How To Celebrate Mardi Gras Right, Even If You Can't Make It To New Orleans This Year

If you can't make it to the party down south for Mardi Gras on Feb. 17 this year, don't get your iridescent beads in a knot. As a Cajun Country native, I can't always take the time off I need to get back home for the holiday we Cajuns and Creoles hold so dear. (Though, my mom does usually threaten to hold me by the ear and drag me down the Mississippi to fulfill my Catholic duty, which usually includes eating while talking about what we’re going to eat next. “Why aren’t you eating?! Do they not eat in New York?”)

You can still hit it lucky in the Big Easy by bringing Mardi Gras to you. In fact, there are definitely plusses to avoiding the real-life shenanigans, like falling beer bottles from Bourbon Street balconies (I once was nailed in the nose but was lucky enough to be so intoxicated I couldn’t feel it), and staying up all night to snag the best side-walk spots on St. Charles for bead and Doubloon throwing en peak-parade route.

Use the below guide to plan the Mardi Gras party perfect for you and your friends, all in the comfort of your home. From music to muses, here’s everything you’ll need to host a partay for Fat Tuesday.

1. Make a Parade Playlist

You can visit the famous Audubon Zoo in Nawlin's, dahlin' and sashay down Canal with New Orleans ladies just by playing a few Fat Tuesday classics. Here's a spotify compilation for Carnaval including the anthem Mardi Gras Mambo, which I shamelessly sing all year long. And, yes, these songs stop traffic in New Orleans, because even the NOPD can't help but bust a move.

2. Play Dress-Up

Make a fancy floral mask or a feather themed eyes-wide-shut piece that will rival Krewe Queens of Endymion and Bacchus (OK, not quite, but once you scroll down and make the drinks I recommend, you won't notice a huge difference — or much of anything, really). You can get crafty jazzing up a boa for your faux Cat's Meow karaoke performance (where almost all New Orleans bachelorette parties are hosted). And, when would you have another excuse to wear a bedazzled bustier

3. Plan the Menu

You can make or order these New Orleans staples and seasonal Louisiana lagniappe to your gluttonous satisfaction. All hail the famous Randazzo's New Orleans King Cake you can have shipped straight to your door, the shrimp po' boy you can recreate yourself in your own kitchen, the Cafe Du Monde beignet mix to taste as a late-night snack or hangover breakfast — and last but certainly not least — the boudin balls that sound disgusting but are actually DELICIOUS, especially when following Emeril's directions. Don't question me (or Emeril ever). Just try them.

4. Whip Up a Hurricane in a Dixie Cup

Whew! Did you feel that Brees?! We're talking the fun tipsy feeling you get when you're reminiscing about the Saints quarterback and drinking a Hurricane from Pat O's. Here's the infamous recipe that will have you flat on your ass faster than you can say Sean Payton. 

Just beware of the red ring stain that will inevitably appear around your mouth and any person you try to make out with. The only thing I won't be able to help you recreate is New Orleans' open container allowance on the streets. (I grew up with drive-thru daiquiri huts, so I know it's a bit of a culture shock to some.)

5. Find Some Festive Local Art 

Some of America's most famous artists get their start in Jackson Square and The French Quarter. Take some time to immerse yourself in the New Orleans art scene with new decorations for your place. Pieces sold in galleries on Magazine Street, for example, can also be purchased online.

My personal favorite, especially for my fellow dog-lovers out there, is Rodrigue's Blue Dog, which is a rendition of Cajun folklore legend the rougarou, which is "a werewolf" in Cajun French. Here's a coffee table book to go well with the chicory coffee you'll want to order too.

Finally, if you feel like you're needing a little more authenticity to top off your pseudo-Mardi Gras celebration, I'm more than happy to have my Cajun momma Mary give you a call (eight times before 8 a.m. EST until you answer, to be exact) to see if you're safe at home from your night out because she saw it on Facebook. And, bebe, "Are you out of Tony Chachere's seasoning yet, because I'm gettin' down at the store and can pick some up for you and ship, mon cher!"

Images: Andy Castro/Flickr; Giphy

Must Reads