This blog post was updated on January 31, 2023.
Endless liquor, street parades, voodoo…Mardi Gras, or just a typical weekend in N’awlins? One of the few American cities with a really distinct culture, cuisine, and even language, fascinating New Orleans never ceases to surprise. And although Mardi Gras is undoubtedly the highlight of the year in the Big Easy, we have to wonder: when is the best time to visit New Orleans? Because Nola has all sorts of parades and celebrations year-round, with Bourbon Street open 24/7 to cover all your party needs. So, is it worth spending the extra money and coming down for Mardi Gras? Let’s find out!
Hate Crowds? Avoid Mardi Gras!
One of the major appeals of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is it’s huge festival scene. And who loves festivals more than college students? This time of year, New Orleans is literally overrun with a wave of spring-breakers eager to get wasted off cheap liquor and boozy slushies. If bustling crowds aren’t your thing, consider coming to Nola during a different time of year, because during Mardi Gras the streets are packed with college students looking to let loose on booze-fueled romps through Bourbon Street. It’s not uncommon to see people drunkenly hanging off balconies or urinating in alleyways, so definitely take that into account when deciding when to go.
Love Parades? Embrace Mardi Gras!
Mardi Gras traditional colors are purple, yellow and green, and that’s what you’ll be seeing all day long if you go there during the celebrations. Parade floats, hotels, and restaurants are decked out head to toe in these festive vibes. This parade culture is infectious and extends through several neighborhoods like the French Quarter, Metairie, Uptown, and Covingto. If you’re here to see these wild and creative floats, then Mardi Gras is hands down the best time to go! Is it possible to see some other great parades year-round? Well, sure. But if you want the best of the best and the over-the-top floats that New Orleans is known for, then there’s no replacing Mardi Gras!
Tight Budget? Avoid Mardi Gras!
Since Mardi Gras is New Orleans’ main event, it’s no surprise that everything in town is way more expensive during the celebrations. Think of it like trying to book a flight to New York during New Year’s Eve or Berlin just in time for Oktoberfest. That’s why, if you’re trying to be budget-conscious, you should definitely skip New Orleans during Mardi Gras and come back any another time. Summer is the city’s cheapest season, with prices for flights and hotels dropping to their lowest in August because of the intense summer heat. Our advice? Try heading there in September to avoid the crippling humidity while still taking advantage of the best price deals!
You may also like: How to Enjoy Mardi Gras on a Budget
Party Animal? Either!
New Orleans has definitely earned a well-deserved reputation of being a party city over the past decade, and that’s largely because of Mardi Gras. Bars, restaurants, and nightclubs have surely popped up all over the city in recent years to join in on the fun. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to enjoy them during Mardi Gras! Truth is, New Orleans is not only an excellent spring break destination, but those very same bars and clubs are actually open and festive all year. You could easily bring a group of friends down here for a bachelorette party, a birthday party, or a weekend trip and have just as much booze-fueled fun as you could during its famous carnival. While Mardi Gras may have put this city on the map, it’s definitely taken its party culture and run with it, making for a great destination regardless of when you come.
Love Sightseeing? Avoid Mardi Gras!
Apart from beads and booze, New Orleans has plenty more to offer year-round than just during Mardi Gras! As one of the most unique cities in the US, New Orleans has a deep and fascinating history as a French colony, the site of a massive Haitian slave rebellion, and an international voodoo haven. While Mardi Gras may celebrate all these individual moments in Nola’s history, it’s definitely not the best time to come and see it for yourself. Crowds swarm the main city sights, restaurants, and museums. Prices soar to accommodate those same crowds, and getting around the city is a true nightmare with all the parade street closures. If you really want to explore New Orleans architecture, voodoo, and food scene, you definitely should come when things are a bit more mellow. Take a haunted tour of the city, have a beignet at the famous Cafe du Monde, and marvel at the beautiful colonial buildings in the French Quarter. Just don’t do it during Mardi Gras!
Want to Experience the Nola Vibe? Either!
As a city with such a rich and fascinating history, New Orleans has cultivated a sort of relaxed yet quirky vibe over the past few decades. What’s even more amazing about this is that it managed to maintain that feel year-round. That means it’s always a good time to look for some flights to New Orleans and enjoy its many spots and attractions. So spend some time in a jazz club, go to a crawfish boil, or learn anything you need to know about shrunken heads at one of the many voodoo museums in town. Whether you show up for Mardi Gras or decide to come on a quiet summer weekend, you’ll definitely leave feeling like you were a part of the unique local vibe that New Orleans is famous for!
Have you been to New Orleans, either during Mardi Gras or another time of the year? Have some advice on when’s the best time to visit? Tell us in the comments section below!
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