Make the most of your New Orleans visit with Susan of Nola Maven’s city-spanning Mardi Gras tips. From wigs to king cakes to parades, she’s a go-to for the latest and greatest of Carnival time.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, I’m Susan Whelan aka @nolamaven. My family first moved to Slidell in 1982, and I’ve lived in New Orleans since 1999. I have called the Uptown/Carrollton area home for the last 17(!) years.
Q. When people check out your IG feed, what side of Nola will they see?
My Instagram account is a snapshot of New Orleans – places, people, culture, cocktails, food and festivals.
Q. What’s your favorite thing about Mardi Gras? What does it mean to you?
I love nearly everything about Mardi Gras except the traffic. I love the food, drinks and parades, but my favorite thing about Mardi Gras is the fun. And, I love spending time with so many different friends during the Carnival season, especially the official 12-day parading period of Mardi Gras.
Q. Uh oh! Your friends just told you they’re coming for Mardi Gras and know nothing about the city. Quick, where do you send them to Mardi Gras up?
If you’re coming to Mardi Gras for the first time and haven’t yet booked a room, I would book whatever is available ASAP!
For shopping, a trip to Fifi Mahony’s is a must. A good wig is an essential part of any costume (and can BE your costume). They’ve got all of your glitter and makeup needs covered, too. For other shopping, head to Fleurty Girl for t-shirts (several locations, including French Quarter and Magazine St.) and Home Malone for great New Orleans gifts.
Q. What are a few of your Mardi Gras “must-dos”?
First, you have to eat king cake. If you’re visiting, you might not want to buy a whole one unless you’re rolling with a big crew. My advice is to go somewhere that they are selling by the slice, such as Bywater Bakery, Sucre or Pythian Market.
Next, my advice is to go to a parade. Or not just *a* parade but as many as possible. Try to watch in different places so you have different experiences. Make some friends, and maybe you’ll get invited to a party or crawfish boil.
Lastly, try to do a fancy, leisurely (boozy) lunch either Friday or Monday (or both!). Lunch is a great way to experience some of our finest restaurants, and Friday before Mardi Gras is super fun in the Quarter. Just trust me, make a reservation and enjoy the day.
Q. What’s your favorite parade and why?
My favorite parade is Muses. I’m a little biased because I’m a member, but it’s also my favorite to watch! It’s gotten really crowded, so try to stake out a spot on Magazine or further down St. Charles (perhaps between Louisiana and Washington) to watch.
Q. Walk us through your Fat Tuesday itinerary.
My Fat Tuesday routine is really low key.
I roll out of bed, throw on a wig and headdress, fix a mimosa and head to Napoleon and Freret to watch Rex. I usually hang around for part of the truck parades before heading home to try to catch the Mardi Gras Indians on my street.
My favorite things to eat on Mardi Gras are king cake, Popeyes and king cake.
For a fun day, I recommend walking the parade route. Start somewhere Uptown before Rex to see all of the costumes along the route. Watch Rex (or if you’re an early bird and make it to Jackson in time, Zulu then Rex) and then keep walking. Stop at Lüke for a burger, then head to the French Quarter, then Marigny. This will take hours and hours, but it’s a great way to spend the day and see a lot of New Orleans.
Want to hear more from a rider in a major parade? David Nola, an Endymion krewe member, shares his best Mardi Gras tips.
And our new 2019 Mardi Gras guide is full of games, tips and challenges to keep your Carnival extra festive!