While in New Orleans the bf and I decided to make an unplanned visit to Mardi Gras World. I had been years ago as a teen when it was located in a different part of town. Post Katrina Mardi Gras world is located next to the convention center, which makes logistical sense but I'll get to that a little later.
Personally I thought the $19.95 admission price was a little steep but I also knew that it was a giant playground for someone who loves to take photos, which is Shaun to a T so after our low tea we headed over.
Out front they had jester props welcoming us in, the nerdy photos were off to a good start.
And no, I didn't wear flip flops to tea, I just changed into comfortable footwear for our Mardi Gras adventurers.
Inside the warehouse leading up to the gift shop where tickets are sold they have old props on display. Shaun was definitely not disappointed with our decision to come here and he quickly saw a football prop to pose by.
The gift shop is where the tickets are sold and tours start every half an hour. In addition to providing the typical New Orleans souvenirs the gift shop also has a few props, so we passed the wait time posing.
Our tour began in the theater room which has more props and costumes from past Mardi Gras, nothing elaborate but still fun. We had about 8 minutes to try on costumes and take pictures around the room. These costumes are worn by float riders in the parades.
Our tour guide took this picture for us:
They also had some cool panels
After costume time we watched a video on Mardi Gras. I knew most of the stuff it talked about but I still found it interesting. Mardi Gras season actually begins right after the Christmas season ends and goes right up until Lent culminating on Fat Tuesday. Currently New Orleans has 53 parade organizations that roll during this time period. Not all organizations have parades with floats, and some older organizations no longer parade. See, NOLA Mardi Gras organizations was actually started by the wealthy elite of the city, and you know as if being wealthy and white males wasn't exclusive enough they had to have different groups with various levels of exclusiveness - the big dogs being Rex and Comus. Rex is the "official" King of Mardi Gras and the parade rolls on Fat Tuesday which a fancy ball held that evening. Comus chose to stop parading when krewes were no longer allowed to keep their membership secret but they also hold a fancy ball on Fat Tuesday evening. The Rex ball is televised and goes very late, while in college I tried to watch the whole thing but gave in around 4am. Honestly, it looks super boring - lots of presentation and formal dancing. At the end of their balls the court of Rex meets up with the court of Comus officially ending the season. Interesting connection for my Memphis friends - members of Rex started the Krewe of Memphi and Carnival Memphis here. Further connection for my Lilly friends, the owner of the Pink Door is the current queen of Memphi. But I digress.
Mardi Gras World is the den for Orpheus, which is one of the "mega" krewes. It's also a newer and non elitist krewe - although dont get me wrong, participating is still expensive. Riding in Orpheus would cost at least $2,000 with a minimum amount of throws. Orpheus was founded in the early 90s by a bunch of cool people who thought the fun of Mardi Gras shouldn't just be had by the rich of New Oleans, Harry Connick Jr is one of those cool people. Orpheus has over 1,500 members and a waiting list! In addition to being open to anyone who can pay the fees their ball at the end of the route is open to anyone with $250 for the ticket, this is a bucket list item for me. The parade rolls right into the convention center where the ball is held and then parks in the den next door, hence the excellent location. So now you know a little bit about the celebration and the stuff we saw.
After the video we all got a piece of king cake and then headed into the warehouse. In the warehouse they took us to see the different stages of prop making - most of the pieces are made of styrofoam covered in paper mâché and painted, it's pretty cool. Flash photos were not allowed in the work area and the lighting was not great so those photos didn't come out, sorry.
After seeing how props were made we were taken into the float area.
Since Mardi Gras ended recently the floats still had last years decorations. Each float is owned by the krewe and costs $50,000, the decorations are rented and cost $5k to $10k a float, hence the pricey membership cost. Orpheus has 27 floats, they are double decker and hold 30 to 50 people. They're really big!
After Q&A was over we were let loose on the warehouse, welcome to stay as long as we wanted with the only rule of not climbing on the floats - fair enough.
Just looking at all the different float decorations was lots of fun, they are so beautiful!
After looking at all the floats we took goofy photos with the props we liked best
These are just a few of the 170+ pictures we took. Obviously I had to "capture a crescent"
We stayed for about an hours and a half but could have been there longer, part of the fun the fun for us though was running around like kids in a candy store. The other visitors were very friendly and we had no problems trading off cameras so we could get pictures together. This one is my favorite.
It was super fun to see Mardi Gras up close. Since the parade decor changes every year this place constantly has new stuff. If you're in town I highly recommend checking it out.