We just spent a super fun spring break in New Orleans with the kids. Yes, with the kids! Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot to do in the Big Easy with kids and it’s way more family-friendly than it gets credit for. You’re still probably wondering, though, why we took our kids. It’s simple. We don’t have anyone to look after them at home. So where we go, they go.
Just as we figured out how to make the most of Miami with kids, we did the same in New Orleans. As you will come to see in future posts, there is more to Nola than boozing day and night (though nothing wrong with that! Thanks to amazing southern grandparents who stayed at our hotel, we could go out at night). In fact, there is so much to see and do that we just barely squeezed in our to-do list.
To kick things off I want to give special attention to Mardi Gras World, the proclaimed favorite activity of the trip by both my daughters. They loved it so much that it gets its own dedicated post. To preface, we were on vacation with my sister-in-law and her family and grandparents, so 10 people total. Some of the group suggested we book a tour at Mardi Gras World, but I was skeptical. I thought it sounded cheesy, and had other things on the list that I prioritized. But I wasn’t going to go against the grain. And good thing I didn’t, because it was fascinating!
What is Mardi Gras World? It’s the place where all the Mardi Gras floats and props are designed. Over 1 million people attend Mardi Gras each year, with over 1,000 floats, so that requires a lot of preparation and hard work! In fact, Mardi Gras World makes the floats for 40 additional parades as well. Mardi Gras World is also known as Blain Kern Studios, for it was the artist Blain Kern who traveled throughout Europe and apprenticed under the world’s top float and costume makers, and brought his design inspiration back to New Orleans. Blain Kern helped to develop the designs that are so characteristic of Mardi Gras now, and is known as “Mr. Mardi Gras”.
A visit to Mardi Gras World starts off with everyone receiving a beaded necklace as their ticket, which immediately drew in my girls. Our tour guide, who was knowledgeable and engaging, first took us to a room where a bunch of the costumes were on display and available to try on. We were allotted about 5-10 minutes to try on the clothes, which was a big hit with the kids, before watching a 20-minute film on the history of Mardi Gras. After that we were treated to a slice of King cake, something that is apparently hard to get out of season.
From there we went into the warehouse – or studios – to not only see all the floats, but to also take a behind-the-scenes peek at the artists and designers in action. This is where things got really interesting – and enlightening. Mardi Gras floats are I would imagine something that most people take for granted, but when you really think about them, they’re amazingly detailed and intricate pieces of art. Our guide took us through so many recognizable floats, from King Kong and Queen Kong to Kermit the Frog to the Simpsons to rock bands and so many more, and it was so much fun being able to see them up close.
Even more fascinating is watching the artists and sculptors working on them, seeing the master “control” room, as well as the beloved robot named Suzie. My younger daughter’s favorite subject is art (she wants to be an artist when she grows up), and she was just riveted. Our guide told us all sorts of interesting facts, such as Queen Kong’s arm (or was it her foot?) breaking due to all the beads that were thrown on her, the existence of porta potties on the floats in well disguised places, and the workers on the floats being strapped onto the floats by hooks so that they’re not pulled off by the crazy crowds!
After the tour we were allowed to wander around on our own and take photos of whatever we wanted. Everyone on the tour seemed to enjoy it and it was an interesting mix of people – there were families, bachelorette groups, couples, it really ran the gamit. I’m so glad we decided to go to Mardi Gras World because it was definitely a unique, educational and fun experience, and for all ages.
Note: Mardi Gras provides a free shuttle, as seen below. You just call a number and they tell you which location pick-up to go to near you, and they come within 10 minutes. It was very easy!
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