There are several things that Canadians and Americans share in common given the geographic and cultural dispositions of both nations. However, run a poll across a wide demographic on what these similarities are, and you will get a wide and varying response. But two things over which there will be no dispute over are our common shared interests in street parties and of street-parties with lots of fancy floats and parades!
The parade of all parades is of course the famous Mardi Gras Carnival parade of New Orleans. While Mardi Gras related festivities congregate over a certain period of time of the year (January-February), street festivals, parties and parades is way of life in New Orleans central. If attending Mardi Gras in NOLA is on your bucket list, you have months, if not at least a year or two, of planning to do. It is fun, vibrant, spectacular, jubilant, extravagant, and well, in certain parts and certain times, Wild! But I wouldn’t know! That is because I have yet to attend the Mardi Gras festivities of NOLA. Well, sort off!
My visit to this enchanting city of magical delights was during off-Mardi-Gras festival period. Rest assured I was not left feeling lacking in this regard. This City always has something on as a surprise and delight for it’s visitors. Modern legend has it that there is a parade at some part of the city on any given day of the year.
Legend or Fact notwithstanding, one can catch a glimpse of the intricate process, planning, and preparation of the floats of Mardi Gras at any time by visiting The Mardi Gras World Museum operated by Blaine Kern Studios, one of the original productions houses for world-famous floats and carnival decorations. The studio also stores many floats of the various Krewes (sponsor group that owns the float) inside and people of all ages will enjoy this authentic experience during a tour.
However, several misconceptions about the event are held by first-timers or by those uninitiated in to the Mardi Gras festivities north of the border. It is time to expunge these myths.
3 Common Myths About Mardi Gras, New Orleans (as told by tour staff from Mardi Gras World)
MYTH 1: Mardi Gras celebrations are just one day.
TRUTH: Actually, Carnival season kicks off January 6th and rolls until Fat Tuesday.
MYTH 2: Mardi Gras is one big parade.
TRUTH: Nope! Last year there were over 50 (yes, FIFTY!) completely independent parades.
MYTH 3: Mardi Gras is held in the French Quarter.
TRUTH: Wrong again! Parade floats were kicked out of the historic district in 1973. Most of the large parades roll uptown. The raunchy and wild images one typically sees online and associates with Mardi Gras are actual of ancillary festivities of Bourbon Street in French Quarter during Mardi Gras but those have nothing to do with the parades at all!. In fact, the parades are as family friendly as it can ever get in America or Canada.
Finding the studio location is a bit of a challenge as it is set back in the interior of the Riverwalk area so walking to the Studio is not advisable. However, they do provide complimentary shuttle pick up and drop off from various downtown locations so all you have to do is call them ahead of time (or inquire at your hotel’s concierge) to arrange for a pick up.
Once you finish the tour and leave from there, I recommend a visit to The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, situated not too far from the studio location along the Port of New Orleans. Why? Because of Louisiana’s generous TAX FREE SHOPPING that all Canadians can take advantage of. Twice the selection from up here and TAX FREE! Now THAT is what us Canadians like to truly call a DOUBLE-DOUBLE (with all due respect to Tim Hortons) WHOPPER (all due respects to Burger King).
Don’t believe it. Here is proof – Louisiana Tax Free Shopping.
Acknowledgement: This visit was part of a media tour arranged by New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. All comments are my own.