Happiness is Mardi Gras: Mobile
I was a weird kid, which probably goes a long way to explaining why I’m a weird adult. I was the only kid I knew who didn’t like parades. I mean really, go sit on a curb for an hour or so, you know so you don’t lose your good spot. Watch a bunch of old guys and little kids all bored out of their minds come walking by, marching bands, bad marching bands. A few fire trucks, some really sad-looking clowns all for what? Never got the excitement around them.
Then some years ago I checked off a bucket list item and attended my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I wandered up St. Charles and took a spot in the crowd near one of the barriers and waited on the parade to come. There was a bit of a flashback, there early, by the curb waiting. People seemed generally happy and were very friendly. Little kids propped up on ladder seats, people with coolers, who once they found out it was my first parade started sharing all sorts of food and drinks with me.
Then the parade came, this was not the lame old parade I was used to in my childhood. First the floats were huge and really well done. The marching bands were really talented. You could hear the crowd screaming with joy as the parade came down St. Charles. Then the first float arrived and the krewe on the float was throwing beads and stuffed animals and cups and medallions. People were going nuts for these throws coming off of the floats and honestly it’s almost impossible to not get completely swept up in the madness, I was not immune. I was instantly in love with Mardi Gras parades.
I often tell people that I love Mardi Gras and I typically get, “not me, all the nudity and drunkenness is a turn off.” It’s at that point I know they’ve never done a Mardi Gras parade. What they are relating is the drunken debauchery, the giant frat party that Bourbon Street has turned into during Mardi Gras. literally the place I spend the least amount of time when I’m in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I love attending the parades and I love shooting photos in New Orleans, at the parades and around the city in general and then there is the food, my god the food. New Orleans is an eaters paradise. At any level of culinary snobbery there are places to eat. I’m not a five-star restaurant guy I prefer beignets and the cafeteria magnificence that are places like Mothers and Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Give me a muffaletta at the Central Grocery and I’m a happy man. Opportunities for Gumbo and Po’boys abound, eating there is such a pleasure.
In the south I always hear from folks, “well, you’ve never done Mobile, that’s the real Mardi Gras, it was the first Mardi Gras in America.” That is true by the way, Mobile was having Mardi Gras celebrations before New Orleans was even a city. Mardi Gras in Mobile is fun, the parades are good, the floats well done. The parades are a bit smaller than the ones in New Orleans, the throws are a bit different. They actually throw food in addition to beads and stuffed animals, etc… Little Moon Pies are really popular, but I’ve seen cookies, peanuts, gum and candy. I caught a bag of peanut M&Ms and the most interesting throw I’ve ever gotten, a pack of chicken flavored Top Ramen!
What I will say is that there are a lot more premium throws here in Mobile. More stuffed animals and balls and hoola-hoops. The parade route isn’t as crowded as in New Orleans and the kids make out really well here. If I was taking kids on a trip to Marid Gras for the first time this would be the place. They’ll get a TON of stuff and likely nice big stuffed animals, they’ll have an absolute blast. They’ll also be in smaller crowds and it’s not quite as insane as the parade route in New Orleans. In Mobile, the route, non-weekend parades, are a couple of rows deep and at places you are alone at the barriers. Weeknight, Sunday, I’ve never seen a parade route spot in New Orleans that wasn’t at least four rows deeps. The exception, the weekend before Fat Tuesday on the day when there are like four parades in a row and by the fourth and smallest parade, people have mostly bailed because the first parade started eight hours earlier.
If you’re an adult without kids and you’re going to your first Mardi Gras, go to New Orleans. In Mobile, most of the restaurants are chain fast food and sports bar. There are a sprinkling of nicer restaurants along Dauphin Street the main social area downtown. I’m sure there are great restaurants in Mobile but the options on foot and downtown are limited. I don’t drink very much at all, but there are plenty of bars to visit in Mobile. Scale is the real difference, there are hundreds of restaurants in the French Quarter alone, innumerable bars and then everything else that makes New Orleans so unique.
I have one more night in Mobile and have gotten lots of great throws to send up north to my nieces and nephews. I’ve had fun her in Mobile but I head for New Orleans in two days and I’m excited. Happy Mardi Gras and have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane
Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy!