|by Kaeli Conforti||Art + Culture, Festivals, Historical Travel, New Orleans, Family Travel||1|
Are you ready for Mardi Gras 2012? Parades have been taking place around New Orleans every weekend since February 4th, leading up to the main event this Tuesday, February 21st, historically the day before start of the Catholic season of Lent. While most of us may envision wild teenagers and scantily–clad women when the phrase Mardi Gras is mentioned, it is traditionally a family season of celebration. Many New Orleans natives have been known to attend the festivities with the whole family, letting the kids collect beads, toys, and other goodies. Here are a few tips for those of you planning to make this year's event a family affair.
Stick to the Garden District: The good thing about Mardi Gras is there is something for everyone. The official website for Mardi Gras New Orleans recommends families stick to the calmer garden district where crowds are smaller and there is a more family–friendly atmosphere, particularly along St. Charles Ave. between First St. and Napoleon Ave. It's also a good idea to check out local area parades happening in Metairie, Slidell, and Westbank for other toned–down celebrations. Be sure to check the day's parade schedule before you head out.
Be prepared for fast-changing weather: Make sure you and your family wear layers, as typical New Orleans weather can be rather unpredictable.
Help your kids get their share of the goodies: An article by NewOrleans.com recommends bringing a ladder so that kids can have a "box seat" and be higher up to catch more prizes thrown from the floats. Most importantly, bring along a few tote bags to carry all the beads, stuffed animals, and other goodies you're bound to catch during the parade. Be careful that the youngsters are catching them from the air, not picking up discarded beads on the grounds, which might be broken and sharp.
Breathe new life into old Halloween costumes: Dressing up is half of the fun! Use the parade as an excuse to break out that old Halloween costume or make it an arts and crafts opportunity and construct the most creative, feathery, sequined mask you can imagine.
Don't get lost in the crowd: Odds are, whichever parade you chose will be pretty crowded. Choose a meeting place just in case one of your group gets separated from the rest, and write your child's name and phone number on their shirt tag or give them a card with that information on it to keep in their pocket for the day. Stay in touch with older kids with a cell phone and check in with each other throughout the day.
Teach your children well: Use Mardi Gras as a learning opportunity. Teach everyone about the historical and traditional significance of the parade, masks, and colors—gold for power, green for faith, and purple for justice—or take them to Mardi Gras World to learn about krewes and see how the floats are built. (Tickets are $19.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 2 to 11, and $15.95 for seniors over age 65).
We want to know: Did you ever bring your kids to Mardi Gras, or did you go as a youngster with your own family?
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