Gras. The party ends pretty abruptly on Fat Tuesday, so in order to maximize your experience, plan on arriving earlier, particularly for Lundi Gras, the Day Before Mardi Gras, and the city's second largest party day.
You can plan to arrive even earlier in the month and not miss out, as there are several parties and parades that begin about two weeks before Mardi Gras Tuesday. New Orleans pulls out all the stops for these grand displays, so if you only choose one activity to do during your stay, make sure it is one of the city's best parades.
Places to Experience Mardi Gras
How you experience Mardi Gras depends greatly on your location. The French Quarter is undoubtedly the most famous for the massive crowds, excessive drinking, bead throwing, and overall lewdness. It is important to know, however, that although there are no open container laws in New Orleans, nudity is illegal in public, just as it is anywhere else in the country. So, if you plan on partaking in the famous flashing, think twice. There are hundreds of arrests every year for public nudity, and you won't be able to enjoy much of the city from the confines of jail, so just don't do it.
Mardi Gras on St. Charles Avenue is the place for family-friendly Mardi Gras activities. You will see parades, tame bead throws and, because of the family atmosphere, none of the lewdness of the French Quarter. The crowds will still be heavy, but they are friendly and add to the festive atmosphere.
What to Eat in New Orleans
New Orleans is truly a special city in America with a culture all its own, and the quickest way to experience the city as the locals do is to eat your way through The Big Easy.
Some of New Orleans' most famous specialties include beignets from Cafe du Monde, po' boy sandwiches, boiled crawfish, muffuletta sandwiches, redfish, gumbo, jambalaya, etouffée, and the special Mardi Gras treat king cakes.
What to Bring on a Trip to Mardi Gras
Because Mardi Gras can be anytime from the beginning of February to early March, the weather can fluctuate. However, New Orleans is generally warm and usually sweltering year-round, so don't forget to pack shorts and skirts, but also a jacket and long pants for colder evenings and to ward off mosquitos.
While there generally isn't a dress code for public parties, and bar hopping, if you are lucky enough to get an invitation to a Mardi Gras Ball, it's strictly formal dress. Dresses must be below the ankles and tuxedos are required for men.
For Mardi Gras day, you will want to bring a fun and festive costume to celebrate, but keep in mind that you will most likely wear it for several hours that includes walking, so plan accordingly.