What I Learned From My First Carnival Season

This week is a special week for New Orleanians because Carnival season is here. This year I am celebrating my second Carnival season, and I am hoping it's going to be better than my first. Last year I was so overwhelmed, but this year I plan to use my year-old wisdom to have an even better experience.

I have been hearing from a few new New Orleanians recently, so I wanted to share my knowledge of Carnival season with all of you. If you're a fellow Nola Newbie, I recommend you know the following things before you go too crazy during Carnival:

Pace yourself.
Last year I wanted to attend as many parades as possible. I saw Krewe du Vieux, Pygmalion, Endymion, Muses, and a few others. By the time Mardi Gras came along, I was ready for it all to be over. This year I want to go to my favorite parades from last year and maybe try a new one or two, but not too many.

Learn the parade routes. 
It's crucial to know the parade routes so you avoid getting caught behind a parade. This happened to me and my fiancé, Chris, last year and it was super frustrating. I recommend doing some research ahead of time. I really like MardiGrasNewOrleans.com for their parade schedule and the WDSU Parade Tracker app to check on the status of parades.

Eat king cake in moderation…
King cake season is one of the best parts of Carnival season but it's also one of the worst. Free king cake every day is delicious, but it's not great for the waistline. If the king cake in your office is tempting you, go for a small piece.

…but don't beat yourself up about enjoying the cake. 
New Orleans is famous for its cocktails, entrees and treats. During Carnival, you will probably eat too much king cake, so just accept it and don't be too self-deprecating. King cake consumption comes with the holiday. 

Find a favorite parade-watching spot.
On Mardi Gras last year, Chris and I decided to walk around New Orleans to get the full Mardi Gras experience. In the end, I was exhausted and dehydrated. While walking miles around the city was good exercise, I was tired of Mardi Gras by the early afternoon. This year I plan to pick a favorite spot and stay there.

Bring a bottle of water with you on your parade excursions. You won't always be near a place where you can purchase water, even though you're going to need it if you're going to be drinking alcohol for a while. My mom, a former health teacher, recommends a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage.

Find something to do with all those beads.
I have a huge bag of beads left over from Carnival last year. This year I plan to share some of them with my friends in krewes. Carnival throws also make good Christmas stocking stuffers for out-of-town-guests.  

Learn the lingo. 
There are a lot of words only New Orleanians know, especially when it comes to Carnival. I wrote about some of them for my blog last year. I recommend learning the terms if you don't already know them. If you can talk about Carnival like a New Orleanian, you'll do just fine. 

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