New Orleans
Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Learn the story of Mardi Gras in the city that celebrates it best, New Orleans, where you’ll witness grand parades, enjoy expert lectures and revel in this festive tradition.
Rating (5)
Program No. 13229RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
4 B 4 L 4 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Inter-Continental

Afternoon: HOTEL CHECK-IN: From 4:00pm. PROGRAM REGISTRATION: From 2-4 pm. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar desk in the lobby and register with the program staff from 2-4pm. ORIENTATION: 4:00 pm. Join your fellow participants in our private meeting room at the hotel. You'll have an overview of this exciting program and an opportunity to meet your fellow participants during an introductory get-acquainted session. We'll review the up-to-date schedule and any changes, responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and have Q&A. (If you arrive late, please pick up your packet at the hotel front desk.) That's the standard portion of orientation. You'll also start learning right away why New Orleans is a city of celebration. No doubt you've heard the Mardi Gras mantra, "Throw me somethin' mister!" Different krewes (you'll learn what that means) throw different "stuff" from beads, doubloons, and other trinkets to moon pies and a few things that might surprise you! (WWEWUGH -- we'll explain when you get here.) Catching these coveted throws are signs of your skill, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. You'll learn real fast, we promise!

Dinner: Enjoy an early dinner at the hotel this evening and continue making new friends.

Evening: PARADES! The best way to comprehend the spirit of Mardi Gras is to see it in action, and the field trips literally come to you in the form of parades. Each "krewe" that parades is a social club representing a different slice of the community. As you become involved in the parades and learn about the krewes, you'll begin to comprehend why and how New Orleans became America's city of celebration. The festivities begin with the parades of three popular krewes: Hermes, Krewe d'Etat, and Morpheus. Founded in 1937, the Knights of Hermes take their name from the Greek mythos of the winged courier of the gods. The Krewe of Hermes is formed by 500 male riders, and the captain leads the procession in full regalia on a white horse. Hermes was the first to use neon lighting for its floats in 1938. Krewe d'Etat began in 1996. They satirize public figures and news events, one of the more fun parades. The Krewe of Morpheus, established in 2000, is named for the god of dreams. Morpheus strives to be both inclusive in membership as well as provide parade goers an "old-school" parade experience.

History of Mardi Gras, Parades of Iris, Tucks, and Endymion
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Inter-Continental

Breakfast: Continental breakfast in the hotel.

Morning: CITY OVERVIEW with instructor aboard motorcoach followed by PRESENTATION: The History of Mardi Gras. It goes back to at least 1699 in France and even further if you consider those crazy Romans. Learn about the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, his visit to New Orleans, and the song written in his honor, "If Ever I Cease to Love."

Lunch: Lunch is in the hotel for your comfort and convenience.

Afternoon: MORE PARADES! The Krewes of Iris and Tucks. Iris, organized in 1917, maintains a unique identity as the oldest and largest all-female parading krewe in Carnival history. Named for the Goddess of the Rainbow and Messenger to the Gods, the Krewe of Iris sticks to strict Carnival traditions wearing full length masks and white gloves. There are 32 floats with 900 riders, 12 equestrian units, and marching bands. Thows include emblem cups, medallion beads, ceramic Iris beads, dolls and doubloons. The Krewe Captain thows her own special doubloon, a popular item each year. The parade of Tucks, known for its irreverence and sense of humor, has grown from a small group of Loyola students driving decorated pick-up trucks into a procession of major proportions. And fortunately, they haven't lost their sense of humor. You'll see what we mean!

Dinner: Early dinner so we can be back in our reserved seats for the biggest krewe's parade: Endymion.

Evening: PARADE! The Krewe of Endymion boasts the largest membership (WWEWUGH) in Mardi Gras history! Its 2,500 members and all-male riders have celebrities as Grand Marshal. Endymion is also notable for its super-sized parade floats. Reigning in 2011 were Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa. Endymion gets its name from the like-named figure of Greek mythology, the most handsome of men and the god of youth.

Royalty Conversations, Brunch, Free Time, Bacchus Parade
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Inter-Continental

Breakfast: Continental Breakfast

Morning: PRESENTATION: The Mardi Gras Indians Marching Clubs and Black Mardi Gras. Carnival krewes are elaborate social clubs, each with its own secrets. The Mardi Gras Indians are as mysterious to outsiders as any other. Although they have paraded for more than a century, theirs is the least known Mardi Gras tradition. These African-American krewes were not named for Greek gods but imaginary Indian tribes. Why? Because it was often local Indians who accepted slaves into their society when they made a break for freedom, and the local black community has never forgotten their support. Each member of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe takes the year before Carnival to make the most elaborate costume possible, investing countless hours and thousands of dollars in an outfit that will be worn only once. When the tribes meet on their marches, it becomes a living theater of art and culture with friendly competition over which costumes are the most glamorous and creative. Each tribe's Big Chief puts on a display amid, songs, chants, and dancing. Learn about the subculture of Spy Boys, Flag Boys, Super Sunday (WWEWUGH) as told by a member of a Mardi Gras Indian tribe.

Lunch: Lunch at BOURBON HOUSE restaurant. Wear your serious eatin' clothes (loosest fitting pants -- you know, the ones with elastic! -- loosest shirt/top, most comfortable shoes) because everything is irresistible. An intense experience!

Afternoon: FREE AFTERNOON: If for some strange reason you want a break from the parades, this is your chance to go exploring on your own. Stroll through the French Quarter, visit the French Market, the flea market, antique shops, see Dutch Alley where masks of all kinds are exhibited and sold, ride a paddlewheeler, listen to street musicians, people watch, or if you're feeling really brave and hedonistic, take that adventurous walk down Bourbon Street (bring your camera to record the sights you won't believe you're seeing). BUT, if you need fresh infusions of the Carnival spirit, there are three parades this afternoon: Okeanos, Mid-City, and Thoth. The Krewe of Okeanos is named for the Greek god of oceans and fertile valleys. They expanded quickly and today the Okeanos parade, notable for its elaborately-costumed captain and king, features more than 250 male and female riders. Unusual for New Orleans krewes, the Queen of Okeanos is selected by lottery at an elegant Coronation Ball. The Krewe of Thoth parade route is designed to pass in front of 14 institutions that care for persons with disabilities and illnesses and thus Thoth -- named for the Egyptian patron of wisdom and the inventor of science -- has become known as the "krewe of the shut-ins." The Krewe of Mid-City is named for the neighborhood where the procession began. Mid-City has earned a reputation for one of the best day parades in all of Carnival. It boasts some of the best marching bands from all over the country with its annual Greatest Bands in America Showcase. The dazzling foil covered floats are the only ones of their type and many say Mid-City rivals the Rose Bowl Parade for sheer beauty.

Dinner: Parade food tonight

Evening: PARADE: Krewe of Bacchus. These "upstarts" revolutionized Carnival by making their celebration open to the public and not just the entrenched New Orleans aristocracy of the day. Appropriately for the Greek god of wine, Bacchus has some of the most spectacular floats in Carnival including its huge signature Bacchasaurus, Bacchawhoppa, and Bacchagator among more than 30 others, along with marching bands, ceremonial escort groups, and national celebrity monarchs. The first was Danny Kaye, followed by such luminaries as Raymond Burr, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Perry Como, Charlton Heston, William Shatner, Billy Crystal, Harry Connick Jr., Dick Clark, Larry King, and Drew Brees to name a few. Bacchus is also known for its generosity, hurling endless amounts of throws to the crowds and consistently delivering thrills each year.

Indians, Mardi Gras World, Palace, Lundi Gras Revelry
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Inter-Continental

Breakfast: Continental Breakfast

Morning: PRESENTATION: Conversations with Royalty. America is the most democratic country in the world but we sure do like to rub shoulders with royals, and nowhere more than in New Orleans. After all, the 1872 inaugural parade of Rex -- King of Carnival -- was in honor of the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia! At home you may be King of the Remote or Queen of the Mall. You may even have one of those embroidered pillows that say "It's good to be the King/Queen!" But now you'll meet New Orleanians who are really and truly Carnival royalty. Hear from former Kings and Queens to learn how they get chosen, what they do during their reign, what they wear, and what those royal robes cost. Discuss all these questions and more. FIELD TRIP: Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World. This is the showcase of carnival. The Kern family and their artisans produce 40 parades annually, creating 75% of the props and floats seen in Carnival as well as many other parades and attractions nationally and internationally. You know it's going to be fun when you arrive and see the larger than life props and sculptures, like stepping into a giant toy. You can even try on authentic costumes with sequined headdresses to feel like that king or queen deep down inside you. And as usual, we can't go anywhere without eating. You'll get to sample King Cake (WWEWUGH) and a cup of rich, hot coffee made the way locals like (can you handle it?). Go behind the scenes from the carpenters to the sculptures to the painters, to the carvers to see Mardi Gras being created before your eyes.

Lunch: Brennan's Palace Café. Savor the authentic flavor of New Orleans cuisine at this lively, upbeat grand café owned and operated by a member of the renowned restaurant family, located in a landmark building on historic Canal Street.

Afternoon: Lots to do this afternoon at LUNDI GRAS -- Monday, the day before Mardi Gras. Enjoy the revelry as it heats up in the French Quarter -- music on the river and much more!

Dinner: Dinner on your own.

Evening: PARADES: Proteus and Orpheus. Founded in 1882, the Krewe of Proteus is the second oldest parading organization (yes, there are some krewes that don't parade but still maintain a presence during Carnival season). Proteus was the first organization to have "call outs" (WWEWUGH) at their tableaux balls. The traditional-styled parade features costumed lieutenants on horseback and flambeaux carriers (yeah, you know, WWEWUGH), reminiscent of processions held in the early days of Carnival. The second parade this evening is Orpheus, founded by native son, Harry Connick, Jr., to give the city a third consecutive night parade in the tradition of Endymion and Bacchus. Founded only recently in 1993, Orpheus takes its name from the musically inclined son of Zeus and Calliope, and established itself as a super-krewe with their first parade that rolled with a record 700 riders! Since then, the mesmerizing Orpheus parade has been one of the most eagerly anticipated, showcasing celebrity monarchs such as Dan Ackroyd, James Brown, Sandra Bullock, Glenn Close, Whoopi Goldberg, Branford Marsalis, Anne Rice, Little Richard, Joan Rivers, Stevie Wonder, and many more. Its signature float is the 139 foot Leviathan, part dragon/part sea-monster.

Mardi Gras Parades, Zulu, Rex, Krewe of Elks, Crescent City
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hotel Inter-Continental

Breakfast: Breakfast Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: MARDI GRAS DAY! PARADE #1: Zulu. Get into the stands early to see the uniquely entertaining parade of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, one of the most eagerly anticipated parades of the season. The membership is composed of men from all walks of life, from laborers to professional people, mayors, councilmen, state legislators, and even U.S. Congressmen. Named after the fiercest of African tribes, Zulu began in the early 19th Century, its Carnival festivities in many ways a parody of white krewes. The first King Zulu was decked out with a lard can crown and a banana stalk scepter, serenaded by Jubilee singers. The parade grew through the years until the most famous Zulu king was none other than Louis Armstrong. Stock characters include Big Shot, Witch Doctor, Province Prince, and Mr. Big Stuff who liven up the crowds. And the most coveted throw in all of Carnival is the Zulu coconut. Painted black and gold, each coconut is elaborately decorated and no two are the same.

Lunch: Buffet lunch in the ballroom.

Afternoon: PARADE #2: Rex, King of Carnival. The Krewe of Rex has defined much of our celebration of Mardi Gras. It was the organization responsible for the concept of day parades, for the official Mardi Gras flag, and the colors (purple for justice, green for faith, gold for power), the anthem of Mardi Gras, "If Ever I Cease to Love" and for the most popular throw, the doubloon. Look for the signature floats the Boeuf Gras and the Jester. Rex is led by a white plumed captain astride a white stallion, accompanied by 30 mounted lieutenants outfitted in purple, green, and gold. It is magnificent to witness (natives get goosebumps). As the Marine Corps Band begins to play, you're sure to get a lump in the throat. Each year the Rex organization selects an outstanding civic leader to reign over Mardi Gras. His identity is kept secret until Mardi Gras morning. Rex is greeted by the Mayor at Gallier Hall, right across from our viewing stand. You'll be right there with the royalty of Mardi Gras as Rex stops the parade to toast his Queen and her court. PARADES #3 & #4: Elks Krewe of Orleanians and Krewe of Crescent City. After Rex comes two more parades with another 200 floats -- no kidding! It's as though the people of the city can't get enough, and when you think about everything New Orleans has been through over the centuries, who can blame them? These parades are not the kind you've seen up till now. They are organized by families who build their own floats, make their own costumes, and pick their own theme. We call them the "truck floats" because they are wonderfully decorated units, built on flatbed truck frames pulled by tractors. You'll be amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of these floats, many with mechanical props. Each float holds about 50 members of families and friends.

Dinner: Tonight we'll have a "lite" box dinner. All day eating is over -- Fat Tuesday is ending. Remember, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Time to repent!

Evening: Collapse! Count all your beads and throws and try to figure out how you'll get 'em all home.

Program Concludes
New Orleans, Louisiana

Morning: Say farewell to all your new-found friends...until next time! Hotel check-out is by 12:00noon