While many claim to have a favorite Mardi Gras parade, whether its small or big, day or night, everyone can agree on what the main events of Mardi Gras are. These five parades are the most prestigious and the most sought after, and with good reason. Most of the parades on the list have seen Carnival through almost its entire lifespan and besides being the grandest in size and stature, they have the magnetism of star studded royalty.
1. Rex – Rex, the ruling Mardi Gras parade, is a display of ultimate cultural preservation in New Orleans. The Rex Organization was founded in 1872 and carries on its original traditions, like its official song “If Ever I Cease To Love You” and colors that Carnival as an entity adopted – purple, green and gold. One of the most recent additions to the parade indicating its commitment to tradition are the gold doubloons that were introduced in 1960. Rex rolls at 10 a.m. on Feb. 12 along the uptown route.
2. Zulu – ZULU may have the most allure of any Mardi Gras parade because of its definitive costumes and float designs and especially the generations of history encapsulated in the procession. ZULU, named for the brutal African tribe, has origins traced back to 1909. The most famous ZULU royalty to ride in the parade was Louis Armstrong in 1949. The thought of waking up early on Mardi Gras Day after an inevitably late night on Lundi Gras to see ZULU which rolls at 8 a.m. sounds like a daunting feat, but it’s worth it. ZULU is the manifestation of New Orleans and African history in the form of spirited parade floats and riders and not to mention has the most coveted throw of Mardi Gras: the ZULU coconut.
3. Bacchus – Bacchus is the most Hollywood of all Mardi Gras parades. Not in a they-sold-their-soul kind of way, but in their affinity for celebrity kings kind of way. The Krewe of Bacchus has proved to be the innovator of Mardi Gras, being the first to institute new parading traditions, like introducing celebrity royalty in 1968. Bacchus is also one of three super krewes, exhibiting gargauntuan and painstakingly detailed floats. Because Bacchus is named after the Greek God of wine, the king each year embodies him, enjoying the fermented fruit of his labors. Literally. Because the king this year is none other than Ron Burgundy himself, we predict the jolly, red-cheeked Will Ferrell could be the most amusing Bacchus to date. Bacchus rolls on Feb. 10 at 5:00 p.m. on its uptown route.
4. Endymion – Endymion is all glitz and glamour this year, presenting Maroon 5 and Anderson Cooper as celebrity guests. Endymion is quite the brawny parade as it symbolizes the most handsome of men and the god of youth and fertility in Greek mythology. Endymion is also a super krewe, showcasing some of the best floats of Mardi Gras. The king of Endymion this year is New Orleans resident George LaFargue. Endymion rolls Saturday, Feb. 9 on its regular Mid-City route at 4:00 in the afternoon.
5. Orpheus – The Krewe of Orpheus is the newest of this group of Mardi Gras parades, formed in 1993, which is quite recent considering Carnival’s long history. Orpheus rolls on Lundi Gras, or the Monday before Mardi Gras, only second to Fat Tuesday as the wildest party day. Orpheus has grown to be the largest krewe of the last 30 years. Orpheus is the last of the Mardi Gras super krewes, and will sure to debut some epic floats this year. Orpheus rolls at 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 11 along its uptown route.
This post has been updated to reflect the correct 2013 parade dates and times.