New Orleans is famed for its two weeks, larger than life, Mardi Gras celebration throughout the world but there is one place in NOLA where you can feel the spirit of carnival throughout the year. From the 50 plus colorful floats to the theme-based hand-crafted props, you’ll be amazed to see all behind-the-scenes of the Big Easy’s favorite festival in the massive 300,000 square foot warehouse of the Mardi Gras World.
I’ve been visiting Universal’s Mardi Gras for last few years, one of Florida’s biggest party. I always wanted to experience the Mardi Gras of New Orleans but couldn’t make it this year. But I’m glad that I visited Mardi Gras World to get a glimpse of behind the scenes action of this festival during my recent visit. Mardi Gras World is a must visit place for any visitor visiting NOLA for the first time.
As soon as you’ll enter the Mardi Gras World, there is a gift shop from where you can purchase the tour ticket. You’ll get a colorful bead with every ticket. The gift shop has many colorful souvenirs including masks, beads, magnets, keychains, mugs and other gift items to entice any visitor. The tour of Mardi Gras World lasts for around an hour. The first tour starts at 9:30 AM and fortunately, I was a part of that tour. The best part of 9:30 AM tour is there is less crowd and you get more chance to interact with your guide and admire the props at your own pace without any hassle.
At 9:30 AM, our guide came near the gift shop tour area and we all followed him to a narrow passage leading to an auditorium with a big screen projector. He showed us few Mardi Gras props and outfits and gave us 10 minutes to take our pictures. It was the most fun part of the tour as everyone was in the full spirit of Mardi Gras charm!
After 10 minutes, we all were asked to be seated in front of the screen and all the lights were turned off. Then the video started about the history of Mardi Gras.
The 20 minutes video gave us various interesting facts, tradition, history and process used to produce splendid floats in the Mardi Gras. I came to know that Mardi Gras is a French Word which means Fat Tuesday. It is celebrated in the significance to eating good food and merrymaking before the fast of Lent begins in the Catholic calendar. Mardi Gras is one of the largest carnivals parades in the United States and more than a million tourists visit each year to get wild in New Orleans biggest festival.
Blaine Kern, Sr founded Blaine Kern Artists in 1932. Float building was in his blood as he was born to the family of the float builders. Kern traveled to Europe to learn the various techniques of the float building and built an international reputation transforming float building into an art. Now, both his sons are guiding the business. Today they design and create floats and props for Disney, Universal Studios, hotels, festivals and other big entities in various parts of the world. Mardi Gras World is a multi-million dollar industry in itself.
After the video, we were treated to a slice of King Cake which is a traditional yeast cake, frosted with the official Mardi Gras colors: green for faith, gold for power and purple for justice.
After delighting our taste buds, we were taken to a massive warehouse where the magic of Mardi Gras World started!
Walking inside the warehouse of the Mardi Gras World is like entering into a different world. It is like a fantasy world where you’ll see vicious looking jesters, huge Elvis, gigantic ants, massive animals, voodoo-dolls, Egyptian God and Goddess, colorful masks, dinosaurs, raptors, gators and what not. My favorite was cute Lumière from the Beauty and the Beast!
The main action will start once you’ll head inside the workshop. The entire process of Mardi Gras props begins with a single sketch by artist and then handed over to the technicians to transform it into a masterpiece. The technicians see the computer-generated 3-D models of the props and start making the bases by Styrofoam and papier mâché. Once the full-size prop model has been made, the paint is applied to give it a final touch.
As it is a guided tour, you can linger around the warehouse as long as you want and can take pictures. You’re not allowed to touch any props inside the warehouse but I SIMPLY couldn’t stop my fingers to get the feel! I know it is insane but sometimes you just can’t stop it. I’m glad that security didn’t catch me! 😀
The colorful floats are the main attractions of the Mardi Gras parade. They are 18-feet tall and comes in the variety of designs and colors. The float rolls on solid tires and pulled by a tractor. There is a built-in lavatory on every float. The men and women in and on the floats are called Krewe, and they work mostly six to eight-hour shifts. They have to bring their own food and drinks on board.
Do you know how much you’ve to pay to ride on a New Orleans Mardi Gras float?
An individual has to pay a minimum 1000 USD annual dues plus costumes ranging between 100-500 USD to ride on the floats and throw beads, doubloons and cups.
You must be thinking that this cost is totally insane. Yes! I agree but if you’ve money, Mardi Gras is a pretty good reason to burn it!
At Mardi Gras World, you’ll get a glimpse of so many colorful floats that it will leave you spellbound!
I spent almost 2.5 hours inside the Mardi Gras World and was in awe with the splendid props and floats. I didn’t get a chance to meet the artist or speak to the technician as it was a Sunday but I really enjoyed my visit.
There is so much to see that you’ll feel completely lost in that colossal fantasy land. You’ll wonder that there is no limit to imagination and creativity. There are extremely talented people in this world who can transform any imagination into larger than life reality.
Tips for going to the Mardi Gras World
- Mardi Gras World is a little far from the French Quarter. So, if you don’t want to take a car or pay for a parking, Mardi Gras World offers a complimentary shuttle with designated pick-ups and drops from downtown and in the French Quarter.
- The shuttle is very easy to spot because it is covered with photos of Mardi Gras World and has the logo on the side.
- You can call 504-507-9315 for a free shuttle ride as soon as you reach your designated spot and the shuttle pick-up quickly.
- You can book tour tickets online by clicking here or you can directly purchase from Mardi Gras World Gift shop.
Do share your experiences if you’ve been to Mardi Gras World in the comments below? If not, what do you think about Mardi Gras World?
Till then, Happy Wandering,
Did you enjoy this post? Then don’t forget to pin it!