Wait! Don’t stash your spirit of revelry in the attic just yet. Mardi Gras isn’t over, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate from parades to balls this March. Even once the festivities end on March 5, Lent can’t keep the city down for long. From parades celebrating holy men (St. Patrick and St. Joseph), to opportunities for letting loose and dancing (BUKU Music + Art Project and Super Sunday), to, let’s admit it, eating (snowballs, seafood, Top Taco, and Hogs for the Cause), March in New Orleans is anything but dull. Below is our roundup of just some of the many local happenings and things to do that are sure to leave you filled with memorable times with family, friends, significant others, or even good, solo time with yourself.
1. Revel in Carnival parades
This year, the first weekend of March will be consumed with some of Carnival’s largest and most elaborate parades. Arrive early to the St. Charles Avenue parade route to stake out a piece of land (are you sidewalk side or neutral ground side?). Three parades roll back-to-back on the evening of Fri., March 1: Hermes (6:00 p.m.), Krewe d’Etat (6:30 p.m.), and Morpheus (7:00 p.m.). Sat., March 2 features the ladies of Iris (11:00 a.m.) and the Krewe of Tucks (11:00 a.m.), known for its toilet humor. Switch up the location for Endymion (4:15 p.m.), a Mid-City parade, though part of the route also extends downtown. Sun., March 3 is a full day with Okeanos (11:00 a.m.), Mid-City (11:45 a.m.), Thoth (12:00 p.m.), and Bacchus (5:15 p.m.) rolling Uptown. Mon., March 4, known as Lundi Gras, has two night parades, Proteus (5:15 p.m.) and Orpheus (6:00 p.m.). Then, there’s Zulu (8:00 a.m.) and Rex (10:00 a.m.) on Mardi Gras Day (Tues., March 5) – happy Carnival!
2. Dance at a Mardi Gras Ball
The counterparts to Mardi Gras parades are Carnival balls, which can require formal tuxedo or tails or can be full-on costume. Many old school carnival organizations have private, invitation-only debutante balls behind closed doors, but a growing number of organizations are hosting less formal events open to the public. Several organizations host balls where the parade literally rolls into the party, followed by big-name musicians to carry on into the wee hours: Endymion Extravaganza (Sat., March 2) and Orpheuscapade (Mon., March 4), among others. The Krewe of Armeinius, part of the Gay Mardi Gras scene, recently opened its Bal Masque (Sat., March 2) to the public. Though an affair that requires formal attire, exotic costumes abound during the tableau, or presentation.
3. Costume with strangers on Mardi Gras Day
Carnival season lasts from Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) until Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras Day (Tues., March 5), though just the final day of the glorious season, is an almost sacred holiday in New Orleans. For many locals, this means early morning parades Zulu (8:00 a.m.) and Rex (10:00 a.m.). For others, it means donning flamboyant, oftentimes handmade, costumes and convening with neighbors, friends, and strangers in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods for what is essentially a very lively bar crawl and street party. The Society of Saint Anne is the most well-known of the Mardi Gras day walking group. If you somehow have managed to remain awake past, say, 8:00 p.m., head over to Bourbon Street to watch the midnight sweep in which local law enforcement symbolically ends Mardi Gras.
4. Cheer on some Weenies at the Fair Grounds
If you were expecting just horse racing at the track, you are in for a treat. The sixth annual Wiener Dog Racing competition takes place on March 9 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. Each year, a collection of 48 intrepid purebred dachshunds (plus six alternates) compete for cash prizes. Dogs are divided into four semi-final heats with twelve dogs each. The first, second, and third place wieners of each heat will then compete for the championship in the final race. Ever seen a bunch of wiener dogs run? It is sure to warm your heart. General admission is $5, with clubhouse admission at $10. Children twelve and younger are free.
5. Fill up on tacos at Top Taco
Top Taco returns for its third year celebrating its namesake, the taco. The festival takes place March 14 at Woldenberg Park, and admission includes unlimited sampling of tacos and signature cocktails from participating restaurants like Araña, Baru, Central City BBQ, El Pavo Real, La Casita, Pêche, and more. Top Taco will benefit Foster NOLA, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in the city’s foster care system as they transition into adulthood.
6. Slurp up a snowball
With spring right around the corner, seasonal snowball shops around town reopen their doors (or windows) after a hibernation lasting from November through February. Even though you can still find snowballs during off-season, traditionalists enjoy saving these special treats for the warmer months. Locals are quite loyal to their favorite snowball stands, most of them part of the neighborhood fabric (like Hansen’s and Plum Street Snowballs). Bring some cash to your favorite snowball stand and order one of the dozens of flavors. Popular flavors include strawberry and bubble gum, but more complex flavors are emerging (my current favorite is Pandora’s praline cream with condensed milk).
7. Wear green for St. Patrick’s Day
Just when you thought you would have to wait another year to revel at a parade, St. Patrick’s Day festivities roll onto the scene. In New Orleans, the biggest celebrations are the weekend of March 15-17 and include block parties at Parasol’s and Tracy’s in the Irish Channel (March 16), as well as parades: catch throws like cabbage and Irish Spring soap at the Irish Channel parade (March 16 at 1:30 p.m.), or sip a frozen Irish coffee during the Molly’s at the Market Irish Parade (March 15 at 6:00 p.m.). The Downtown Irish Club, a marching club, works its way from Markey’s and Bud Rip’s in the Bywater to the French Quarter starting at 6:00 p.m. on Sun., March 17.
8. Sip a good drink at the Bourbon Festival
If you can appreciate a fine bourbon and are searching for a sophisticated evening out, the third annual New Orleans Bourbon Festival from March 20-23 might be up your alley. In addition to tastings in an environment reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy, the festival offers a seminar component, with sessions on topics like Bourbon History, Master Distiller Talks, and Women in Bourbon; grand tastings, bourbon pairing dinners; and burlesque with Trixie Minx.
9. Lose yourself at BUKU Music + Art Project
Better known as BUKU, the BUKU Music + Art Project is a music festival with an underground/house party vibe. Dozens of musicians, particularly within the EDM, hip-hop, and indie rock genres, take to the stages on March 22 and 23 for a weekend of crazy dancing and fun. This year’s lineup includes Lana Del Rey, Dog Blood (Skrillex X Boys Noise), the Black Madonna, Denzel Curry, Dashboard Confessional, Excision, and Earthgang, among many others. In addition, the festival will host art exhibits and pop-up street performers. Festival events take place in the Lower Garden District.
10. Get your fava bean at the St. Joseph’s Day parade
According to legend, in the Middle Ages, Sicily was afflicted by a drought. Desperate, citizens prayed to St. Joseph, their patron saint, for rain. During this difficult time, the people were sustained by the fava bean, and, once the rains came and the drought ended, they promised to give thanks each year on the Feast of St. Joseph. That mythology and tradition traveled to New Orleans with Sicilian immigrants in the mid-1800s. Today’s local celebrations of St. Joseph’s Day come in the form of a parade as well as altars in Catholic churches and homes across the city (many open to the public). The annual parade, put on by the Italian-American St. Joseph’s Society, begins at 6:00 p.m. on March 23 (though St. Joseph’s Day is actually March 19) at the intersection of Convention Center Boulevard and Girod Street and winds through the French Quarter. Catch a kiss, if you want it, or a lucky fava bean, from a marching man in a tuxedo.
11. Celebrate the Super Sunday tradition
Feathered and sequined, “gangs” of Mardi Gras Indians will take to the streets on Sun., March 17, for their most important day of the year— Super Sunday. Mardi Gras Indians, a subculture of local Carnival traditions that emerged amidst racial tensions in the 1800s, today are a cherished part of the city’s living heritage. The largest and most popular celebration, put on by the Mardi Gras Indian Council, takes place in Central City, beginning around noon at A.L. Davis Park on the corner of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street. At Super Sunday, observe the intricate handmade costumes that the Indians spend all year working on and dance to music in the street. As a sign of respect, only take photos of the Indians if they give you permission.
12. Indulge in Seafood during Lent
Ash Wednesday (March 6) is the start of Lent, the solemn period when Catholics divest themselves of excess. As part of Lenten observance, Catholics fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, often opting for seafood. In New Orleans, this may or may not be considered a hardship because our seafood is seasoned to perfection and world-renowned. Either way, take the opportunity during March to eat out at one of the many local seafood establishments like Casamento’s, Frankie and Johnny’s, GW Fins, or Pêche. Alternatively, grab a fried shrimp or oyster po-boy at one of the many po-boy shops around town. Or, get real casual and enjoy a platter of crawfish (do as the locals do and suck the heads) at a neighborhood bar like Markey’s or Mid City Yacht Club.
13. Shout at the Tennessee Williams Festival
Ever heard a bunch of grown men and women desperately shouting “Stella!” in Jackson Square? That is part of the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, now in its 33rd year, scheduled for March 27-31. A celebration of the life and works of playwright Tennessee Williams, best known for his play A Streetcar Named Desire from which the “Stella!” shouting competition stems, the 2019 festival will includes writer’s craft sessions, panel discussions, celebrity interviews, theater, food, and music events, walking tours, a book fair, and more.
14. Eat up at Hogs for the Cause
Meat-lovers, look no further than the annual Hogs for the Cause to indulge your cravings. A festival designed to raise money to support research on pediatric brain cancer, Hogs has quickly become a local favorite. Scheduled for March 29-30, the festival is centered around a friendly competition among barbecue chefs. Each year, 85 local and regional barbecue chefs, professional and not, compete in seven categories: Whole Hog, Ribs, Pork Butt/Shoulder, Porkpourri, Sauce, Fan Favorite, and Fundraising Champion. The barbecue is complimented by local beer and live music. This year’s performers include Dumpstaphunk w/ George Porter, Jr., Samantha Fish, Lost Bayou Ramblers, and Hot 8 Brass Band.
15. Awe at local church architecture
Religious or not, Lent is a perfect time to visit some of New Orleans’ historic churches and other religious buildings. Due to its French and Spanish (and then French again) colonial past, New Orleans was and still is a very Catholic city. As neighborhoods around the city developed and expanded, churches were built to serve the Catholic populations of those areas. Many churches, like Immaculate Conception, St. Augustine, and Holy Name of Jesus are still active places of worship. However, as the composition of neighborhoods has changed, some churches have inevitably fallen out of use religiously but have been restored for other purposes. The Marigny Opera House and Felicity Church are two such examples.