Whether you are local, a visitor, or are curiously checking out ideas how to celebrate your own Mardi Gras where you live… welcome!
It is a myth that Mardi Gras is a tourist only holiday. All you have to do is come visit and hang out with the locals who are enjoying the festivities away from Bourbon Street. Most New Orleans families are on St. Charles Avenue somewhere between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle. If you go into this area, you will find family picnics and bar-b-ques all along the parade route.
We tend to celebrate with my in-laws because they are two blocks away from the parade route, always have an amazing array of food, clean bathrooms (hey this is very important), fun company, and the kids have a great time. Most importantly, I can stay with Gabriel indoors while the others go catch throws.
Here are some of my learned tips to celebrate a family friendly Mardi Gras and easy crafts that make it more fun:
- Decorate a wagon. Wagons= the ultimate transporters. You can pull the kids, food, and drinks to the parade and tow the 50lbs of plastic beads your kids will catch all the way home.
- Decorate a Mardi Gras box. This is a box that stores their favorite parade throws, beads, umbrellas, masks… you know… all the props needed to celebrate at home. You might as well get one for each child. Decorate it with stickers, feathers, glitter and other fun things. A quick trip to Michael’s and you are set! Personally, I like to use a plastic storage box rather than cardboard.
- Decorate umbrellas. You are going to need to fill your Mardi Gras box with fun play things. Kids love dancing the Second Line with their umbrellas and handkerchiefs.
- Use beads to decorate the house and make table center pieces. A little imagination and some glue goes a long way. Please please please stay away from using Super Glue or you might end up like me with 12″ of glued hair.
- Put identification on your children. You might want to call me over protective; but when you have kids you worry that they will get lost or be stolen. Write down all ID information on a piece of paper, insert it in a snack size zip lock bag and safety pin it in your child’s pocket. Of course, let them know what the information is for. You can also write their name and your cell phone number on the child’s arm with a marker.
- Bring large bags to bring throws back. Believe me when I tell you that your kids will pick up more plastic beads than you will want to keep. Also, the “you can bring home what you can carry” will not work either. Trust me, I tried. I like the thick reusable plastic shopping bags. See… you will need a wagon after all.
- Decorate your Mardi Gras ladder. This year, the grandparents gifted my kids with one and they are so happy! A Mardi Gras ladder is basically a ladder with a seat box on top for younger children to be higher than ground level. This is great because your shoulders will get tired (and sore the next day), brings them up to adult height (very helpful to catch the throws) and keeps them from wondering around and possibly getting lost in the crowd.
- Serve foods your kids will eat. I’ve been to a few Mardi Gras parties that had no kid-friendly food. If you are printing out Cajun recipes from the internet they can be quite spicy; specially gumbos and jambalaya. As mentioned in a previous post… nothing wrong with using Zatarain’s mild jambalaya (even better when cooking for large crowd or kids)
Remember that Mardi Gras is for kids as much as it is for adults. You will be happy with a good Bloody Mary on hand and they have a blast picking up cheap plastic beads. It’s a win win for everyone! Have a great time!