Beads, Bourbon Street and Beignets - it's that time of the year where the biggest parade in New Orleans takes place; Mardi Gras! This festival is a giant booze fest with top-notch parade shows, lots of beads and a guaranteed good time with your pals (pretty much a large-scale Gasparilla, minus the pirates). I had the chance to attend this festival at the beginning of March, and it was the perfect start to my spring break. Here is a list of my favorite highlights as a first-timer at Mardi Gras.
1. "I want you to have my beads" - drunk men
I had about 10-15 guys come up to me to give me their beads, or trade one of my beads for theirs. During the first two or three times, I thought it was a friendly thing to do. But as time went on and the comments started to turn flirty, I quickly realized that these men were using beads as a courting technique. After that, I couldn't help but laugh at their odd attempts. Hey, I mean the goal is to get beads, so this is fair game, right?
2. Getting hit in the head with flying beads
It hurts really badly. I looked away from the parade for half a second and I get pegged in the head with a giant quart-sized Ziploc bag filled with plastic beads. It may seem like it's not much, but when its chucked at you at high speed, it's a woozy headbanger. I quickly learned to either seek shelter or to catch the beads if I wanted to avoid getting a concussion.
3. Best. Fried. Chicken. I've. EVER. Had.
When I say best I've had, I mean THE best I've had. It was the perfect amount of crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside, with finger-licking good seasoning. My go-to fried chicken in Gainesville is from Publix, believe it or not (I've yet to find a real fried chicken place). But, NOLA really blew it out of the parade park with this iconic southern staple.
4. Drunk girls = best gal pals
No matter what city you're in or the occasion, drunk girls are universally the best party people. Whether it's complimenting you on your outfit or taking care of you after a long night of drinking, drunk girls are there for you in any and all situations. During Mardi Gras, many girls were watching out for me and my friends, helping me out with directions, started conversations about literally anything and made my day with sweet compliments. In a nutshell, girl power for the win.
5. Beignets are to die for
These heavenly decadent, honey-glazed and coated in powdered sugar, fried goodness are a must-have when in NOLA! The closest thing I can compare it to is a donut with powdered sugar, except not as dense. Pair these beignet bad boys with a cup of hot café au lait, and you've got yourself a treat! The best location to try it at is Café du Monde at Jackson Square (the original location).
6. Jammin' to jazz
NOLA is known as the birthplace of jazz music. It was the perfect place to stroll around while enjoying some soulful street music. The rich culture and history of jazz were seen in the artwork and the sweet tunes around the city. As an avid jazz fan, I was in music heaven.
7. Colorful cottages make for great photo ops
The city was so beautiful and vibrant. Each street in downtown was filled with rows of colorful buildings, which made for uniquely different cottages. With cobblestone streets, second-floor balconies and a range of hues, the streets of downtown NOLA were nothing but a beautiful sight. This view made for an amazing backdrop for fun pictures and silly Boomerangs with my friends!