The city of New Orleans, Louisiana, knows how to throw a good party. From Jazzfest to French Quarter Fest and dozens of smaller festivals in-between, people from all over the world flock to New Orleans to take part in these vibrant celebrations.
The most popular and well attended of all the festivals in New Orleans is Mardi Gras, attracting over one million people each year. Mardi Gras falls on Shrove or Fat Tuesday and while that day is reserved for the largest amount of celebrating, the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, known as Carnival, are filled with organized parades, eclectic costumes and general revelry.
“Mardi Gras brings out so much creativity” says Marin Tockman, owner of New Orleans-based bike shop, Dashing Bicycles. “The float ideas are always so fun and so witty. Larger parades will have decorated bikes (think unicorns or sea monsters) in-between the larger floats and thousands of people can see how creative people are incorporating bikes into the parading fun.”
Tockman offers some advice for folks looking to dress up their bikes. “Keep it simple so it’s safe to ride, but add some fun fringe, sparkly fabric or even beads to your handlebars or helmet. Make sure to leave room for a cup holder and add wheel lights to brighten up our streets while you bike at night.”
Not only do bikes get dressed up for parades, but with the heavy tourist traffic during Carnival they become a superior means of navigating the city. “Riding a bike during Mardi Gras is the thing to do!” says Tockman. “Zip to any parade, amazing restaurant or live show in any corner of the city, hassle-free.” If you choose to get around NOLA on a bike during Mardi Gras you won’t be alone. Says Tockman, “So many people choose to bike that sometimes when biking to a parade feels like a festival in and of itself, with everyone dressed up and having fun along the way.”
With so much to see and do during Carnival how do you decide which events to partake in? Tockman offers the following insider tips on what to do and see by bike during the five days leading up to Mardi Gras, and on Mardi Gras itself:
THURSDAY Bike to Muses. It’s an all-female super Krewe parade that heads down St. Charles, featuring the city’s best high school marching bands.
FRIDAY Check out Morpheus, a parade that rolls uptown. And there is always tons of great live music shows along Frenchmen Street.
SATURDAY Head to Endymion in the afternoon for the amazing floats. Or check out the local walking parades that happen, like the 9th Ward Marching.
SUNDAY Hit up some family parades along the St Charles route, especially Bacchus. Beware of the Box of Wine parade, the revelers take in copious amounts of wine beforehand.
MONDAY Rest and finish your costume ‘cause there’s only one day left till Mardi Gras! It’s a good night to catch a few throws or music in the French Quarter.
TUESDAY The big day is here! Mardi Gras rolls out early and lasts all night, so make sure to fuel up beforehand. First things first, catch the Bone Boys waking up the neighborhoods with their cast iron pans. Then head to Zulu, the largest African American Super Krewe parade for phenomenally well-dressed folks. By late morning, head to the French Quarter and take part in the St. Ann Parade which finds thousands of people meandering through the beautiful streets following battling marching bands to the river.
Says Tockman, “While the whole week is pretty nonstop, it’s some of the most fun you can ever have, especially if you make time to cruise through it all with a bike.”