Gird yourselves — Mardi Gras is nigh. Balls have already been had and the first parade in town rolls on Friday. Every year though, people make dumb decisions and rookie mistakes that can ruin your carnival season. Below are some invaluable basics to any Mardi Gras, and a few more specific to Baton Rouge’s scene.
Ten Commandments of Mardi Gras
- Have a Bathroom Plan: public urination is a crime, as most porta-potties should be. People will hustle bathrooms for $15, and even if it’s an “all day pass,” do you trust your whiskey-pickled brain to remember where that bathroom is? Find the cleanest, most free bathroom you can near the parade route, or maybe bring some pocket Febreze if you have to use the plastic huts.
- Bring Water: Mardi Gras is a marathon, not a sprint like St. Patrick’s Day. Between the walking around, the effects of alcohol and your heavy coat or the sweltering sun, you can get dehydrated. Pack some water bottles or a refillable gallon jug of water in your ice chest, or keep reusable water bottles in your backpack.
- Know the Route: this is a bit of a no-brainer but if you don’t know the route, you may end up around a bunch of kids or have a bad view of the floats. Check the routes beforehand, and figure out where parking is and where the best restaurants and bars for after the parade are.
- Don’t Chase the Floats: only relevant to Yankees who haven’t experienced Mardi Gras before, but chasing after a particular float hoping for that one awesome throw (it isn’t that cool I bet) will get you out of position and piss off anyone near you that you’ve shoved through. Don’t be greedy: take what you can catch.
- Have an Escape Plan: sometimes, stuff hits the fan. When it does, know what to do. Talk about which bar or whose car to meet up with your friends if you get separated, or someone’s house if they live nearby and are nice enough to give you shelter. Whether it’s a stampede of children or runaway floats, know where to meet up with your group should you get separated.
- Pack Mentality: for that matter, make sure you go with friends. Obviously it’s more fun that way, but unless you’re super familiar with the area, you can get lost and into trouble. Even if you go alone to a party and try to tag along to the parades, it’s better than going alone and hoping you run into someone.
- PG-13: there are kids all over these parades, and teenagers trying to share in the fun. Spanish Town has an alcohol free section, and Southdowns is completely family friendly; it’s not as crazy as non-locals may think. So don’t try and entice the riders with exposed flesh, and definitely don’t try and snatch an enticing throw meant for a kid. If you plan on being more debaucherous, keep it more private and around friends. Also watch out for teenagers — they’ll steal your liquor bottles or try and sneak a round off a keg. Jerks.
- Yeah, that’s a Cop: the Baton Rouge Police Department is on edge during Mardi Gras, so be extra cautious. Undercover cops are roaming the parades for a certain smell, so don’t be an idiot. Also, any sort of minor spat can be interpreted as a fight, and they will break it up, not to mention bring anyone who’s had a little too much fun to the mobile station (that big crane attached to the fancy trailer). You won’t have an issue as long as you aren’t being too rowdy or rude but it pays to be observant.
- Bout to Call your Ass an Uber: speaking of cops, checkpoints are going to litter the roads around parade routes. It pays to be cautious, and while surge pricing will likely be in effect, it’s cheaper than a DUI. Call an Uber, a Lyft or just buy a very nice friend dinner and all the soda they can drink (or a normal taxi I guess). If you’re lucky enough to know someone who lives near the parade, see if you can park at their residence and crash there should you need to.
- Don’t throw up in the Uber: Seriously. That’s nasty and you’ll never get another ride. If you have an incapacitated friend who seems like they’re ready to burst, wait for them to get it out of their system or buy something at a gas station and ask for extra bags; at least that way it won’t ruin your driver’s car.
Know Your Parades
- Krewe of Artemis: the only all-female parading Krewe in Baton Rouge is holding its 14th annual parade at 7 pm on Friday, January 29th. The parade starts and ends by the River Center. Artemis is family friendly, kids will be out to catch one of their signature high heel shoe throws!
- Mystique de la Capitale: this is the OG BR parade, in its 40th year. The parade rolls on January 30, at 2 pm around Downtown. Being one of the oldest, Mystique is family friendly and fairly conservative, but is still a sight to see.
- Orion: Orion is one of Baton Rouge’s biggest parades, running around downtown and into the night. The parade can get fairly rowdy, but there are plenty of children during the early stages of the parade. The parade rolls at 6 pm, a few hours after Mystique wraps up, so there’s time to have a few drinks Downtown or recuperate before heading back out.
- Krewe of Mutts: This charity parade for the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society is celebrating its 10th year with Paw Wars on January 31. The festivities start at 10 am with Bark in the Park, featuring food and vendors in Galvez Plaza and Town Center. The costume contest starts at 11, and the parade rolls at 2 pm. There’s still time to register your own pup, and all proceeds go to CAAWS and its shelter. Dogs in costumes, guys; it sells itself.
- South Downs: The Krewe of Southdowns rolls at 7 pm on February 5th from Glasgow Middle School around the picturesque Southdowns neighborhood. The theme is “Under the Big Top” and promises to be a fun night for kids and parents, and maybe a good pre game for the less tied down. Be mindful of children and conservatism.
- Spanish Town: The Spanish Town parade is Baton Rouge’s signature parade. Starting at noon February 6, this parade is aimed at a younger crowd, but an alcohol free zone on Corporate is perfect for families with kids. Spanish Town is the can’t miss parade in Baton Rouge, especially if you’re looking to really party, with plenty of bars in the historic neighborhood.
Best Food Around the Routes
Southdowns rolls through residential neighborhoods, but ends on Perkins, right across from Burgersmith, who have some great burgers and fries. Or, walk down Perkins a bit for some oysters at Acme, or the gilded palace that is Zippy’s.
Spanish Town rolls right by the historic Spanish Town Market, who have great burgers and sandwiches, so get to the start of the parade and dip in for a quick bite. Alternatively, Schlitz & Giggles is on Florida, right in the middle of the parade route. Schlitz has a patio area so it could be the perfect place to catch the parade — if you get there early enough to claim a table.
Artemis, Orion and Mystique all share a route, so you can head to Poor Boy Lloyd’s on Florida or dash across government to Frostop for all of them. The Krewe of Mutts will have some fair food in Capitol City Park before the parade rolls, so get there early and indulge!
Best Hangover Food
You may get hungry during or right after the parades, but the heartier of partiers will be more concerned with food for when they wake up. The rule is to look for food high in fat, to absorb the sugar from the alcohol, and anything in the “stick to your ribs” category will help with keeping you feeling full and not sick.
Sushi utilizes the fattiest parts of the fish, so a few rolls could get you right. I personally suggest going for a tempura roll of some kind, however, since cold sushi may not be so appetizing right when you wake up. Po’boys and burgers fit the bill perfectly, so George’s will get you right for sure. Later at night, however, your options are more limited; luckily, Louie’s is actually best at 4 a.m., so the recently expanded greasy spoon can save you like many before. The omelets may literally save your life. Also, don’t over think it — pizza is good for just about everything, hangovers included. If you can manage it, get to Fleur de Lis for the best pizza in town, but any kind of pie will do the job admirably.