Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Mardi Gras Parades in Metairie, LA

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Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Mardi Gras Parades in Metairie, LA

Mardi Gras Parades in Metairie (a city in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana) are known as “Family Gras” parades. They offer a unique and family-friendly twist on the traditional festivities of this iconic celebration. Located just outside of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish has become a must-visit destination for Mardi Gras enthusiasts of all ages.

I was thrilled to be invited to join the team from Jefferson Parish and experience my very first Mardi Gras. We partied, danced, attended social gatherings, met Krewes, caught throws, and even rode on a float! I was overwhelmed by this fantastic experience, so I put together this handy guide for the next newcomer to get the most from their visit to Jefferson Parish and the unique celebration that happens there annually.

A Family-Friendly Celebration

Unlike the wild and raucous reputation of Mardi Gras in some areas, Family Gras in Jefferson Parish is renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere. When my husband learned I’d be going to Mardi Gras, he was a little worried that I’d be flashing my girls to catch beads. As legend has it, that’s a thing during Mardi Gras. But he had nothing to worry about. Jefferson Parish officials would be as shocked as I was to hear of that happening.

The Family Gras Festival

The celebration begins with the Family Gras Festival, a family-friendly and FREE event filled with the excitement of local cuisine, art, a kids’ court, and an outdoor concert series featuring national and Louisiana artists. Past performances have included acts like The Beach Boys, Brett Eldredge, Cyndi Lauper, Martina McBride, Amy Grant, and many more.

Explore the Art Market for Louisiana photography and hand-crafted jewelry while kids enjoy face painting, hand-wax art, and games in the Kids’ Court. Indulge in festival favorites like shrimp po-boys, chicken andouille gumbo, and crawfish mac-n-cheese from one of the food vendors.

This celebration provides a safe and welcoming environment for families to join in the excitement of Mardi Gras without the late-night revelry often associated with other locations. Family Gras offers a variety of entertainment options suitable for people of all ages, making it an ideal choice for those experiencing Mardi Gras for the first time or looking to experience the spirit of Mardi Gras in a wholesome and inclusive setting.

Why Mardi Gras Parades in Metairie are a Must-Visit

Rich Tradition: Jefferson Parish boasts a history and tradition of Mardi Gras celebrations dating back decades. The parades, parties, and events are deeply ingrained in the community, offering visitors an authentic experience.
Eye-Popping Parades: The parades in Jefferson Parish feature an eye-popping array of floats, costumes, and themes, showcasing the creativity and spirit of the local Krewes. Each parade is a visual feast for spectators, from elaborate floats to intricately designed costumes.
Family-Oriented Activities: In addition to the family-friendly parades, Family Gras offers a wide range of activities and entertainment suitable for all ages. From face painting and mask-making to live music performances, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Accessible Viewing: Jefferson Parish provides excellent viewing opportunities for the parades, with designated family areas that offer a prime spot to catch the action. I love that these areas accommodate families with young children. We spotted many kids and families having a great and safe time at several parades.
Warm Hospitality: Visitors to Jefferson Parish during Mardi Gras can expect warm hospitality and a welcoming atmosphere. The local community takes pride in sharing their traditions and culture with visitors, and you know this Hip Grandma was making friends everywhere I went by asking questions and chatting up the locals!

Whether you’re a Mardi Gras enthusiast looking for a family-friendly celebration or a first-time visitor eager to experience the magic of Mardi Gras in a safe and toned-down way, Jefferson Parish offers a memorable and welcoming experience.

Watching Parades Leading Up to the Big Day

In Jefferson Parish, the excitement of Mardi Gras begins well before the actual day with a series of lively parades. These pre-Mardi Gras parades offer a fantastic opportunity to jump into the festivities, catch throws from passing floats, and, if you’re like me, meet a few new people who are gathered with you to enjoy the spectacle.

Overview of the Parade Schedule & Best Viewing Spots

The parade schedule in Jefferson Parish typically kicks off a week or two before Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day). Parades occur on different days, but most follow the Metairie Parade Route. Depending on the parade, traffic heads down Veterans Boulevard in two directions, sometimes beginning on Bonnabel Blvd and ending on Clearview Parkway near the Clearview Shopping Center, or completely reversed.

Whether the parade uses the Westbound or Eastbound Route doesn’t make much of a difference for those watching the parade, but it can make a difference if you’re trying to zip out quickly after the parade. I know this from attending my hometown Tulip Time parades each spring in Holland, Michigan.

The iconic Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Jefferson Parish is a popular spot for viewing parades along the Metairie Westbound Route or Eastbound Route. It offers ample space along the wide median (the “neutral side”) for spectators to set up chairs and blankets. Plus, many restaurants and businesses along this route offer prime viewing spots. Choose a spot at the intersection of Veterans Boulevard and Severn Ave. for the most action! Look for this intersection right near the Lakeside Shopping Center.

Check out the intersection of Bonnabel Blvd. and Veterans Memorial Blvd for another favorite parade-watching location. This picturesque setting is lined with oak trees and is a shaded, family-friendly environment. The parade takes a turn and heads down Bonnabel Blvd, and then turns near Nero Street, which makes this another excellent corner for parade watching.

Overview of the Krewes of Jefferson Parish

Various krewes in Jefferson Parish host the many parades leading up to Mardi Gras. Each krewe has a unique parade theme, costumes, and floats, adding to the diversity and excitement of the pre-Mardi Gras celebrations.

Krewe of Argus: Argus has been rolling through Metairie on Fat Tuesday since 1974. Argus’ inspiration is the 100-eyed giant of Greek mythology, whose eyes became the peacock’s tail. The peacock represents this family-oriented krewe, which includes 450 riders of all ages.

  • Krewe of Argus: Argus has been rolling through Metairie on Fat Tuesday since 1974. Argus’ inspiration is the 100-eyed giant of Greek mythology, whose eyes became the peacock’s tail. The peacock represents this family-oriented krewe, which includes 450 riders of all ages.
  • Krewe of Athena the Krewe of Athena Carnival Club, Inc. honors the Greek goddess Athena, symbolizing wisdom, war, and fine craftsmanship. Founded as a Carnival group for professional women of varied backgrounds, the Krewe’s signature throw is hand-decorated fedoras.
  • Krewe of Atlas: This co-ed Krewe takes its name from the Greek mythological figure condemned to support the heavens forever.
  • Krewe of Centurions: This 350-member co-ed krewe, named after Roman legion leaders, usually features over 20 floats. Keep an eye out for their signature hand-decorated swords.
  • Krewe of ExcaliburThis co-ed Krewe, a fixture in Metairie, featured an exciting opportunity for parade watchers in 2024. Five lucky individuals would catch one of the coveted golden shields thrown out during the procession and ride in next year’s parade.
  • Krewe of Isis: This Krewe, comprised of over 200 women, is renowned for its Egyptian-themed procession featuring marching bands, dance teams, and elegantly dressed maids. It is also known for its specialty throws, including intricately decorated bras supporting breast cancer charities.
  • Krewe of Jefferson (trucks): The Krewe of Jefferson, established in 1972, hosts the oldest truck parade in Jefferson Parish and features both adults and children among its members. Unlike traditional floats, the truck floats in Metairie Mardi Gras parades offer a close-up view of their elaborate decorations and intricate designs.
  • The Magical Krewe of Mad Hatters: This new co-ed Family-friendly Krewe welcomes all ages and even boasts a few local celebrities among its members. Look for the Magical Krewe of Madhatters’ signature throw of plush hats.
  • Mystic Krewe of Music: Inspired by New Orleans’ unique musical culture, this Krewe throws a musical pillow to lucky parade watchers.
  • Krewe of Nandi: The female Krewe of Nandi is named for the Queen Mother of the Zulu Nation and is open to women aged 21 and older. This Krewe promotes self-love, empowerment, sisterhood, and community service. Their signature throw is hand-decorated teacups.
  • Krewe of Symphony: This all-male Krewe is devoted to a brotherhood of inclusivity, beauty, brilliance, and civic-mindedness.

Lundi Gras is a modern name for the events that happen on Shrove Monday before
Fat Tuesday. In Jefferson Parish, Lundi Gras includes the ceremonial meeting of the Argus Krewe and the New Orleans-based Zulu Krewe.

Importance of Reserving Your Space

As the parade routes can get crowded, it’s a good idea to reserve your space early by placing chairs or blankets along the route. If you prefer a more exclusive and comfortable experience, consider reserving a private box in advance. These boxes are in high demand during Mardi Gras season, so early booking is recommended. A bonus of the box is that you can see the parade pass by from a different view, up high!

A crowd of people reserving their spaces along the parade route for the Argus Parade in Jefferson Parish LA
I had never seen these ladder seats that allow kids to sit high enough to catch the goods! Look at all the people setting up getting ready for the parade.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Parade Experience

Plan to arrive at least an hour or two before the parade starts, allowing you to set up your chairs or blankets and settle before the festivities begin.

While there are food vendors along the Veterans Memorial Boulevard route, bringing your own snacks and drinks ensures you have something to munch on during the parade. Just be sure to dispose of trash responsibly.

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One of the highlights of Mardi Gras parades is catching throws from the float riders. Stay alert! Items will come at you from all directions as riders toss, throw, and chuck a dazzling array of goodies. Some of the most common throws are Moon Pies, colorful toys, light-up balls and gadgets, beaded necklaces in all sizes, packaged food items, and even plastic cups. Locals call their collection of annual cups “fine china” and gather stacks of them over the years. Make eye contact, smile, and shout to increase your chances of catching beads, toys, and other goodies.

Mardi Gras is full of joy, celebration, and camaraderie. Don’t be afraid to dance, sing along to the music, and enjoy the excitement with fellow spectators. It’s a time to let loose and have fun!

Need A Place to Stay?

If you are in the New Orleans area and looking for a place to stay, check out the map below for accommodation options.

What to Pack for Watching a Family Gras Parade

Watching a Mardi Gras parade in Jefferson Parish is so much fun, but coming prepared is important. Here’s a list of essential items to pack for your parade-watching adventure:

  • Snacks and Drinks: Pack easy-to-carry snacks such as granola bars, chips, trail mix, or sandwiches. Bring water or your favorite beverages in a reusable bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Sunscreen and Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen before heading out to the parade. Bring a sun hat and sunglasses for added protection.
  • Appropriate Clothing: Dress in layers according to the weather. Wear comfortable shoes for standing or walking.
  • Bag or Backpack: Bring a tote bag or backpack to hold all your parade goodies, including throws caught from the floats. Consider a trash bag for disposing of wrappers or trash.
  • Camera or Phone: Capture the colorful floats and memorable moments with your camera or smartphone.

Experience the magic of Family Gras in Jefferson Parish at one of the many cheerful parades. The entire area comes alive with music, décor, and the thrill of catching Moon Pies, toys, and beaded necklaces fill the air. Family Gras embodies community, culture, and the joy of togetherness. You will make cherished memories, whether dancing to the marching bands or savoring some local cuisine. Pack your snacks and sunscreen and prepare for a blend of tradition and modern revelry at Family Gras—a celebration of Louisiana spirit you won’t want to miss.

To plan your visit, check the official Metairie Mardi Gras Parade Schedule for dates, times, and parade routes.  Oh!  And Happy Mardi Gras!

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