Carnival’s Top 10 Parades
(Arranged by category)
1. Rex. For 146 of the city’s 300 years Rex has been around setting standards for the carnival and enriching Mardi Gras as it is imitated across the continent. This is the classic Mardi Gras parade at its best done by a krewe that does things right. Rex always uses original design to carry across a usually literary theme. Among its regular “signature floats,” look for the Butterfly King based on a design from Rex’s 1882 parade as well as His Majesty’s Bandwagon, the Boeuf Gras, the Royal Barge and of course, the regal throne float carrying Rex himself. Having first paraded in 1872, the King of Carnival’s annual procession is the longest running parade in Carnival. Rex is about tradition, style and elegance – a classic New Orleans Carnival parade. If you can only make one authentic Mardi Gras parade make it this one, Mardi Gras, St. Charles Avenue, 10 a.m.
2. Thoth. Now in its 70th year, the krewe has a great Egyptian motif among its first few floats. It is a big and festive parade. An ambitious Uptown neighborhood route takes it past several care institutions. Approximately 1,600 riders are on board a total of 50 floats ranking it, after Endymion, Carnival’s biggest parade. Sun., Feb. 11, St. Charles Avenue, noon
3. Zulu. This is the only organization that selects its monarch by popular election of its membership (see Persona). Now in its second century, Zulu, whose mission was to give black New Orleanians a parade of their own, is big and brassy – and lately more on time. It is one of Carnival’s favorites. Mardi Gras, St. Charles Avenue, 8 a.m.
4. Tucks. Heading toward its 50th anniversary next year, the krewe of Tucks continues to march to its own beat. While some krewes get their name from mythology, Tucks was named after a bar, Friar Tucks, where a couple of Loyola University students decided to create their own parade, ostensibly because they couldn’t land positions as flambeaux. Not fancy, a bit naughty, but lots of fun. Sat., Feb. 10, St. Charles Avenue, noon
A three-way tie: Endymion is the biggest. Orpheus is the prettiest. Bacchus has the history.
Endymion. The only parade to march along Canal Street, the parade’s coming is a weekend-long social event. There is a lot to behold in this, Carnival’s biggest parade. There is no celebrity King (the crown is worn by a member drawn from a lottery), but there are many big names riding as grand marshals or celebrity guests. Look for the seven-part Pontchartain Beach tandem float. The parade will have more than 3,000 masked riders. Sat., Feb. 10, Canal Street, 4:15 p.m.
Orpheus. Orpheus has the size of a superkrewe and the design elements of the old-line groups. It has great walking units, too, and is one of Carnival’s prettiest parades. Lundi Gras, St. Charles Avenue, 6 p.m.
Bacchus. Having started in 1968 Bacchus is celebrating its 50 the anniversary this year. Bacchus always draws a huge crowd to gaze at it towering floats. Among the signature floats, look for the Bacchawhoppa and the Bacchagator. Sun., Feb. 11, St. Charles Avenue, 5:15 p.m.
1. Proteus. Don’t worry about mindless bead catching. Instead, appreciate Proteus for the floats – and the history. Born in the 19th century, Carnival’s only surviving nighttime 19th-century parade is something to behold for its design and its tradition. Proteus is more than a parade; it’s historic preservation. Lundi Gras, St. Charles Avenue, 5:15 p.m.
2. Le Krewe d’Etat. Celebrating carnivals’ most profound motto, this is the only krewe in which the throne float is ridden by a dictator rather than a king. The krewe has all original floats and its own house-made flambeaux torches. This is one of Carnival’s most popular krewes, featuring good design, biting satire and great walking groups. Fri., Feb. 9, St. Charles Avenue, 6:30 p.m.
3. Muses. If fan base were the sole measurement this krewe would be number one. Having begun in the year 2000, Muses has had a major impact on Carnival by dramatically expanding female participation. It also increased the quality and quantity of marching groups and is rich with innovations such as its decorated high-heeled shoes. Though its floats are a little boxy, this witty all-female krewe is a must-see.
Thurs., Feb. 8, St. Charles Avenue, 6:30 p.m.