ashore. Transient slips are available at the
Marina del Rey in this entirely walkable town.
In Slidell, closer to Pass Rigolets, which
opens Lake Pontchartrain onto the Gulf of
Mexico, the Krewe of Bilge on February 15 is
one of the season’s earliest parades. Between
20 and 25 private boats, in full costumed
regalia, parade along the Oak Harbor marina
and canals of Eden Isles. Transient slips are
also available at Oak Harbor and the organizers allow transients to participate after registration. A member of the Krewe is assigned to
ride along on each vessel for safety.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
For two weeks the City of New Orleans puts
on the greatest free show on Earth, with 53
parades rolling over 20 days. Its only peer
in scope is the Carnivale, in Rio De Janeiro,
Brazil. The city is easily accessible from the
Gulf of Mexico or the ICW via Pass Rigolets
into Lake Pontchartrain. At a near constant
depth of 12 feet, the lake can accommodate
virtually any recreational vessel. There are
multiple public and private marinas to con-
sider, but the ideal location for transient slips
is at the Orleans Marina at West End. Home
to two yacht clubs – as well as fuel docks and
chandleries – West End is the recreational
boating heart of the city. The first annual run-
ning of a boat parade at New Orleans’ West
End is set for 2014 – called the Krewe of West
End – and scheduled to run on February 23.
The organization will allow transients to participate after registration.
The primary parade route stretches over
six miles from the oak-canopied and man-
sion-lined St. Charles Avenue to the outskirts
of the French Quarter, and it’s the course for
the Super-Krewes – the most massive and
extravagant of the parades. The ideal time to
visit is anywhere between February 26 and
March 4, with 21 parades rolling during that
time period alone. With so many parades to
decide between, the uninitiated should not
miss the Krewes of Muses, d’Etat, Endymion,
Bacchus, Orpheus, Zulu, and Rex. On Fat
Tuesday, the first parade starts at 8:00 a.m.
and they continue well into the afternoon.
Located approximately eight miles from the
French Quarter or the uptown parade routes,
West End is not within walking distance, and
vehicular traffic is a nightmare anywhere near
the parade routes. City buses do run from
just outside West End although they’re on
adjusted routes; cabs are available, but wait
times are likely excessive. Bicycles or scooters are another option to get to and from the
The beauty of the parades, and the
excitement in the streets of New Orleans, is
unmatched, and contrary to popular belief,
it’s a magical wonderland for children. The
parade routes in mid-city and along St.
Charles Avenue are lined with Mardi Gras
ladders topped with excited children catching the throws of beads and stuffed animals.
Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is where
most of the notorious behavior tends to be
centered, and as all locals will tell you, those
are mostly the people from out of town.
Located along the western shores of Pensacola
Bay, Pensacola is a beautiful town that has
fully embraced their waterfront with fine
dining, entertainment, and several marinas
located downtown. The city is a relative newcomer to Mardi Gras, with their first Krewe
formed in 1874. Easily accessible via the
ICW and Gulf of Mexico, there are multiple
transient-friendly marina options available,
and the ideal location is the Palafox Pier &
Yacht Harbour marina. Only blocks from the
parade route, the Palafox marina has 88 slips,
with many available for transients.
Parades are held on both weekends prior
to Mardi Gras Day with the Krewe of Lafitte
starting things off and rolling on February 28.
The weekend of March 1 offers the largest
of the parades, with the Grand Mardi Gras
parade rolling downtown on Saturday and
the Krewe of Wrecks rolling along Pensacola
Beach on Sunday. Perdido Bay, just to the west
of Pensacola, also has a well-attended Mardi
Gras boat parade along the bay on February
22, and a Mardi Gras festival on March 1.
Troy Gilbert is a journalist and author based in
New Orleans working on a documentary about
sailing on the Gulf Coast, check out
Palafox Pier and
in Pensacola or
Bay Marina in
Bay St. Louis?
Member discounts. Before
you go, check
Small Craft Harbor and
Point Cadet Marina
Biloxi Yacht Club
Biloxi Boardwalk Marina
Gulf Coast Carnival
Krewe of Neptune
BAY ST. LOUIS, AND
Gulfport Small Craft Harbor
Pass Christian Marina
Bay St. Louis Marina
Check progress at
Parade routes and schedules