I recently satisfied a bucket list item by attending Mardi Gras in its birthplace, Mobile, AL. When most people think Mardi Gras they immediately think of New Orleans. This leads to thoughts of Hand Grenade cocktails and shouts of “throw me something mister” at passing floats. Mardi Gras Mobile style is a bit less lewd, and twice the fun.
This year the parades started on February 10th will run through February 28th, Fat Tuesday, and I was lucky enough to be there for opening night.
If you ever have the chance to attend, I encourage it, and here are a few tips that might help you out.
Stay downtown – There are at least 10 hotels in downtown Mobile, and this puts you right on the parade route. Make your reservations early, as in 6 to 7 months out. Most of the parades start around 6:30 PM so they begin closing streets well in advance of that, this makes driving tough.
Know the parade routes – Many of the parades pass points many times, so it’s easy to find a spot that lets you see the parade pass 2 or 3 times.
Pay attention – Sounds simple but it’s real easy to get distracted. One distraction, and the next thing you know you’re taking a string of beads, a sealed moon pie or a package of Ramen noodles to the face. You’ll see lots of float riders taunting you with giant stuffed animals, “you want this?” they’ll scream but the reality of it that those are given to small kids, which is nice. As I’m writing this came across my feed, Car runs into New Orleans crowd, police say, so please pay attention.
Explore on foot – My rental sat in its parking spot for 3 days, being downtown we were within walking distance of some interesting places.
Mardi Gras Balls – If you have the opportunity to attend a ball, do it. Ask about the dress code. Men, most tuxedos need to have tails and a white bow tie. It’s easy to order your tux here and pick it up in Mobile. Ladies, more than likely your dress will need to cover your ankles, also some of the sidewalks are cobblestone so be careful wearing high heels.
While you’re in town visit:
- Mobile Carnival Museum – $5.00 for a guided tour, and it’s well worth it. Listen to the Mardi Gras stories and view the bedazzled costumes worn by the mystic royalty.
- Church Street Graveyard – Free and located right off of Government street. Do yourself a favor and read up on Joe Cain before you visit.
- Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception – Beautiful architecture both inside and out.
- Loda Bier Garten – Start with the giant pretzel and end with a Bratwurst, oh yeah they also serve beer.
- Spot of Tea – The perfect brunch spot, omelets the size of your head.
From Orlando, it’s less than a 7-hour drive, which is doable in a day. Looking at the major airlines it seems tough to get a direct flight into Mobile. Figure on at least 4 hours for flight time with connections, plus a few hours of hanging out at the airport. Almost the same amount of time invested as it would be to drive. For an action packed weekend, you can land in New Orleans and then make the 2 hour drive to Mobile. Since you’ll be in New Orleans make time to visit the French Quarter and experience both versions of Mardi Gras.