Mardi Gras season is a celebration for everyone, and this tour is a perfect opportunity to experience the festival at its cultural heart.. Before celebrating on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, learn about the traditions behind the celebration: the krewes, king cake, throwing of the beads and more.. By day, drive through the Creole Nature trails sighting marsh wildlife, and by night, dance on a parade float in Lake Charles.. Experience the heart of Cajun country in Lafayette, with good food, swamp adventures and warm Southern hospitality.
Get ready for a colourful celebration: it’s time for Mardi Gras down South! Southwest Louisiana knows how to party, and this is the perfect excuse to experience the carnival atmosphere of one of the largest festivals on earth. You’ll tour smaller towns to learn the traditions of Mardi Gras, and finish in New Orleans for a knock-out party on Fat Tuesday. This 9-day adventure covers the highlights of Louisiana food, culture and hospitality with a focus on the Mardi Gras festival, so become part of a krewe, join in the traditional bead throw, dress in yellow, green and purple and experience how fun Mardi Gras can be in the US of A.
Breakfast Included: 8 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included:
Welcome to southern USA! Arrive in Houston, Texas and attend the welcome meeting at 6 pm to meet your group leader and fellow travellers. Depending on your time of arrival, check out the Museum District, head to Montrose Street for a range of eateries and specialty stores, or take a stroll in one of the city parks, like Discovery Green or Buffalo Bayou.
Head out of Texas and into Louisiana on a 2-hour drive to Lake Charles. Just outside the city is the 650 square metre (7000 square foot) Flock of Five Gift and Art Emporium, where you can purchase unique hand-crafted wares from local artisans. Art, jewellery, jams, coffee, collectibles, soaps… You name it, they’ve probably got it. In the afternoon, take a visit to the city’s Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, which houses the largest Mardi Gras costume display in the world. You’ll learn about the history of the festival, costume design, the marvel of Twelfth Night and the Royal Gala. The exhibition also showcases a complete parade display, including a float you can climb aboard! Then, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in decorating your own ‘king cake’ – a dessert made in the carnival colours of green, yellow and purple. While talking about the cake’s tradition, enjoy a coffee and take a slice, keeping your eye out for the prized baby figurine inside. In the evening, head to state-of-the-art Crying Eagle Brewery for a tour and flight tasting. The brewery features a custom built 30-barrel brewhouse offering their popular beers and some taproom-exclusive brews. To see out the evening, head to the Lake Charles lakefront and find a vantage point to watch the lighted boat parade.
Experience Louisiana nature and wildlife on a morning tour of the Creole Nature Trail. This is a guided adventure on one of few designated roads in the USA that journeys into untamed wilderness. Right from the vehicle you could see alligators, waterfowl and other marsh wildlife in their natural habitat. Along the way, there will also be opportunities to go on the trail by foot. Included in your tour is a down-home seafood lunch, where you’ll eat local gumbo and Louisiana seafood. Tuck into the delicious food with your hands – the true Louisiana way. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon before preparing for Lake Charles’ Mardi Gras celebrations with a visit to pick up some gear at the Party Time Store – beads, tutus and even tiaras (if that takes your fancy). Tonight, it’s time to put on your colourful outfits and ride a float through the centre of town, dancing the night away and throwing beads into the crowd.
Have you ever wondered where Tabasco comes from? Time to take a visit to Avery Island: the condiment’s home. Complete a self-guided tour of the Tabasco factory, grab yourself a bite of lunch and learn how to make your own Bloody Mary. Then, head to Lafayette on an easy 1-hour drive. Tonight, you’ll have the chance to watch the Mardi Gras festivities off the float and from the crowd, with a ‘Krewe of Bonaparte’ VIP experience for the parade. Have preferential seating and sample authentic festival food and drink, and this time, catch the beads from the floats instead of throwing them!
Learn more about the culture of Mardi Gras today with a Lafayette local, taking a class to make your own mask and capuchon (cone-shaped ceremonial hat). Head to Martin’s Accordions, where you’ll learn about the rich history of Cajun and Zydeco music and hold some of the traditional instruments, like the Cajun triangle, accordion and Zydeco Rubboard. To listen to some of these instruments in action, check out the Blue Moon Saloon later on for a foot-tapping night of live music.
Lundi Gras (or Fat Monday) has arrived. Head to Jefferson Parish, approximately a 2-hour drive from Lafayette. A Parish is Louisiana’s answer to what most other USA states call counties, and Jefferson is a parish that covers a thin strip of south-eastern Louisiana, including part of greater New Orleans. Travel to Kenner and take part in a traditional meeting of the royal courts of the krewes of Argus and Zulu. This gathering occurs each year the day before Mardi Gras and is a great way to get into the carnival spirit. The Lundi Gras festivities begin in Rivertown with a parade following the Mississippi River, ending up at a free party with live music, food and craft vendors. In the evening, head to Gretna on the south side of the Mississippi River for the night’s celebrations. Their Lundi Gras festival is free and open to the public with music and dancing.
New Orleans / Jefferson Parish
The big day has is here! Time to gravitate to the centre of all the celebrations and enjoy Mardi Gras in Downtown New Orleans. Tonight is a spectacular culmination of all of your Mardi Gras celebrations of the week, and in New Orleans, you’ll feel the infectious atmosphere that is sure to impress even the most seasoned party animal. It’s Fat Tuesday, and it’s time to dance.
Don’t let the post Mardi Gras blues set in too quickly, because there’s so much to see and do in New Orleans. The Big Easy is an intersection of jazz and blues music, French architecture, rich history and delicious food. Perhaps book yourself on a river steamboat jazz dinner cruise or take a cemetery tour of the spookiest plots in Louisiana. One thing is for sure though, New Orleans is not complete without experiencing street side music all over the city. One such venue that offers the real deal is Preservation Hall – an unconventional concert hall serving up fine jazz and blues music from well-known professionals. It may be a long line out the front, but once you’re inside and sitting on a stack of cushions, you’ll lose track of time and appreciate how soothing and enjoyable music can be.
With no activities or accommodation planned for the day, The Big Easy is all yours to explore. New Orleans is a place where you could spend a number of days visiting and still not get bored. Perhaps check out an Urban Adventure tour to make the most of your time like the French Quarter Food Tour, where you will discover the range of flavours which make up New Orleans’ Creole and Cajun cuisine (see urbanadventures.com/destination/New-Orleans-tours).