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Feathers, Glitter, and Beads: Unleashing the LGBTQ+ Magic of Mardi Gras

Travel Tips | Mike Sheridan | February 6, 2024

Mardi Gras is the Super Bowl of parties. It’s where you polish your beads, fluff your feathers, and let your rainbow flag fly higher than a twink on K at their first circuit party. The big event is coming up next week on Fat Tuesday (February 13). So, grab a slice of King Cake, slip on your sparkliest heels, and immerse yourself in the vibrant heart of New Orleans with our insider’s guide to the ultimate must-dos for Mardi Gras.

Whether you’re a seasoned reveler or a curious first-timer, these tips will catapult you into the rainbow-decked world of Mardi Gras.

Glitter Up Your Schedule: Must-Dos for Mardi Gras

1. Attend a Fabulous Mardi Gras Ball

The importance of a good first impression is totally overrated—unless you’re at a Mardi Gras ball. It’s like the Oscars, but with more plumage. Costumes aren’t just welcomed; they’re required. But this isn’t about fetching your run-of-the-mill tuxedo — think Cinderella mid-makeover. These balls are the epitome of over-the-top fabulousness, with queens and kings ruling the roost. Two queer krewes that sell tickets to the public are Armeinius and Lords of Leather.

2. Wear Outrageous Costumes

When we say “outrageous,” we mean it’s spangly, and if a strand of beads doesn’t get tangled in it, are you even doing Mardi Gras right? This is the perfect time to unleash your inner unicorn with Technicolor ponies galore. Think feathers, think boas, think so much glitter that even the disco ball gets a little insecure.

3. Catch Beads in the French Quarter

Okay, this isn’t just about cocking your wrist and hoping for the best throw from a float (though that’s part of it). This is an art form. You catch beads with skill and determination, and probably a little bit of elbow-flicking, Mardi Gras magic. It’s an hourglass-running-out-of-time level quest. Do you have what it takes to amass the biggest, baddest bead cache of them all?

4. Dance at NOLA’s Biggest Gay Clubs

Step into Oz or Bourbon Pub & Parade, and you might as well be stepping into a Davie Bowie music video — or, at least, that one episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. During Mardi Gras, these haunts are like the genie’s lamp — you rub them, and you’re granted three wishes. Just be sure you’re specific about your wishes; dancing on the bar could certainly be one of them.

5. Taste King Cake

This is the closest you’ll get to eating a crown. King Cake is a delightful and colorful pastry that’s as much a part of Mardi Gras as glitter is to a drag queen’s makeup bag. It’s not just a taste; it’s tradition. Biting into it, you might even become the ruler of party-planning.

6. Participate in the Bourbon Street Awards

Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras is like a sugar rush for all the senses. It’s the rainbow-decked sorbet between the folds of rich, cultural cuisine. Expect a kaleidoscope of people, music, and, uhm, things that you wouldn’t want your granny to see. And the annual costume contest on Dauphine and St. Ann streets is for anyone who wants to participate, but prizes are awarded for Best Drag, Best Group, Best Leather, and Best Overall Costume. Plus, you’ll get to see many of the costumes from the Gay Balls if you missed them.

7. Explore LGBTQ+ History

Catch the buzz of Mardi Gras from the epic views at Cafe Lafitte in Exile, where history and high spirits collide high above Bourbon Street. This legendary spot isn’t just great for a cheeky cocktail — it’s where the spirits meet (read: haunted). And if hunger creeps in, hit up Clover Grill, a greasy spoon right across the way. This is not just a joint, but a love letter to the local rainbow squad with Brad Pitt even dining here once.

Street performers in New Orleans

8. Document the Experience: An Absoulte Must-do for Mardi Gras

You’re about to live a rainbow, and the world needs to see it. Your social media feeds are like a lively parade on the streets, spreading joy and fabulousness with every pixel. So snap away, and make every post a float in the flamboyant fleet of your life.

There you have it, queens — must-dos for Mardi Gras. Pack feathers, glitter, and your best “pour some confetti on me” attitude — New Orleans is waiting. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

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And let’s be honest, that’s pretty darn gay.

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