Despite it’s relaxed, party atmosphere, the city of New Orleans has laws — even during Mardi Gras. Further, the city has a concentration of NOPD officers, ATF, and undercover police in the French Quarter during Carnival to enforce these laws. If you’re heading to the Big Easy for the Mardi Gras, here are a few things you might be tempted to do, but should consider otherwise. And remember: just because you see other people doing it doesn’t make it legal!
DO NOT urinate in the streets. If you’re in the French Quarter and need to pee, do not — no matter how bad you have to go — pee in the streets. Not only is it disrespectful to the city, it’s also one of the easiest ways to get thrown in the drunk tank for the weekend. Instead, pay a few bucks to get into a bar, club, or restaurant and order a drink to use their facilities; you’ll end up saving a lot of money in the long run when you don’t have to get bailed out of jail. Or if you have time to spare, hunt out a port-o-potty. They’re typically painted bright yellow and strategically located at most intersections on Bourbon. There’s also a large bank of portable toilets located on Chartres Street, two blocks southeast of Bourbon, in between Conti and St. Louis. Here’s a map, along with the quickest route from Bourbon. When you’re sober, seek out these free toilets and walk to Bourbon, taking note of landmarks on the way so that when you’re drunk later on, you can find your way back. Plus, seeking these out on a regular basis throughout the night gives you a good excuse to escape the crowds on Bourbon and relax a little.
DO NOT get naked. Ladies and gentleman: take note. While the laws are typically relaxed for women, I’ve still seen a few get popped for flashing breasts, so be careful — it’s technically illegal. But whatever you do, don’t flash anything below the waist. Guys, there’s hardly anything more embarrassing than getting arrested with your wiener hanging out, so don’t do it. No butts, either; Just make it easy on yourself and keep your pants on. Ladies, respect this law too unless you want a Lewd Conduct charge sitting on your record.
DO NOT openly do drugs. This should be a no-brainer, but it seems every year I see someone getting arrested for this. Don’t think that being allowed to drink in the streets means you can smoke weed in the open, snort cocaine off trash cans, or pop pills in an alley (and yes, I’ve seen it all happen before). There are plenty of undercover cops walking the streets masked as common folk, so it’s nearly impossible to get away with this. Besides, Mardi Gras should give you all the high you need.
DO NOT bother cars and taxis trying to cross Bourbon. No matter how stupid you think someone is for attempting to drive across Bourbon street during Mardi Gras, keep your hands off their car as they slowly drive by. Drunks — young men usually — think it’s funny to give the driver a hard time by slapping their hands on the hood or rocking the car back and forth as it creeps through the crowd. It’s not funny, and you’ll be arrested for doing it. This is one of the dumbest things you can do, because cops usually hang out at intersections and will throw you on the ground and arrest you faster than you can say, “happy Mardi Gras!”
DO NOT get in a fight. If there’s one thing NOPD are looking out for, it’s fighting. And New Orleans’s finest are like ninjas when it comes to breaking up fights; I’ve seen two guys going at it in what seems like a crowd of millions when, out of nowhere, a posse of cops swoop in and break up the fight within seconds. It’s amazing, really. They don’t care who punched who first, who spilled whose drink, who ogled whose girlfriend’s breasts — if you’re involved in a fight, you’ll be arrested. If in the unfortunate event you make someone mad, apologize profusely and leave the area, alerting the nearest police officer of the situation. It might not be the manliest thing you can do, but ask yourself this: would you rather spend Mardi Gras having fun, or in jail?
DO NOT touch the pretty horse. NOPD uses mounted police for crowd control. No matter how cute or friendly the horse looks, keep your hands off the animal unless you ask the cop nicely first and they give you permission. Think it’d be funny to slap the horse’s ass? Think again! How does “assault on an officer” sound? Not good. In fact, if you see a cop on a horse on Bourbon and it’s not midnight on Fat Tuesday, it’s best to keep your distance. Chances are they’re about to spin that horse around to clear a crowd, and you don’t want to be caught in the middle.
That said, New Orleans — especially during Mardi Gras — is relaxed and fun. Leave your ego in the hotel room, respect the city, be safe, and have fun. And when you see NOPD, politely thank them for the job they’re doing. Many of them are working overtime to keep you safe.
Happy Mardi Gras!