The Time I… attended Mardi Gras 


Angelina Padilla-Tompkins

Bourbon Street during a Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday.

By Angelina Padilla-Tompkins, Editor in Chief

I first visited New Orleans in December 2019, and ever since then I told myself I would return one year for Mardi Gras; 2023 was the year I made it happen. 

My fiance and I both turned 21 this year, so our trip to New Orleans turned into a birthday celebration. Though the trip consumed my savings for the last year and a half, it was worth it. 

We chose to drive the 14 hours as paying for gas is still cheaper than flying. We stocked up on roadtrip snacks — Cheez-its, Cosmic Brownies, trail mix, pizza-flavored Goldfish and Mountain Dew — the night before to limit our number of stops. 

When we arrived in New Orleans, it was extremely difficult to get to our Airbnb, as it was located in the French Quarter. The Quarter was closed off to traffic for those who didn’t have a permanent address there because of the massive amounts of people and parades. 

We decided to park our car in a parking garage, grab our belongings and take an Uber, which was able to get us within a block of our Airbnb. 

We dropped off our luggage in the room and changed clothes, then promptly went searching for dinner. 

Before grabbing dinner, we had to stop at Jackson Square, of course. Home to St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, Jackson Square is my favorite place in the whole city. 

During the day Jackson Square is filled with music, tourists, street performers and artists selling their work. 

On our second day we spent four hours in the National World War II museum. There was so much to see and explore. The museum covered all aspects of the Second World War, from its beginning in 1931 to the attack on Pearl Harbor, D-day, the Holocaust, Hilter’s suicide, Germany’s surrender and the dropping of the atomic bombs. 

The World War II museum is one that everyone should visit at least once in their life. The experience and education is like none other because of its immersive exhibits, 4D film, and large collection of artifacts and personal stories. 

Fat Tuesday, a Catholic holiday where people celebrate the last hurrah before lent, is the big day for Mardi Gras.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter where individuals choose to give up sugar, meat, soda, alcohol or something else of their choosing. The idea of Fat Tuesday is to overindulge in the item you are giving up. 

That night Bourbon street was packed with people shuffling shoulder to shoulder, pulling up their shirts in the hopes of being tossed beads by the groups of people on the iron balconies. 

Music poured out of every bar on the street, and street performers danced along hoping to make some extra cash.  

There were even groups of religious folks on the streets preaching to those embracing the party atmosphere. 

We walked the streets, ordering several frozen daiquiris in cute souvenir cups. We listened to the music and danced along. At one point we paid $8 for a single slice of pizza which was ridiculous, but I was hungry. 

Over the course of the next few days we toured the St. Louis cemetery which is home to the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, as well as the empty tomb of Nicolas Cage. 

We leisurely strolled through the streets of the French Quarter stopping at various shops along the way. We also visited the French Market where we bought many souvenirs and even purchased several art pieces in Jackson Square. 

Throughout the trip we ate tons of good food — gumbo, fried alligator, po-boys, muffalettas, alligator on a stick, jambalaya and plenty of beignets. 

Between Cafe Beignet and Cafe Du Monde, Cafe Beignet has the better beignets.  

Going to New Orleans again was worth the expense. Although I don’t believe I would go back during the Mardi Gras season again, simply because it was extremely busy, I am glad to have had the experience of a lifetime.