Carnival and Mardi Gras have been used interchangeably, but they are actually 2 different things. Carnival season starts January 6th. It’s 12 days after Christmas and continues until Fat Tuesday. There is a variety of Mardi Gras Museum that share the best place to experience, the traditions, and history of Mardi Gras. It’s a Christian festive season that occurs before Lent. Some people refer to it as Pre-Lent. I didn’t know that, but it makes sense if you view it from a calendar perspective. Carnival season is a time to eat, drink, and be happy before starting the fasting and sacrifice of Lent.
Mardi Gras is also known for its floats and parades. Parades start as early as January 6th with the most popular parade happening the last weekend of carnival. This website has a parade tracker. There is never a theme to Mardi Gras or Carnival but each krewe has a theme for their float. Most of the time it’s a secret until the parade.
There are several places around New Orleans to see the history, culture, and costumes of Mardi Gras. The great thing about these museums is that you can visit year-round if you can’t come to Carnival.
Mardi Gras World
Where every day is Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras World. The Backst is near downtown New Orleans. When you walk in, you are greeted with King Cake and a video of how the origins of Mardi Gras. After the video, you are welcome to tour the facility on your own. Sometimes there might be builders or people working on floats. When I went there were a few people, everyone was super nice and answered all of our questions.
Ticket Prices & Hours
- Adult Admission: $22.00 Children-Ages 2-12: $14.00 Military/Students/Seniors: $17.00
- Open 7 days a week, from 9:00am to 5:30pm. The tour is currently self-guided and a visit lasts approximately one hour. I spent more than an hour there, but I wanted to see every part of the building.
- Address: 1380 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans, LA 70130
The Backstreet Cultural Museum
The Backstreet Cultural Museum is the oldest African American neighborhood in Treme where visitors can view memorabilia from Mardi Gras to Jazz Funerals. The museum is located in Blandin Funeral Home with the city’s largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes. From my research, some costumes can cost up to $10,000. One tradition of Carnival and Mardi Gras is the Mardi Gras Indians which dates back to the 18th century. Now there are more than 20 tribes in Louisana that create and design costumes to be only worn on Mardi Gras.
- I couldn’t find any information on admission or hours.
- Address: 1531 St. Philip St., New Orleans, LA 70116.
If you are near Jackson Square, you’ll have to stop by Presbytere to find a unique collection of Mardi Gras artifacts and memorabilia. The exhibit has things that can date by to the 19th century. It’s an interactive exhibit walking through the first Mardi Gras to watching a parade.
Directly from their website, The Presbytère’s two permanent exhibits tell two sides of the ongoing Louisiana story—one of celebration and one of resilience. Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana offers a window into the annual celebration and riotous rituals of Mardi Gras, a festival that is inextricably woven into Louisiana’s way of life and whose roots extend deep into the Middle Ages. There are parade floats to climb, costumes to see, and historical throws on display as well as rare glimpses into the secretive social club society from which modern-day Mardi Gras krewes evolved. And it’s not a party without music: Mardi Gras albums, records, sheet music and more are also part of the collection.
The Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond exhibit tells of rescue, rebuilding, and renewal. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans’ badly engineered levee system, it resulted in one of the worst disasters in American history, leaving 80 percent of the city flooded and hundreds dead. The exhibit documents the event, the aftermath, and southeast Louisiana’s ongoing recovery. With interactive exhibits and artifacts that showcase the spirit of the city’s residents, this is a collection you don’t want to miss.
Ticket Price & Hours
- Adult Admission: $7 Senior Citizen/Active Military/Students: $6 Children Under 6: Free
- Tuesday – Sunday 9:00a – 4:30pm
- Address: 751 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes & Culture
I wish I had known about this place when I was in New Orleans because this museum has costumes you can try on and take pictures. This museum has a private collection from the Xylophone Man, Carl Mack. His collection shows his love and dedication to Mardi Gras and Carnival. The museum shares a deep collection of various Mardi Gras and Carnival traditions such as Mardi Gras Revelers on Twelfth Day, walking clubs, Krewes, Mardi Gras Indians, Lundi Gras, Masquerade Balls, and the list could go on.
Ticket Price & Hours
- Admission: $15 includes costume experience. The show lasts about 45 minutes, but can stay as long as you want.
- Hours: Thursday-Monday 12pm-4pm
- Address: 1010 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70112
House of Dance and Feather
House of Dance & Feather is a cultural museum based on Ronald W. Lewis’ participation in the culture Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Skull & Bone Gangs. It is their mission to preserve and share the culture with the world, passing down knowledge to the next generation. The museum shares the knowledge about the different traditions of Mardi Gras. I didn’t know much about the culture of Carnival or Mardi Gras from the perspective of African and Native Americans.
- Admission: Free but donations are welcome
- Hours: by appt only. The museum is located in the backyard of Ronald Lewis’ home.
- Address: 1317 Tupelo St, New Orleans, LA 70117
New Orleans is one of my favorite places. I have only been a handful of times but every time I fall more and more in love with the town, the culture, and the experience. There are so many things to do and see in New Orleans that it will never get old. Most of these museums are located in the French Quarter or near downtown.