Mardi Gras is just around the corner, but there's still time to grab some cheap tickets to New Orleans and head down to Bourbon Street for some fun! If you've never been to the Big Easy, it's definitely worth learning about the sights, sounds and smells of the city before your visit. It's also a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of Mardi Gras traditions and history.
But what if the boozy atmosphere of Mardi Gras in New Orleans isn't exactly your cup of tea? If so, you should consider checking out the events that Quebec has to offer. Like New Orleans, Quebec was once a French settlement - yet the Canadian province has kept more of the French language and traditions than the American port city. Because of that, the Canadian events are much more traditional and in the style of "Le Carnaval."
What is Mardi Gras?
The literal translation of Mardi Gras into English is "Fat Tuesday," so called because it is the final day before Lent, the traditional period of fasting in the Christian religion. Traditionally, Le Carnaval was a huge, blow-out celebration before the more somber period of Lent, that is, until the celebration of Easter. Nowadays, Mardi Gras is best known as a huge party in New Orleans, with parades and all-night parties. In Canada, the celebrations are a little more tame, with events such as cocktail tastings, canoe races and fireworks displays.
Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans
There are over 30 parades in New Orleans during the first week of February. Each parade is run by a different "krewe" and has a unique theme. Some krewes have been around for a long time, such as the Krewe of Zulu, a royalty-themed ensemble founded in 1909. Others, like the sci-fi themed Krewe of Chewbacchus, are more recent additions to the festivities. The parades are free to watch, though some hotel rooms on the big parade routes can offer the best views.
If you've put off planning your trip until the last minute, it may be difficult to find somewhere to stay in the French Quarter - but that doesn't mean you have to abandon all hope of joining the festivities. It can actually be cheaper to stay slightly outside the city and take a taxi to the fun. Ride-sharing programs are another great option. Avoid driving yourself at all costs - the havoc in the streets is only navigable by the bravest professionals. Your best bet is to find an affordable flight, check into a hotel a little ways from the activity and use your smartphone to locate some transportation.
Celebrating Le Carnaval in Quebec
The celebrations in Quebec are held north of Montreal in Quebec City, along the St. Lawrence River. The weather there is colder than that of steamy New Orleans, and so are the events. A notable happening is the canoe race, which takes place not in the water, but on the snow. Similar to a bobsled race, teams of athletes push the boats along the icy ground, quickly picking up speed.
Hotels are plentiful in Quebec City, so grabbing some cheap tickets now is a great way to get in on these activities at the last minute. Once there, you can tour the ice palace and snow sculpture gardens and take in the Charlesbourg night parade. It's a fun way to celebrate the winter season with your friends and family.