I was lucky enough to live in Southern Louisiana for a few years, and I had a blast at several Mardi Gras parades. But for those looking to bring the kids or get away from the debauchery in the French Quarter, consider heading one hour south of New Orleans to the town of Houma.
Houma is a smaller city, about one hour’s drive south of New Orleans [see map], in Terrebonne Parish. It also hosts one of the largest Mardi Gras Parade in Louisiana, second only to New Orleans. The crowds are still plenty rowdy, and they party in typical Mardi Gras style. However, this is a family event, and kids are welcome at the parades and often get the best “throws” (items such as beads and toys thrown from parade floats).
The parades are free and the hotels are generally cheaper than overbooked New Orleans. Great food can be found at Boudreau and Thibodeau’s Cajun Cooking or Big Al’s Seafood — all Cajun style, of course. Lastly, take a ride with Munson’s Swamp Tours for a really up-close look at the swamp life.
Houma offers a great alternative to the parking problems, public urination and expensive drinks of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. A lot more family friendly than the Quarter, and still enough Mardi Gras to make anybody have a good time!