Though Old Algiers is a popular place to visit for tourists who come to New Orleans, it's not the primary reason that those tourists choose New Orleans as the place for their vacation. That honor goes to Mardi Gras. This yearly celebration draws millions of people from all over, so whether you're living in Alaska or attending school in Australia, you should consider taking your vacation to coincide with this event, one of the world's biggest parties. Here are some of the things you should know.

Mardi Gras (which loosely translates from the French into "Fat Tuesday") is held on the last day before Lent on the Christian calendar (usually sometime in February or March). It began as a last celebration and feast before people had to buckle down into their life and start sacrificing their hobbies and pleasures for Lent. It has grown into one of the world's biggest parties, and includes everything from parades to masked balls to concerts. Mardi Gras in New Orleans is not merely a single day of partying, but a whole carnival season, so plan to stay the week.

Mardi Gras Parade Tips
16 Tips for Celebrating Mardi Gras

If you think you might want to come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you need to book early. Not picking up the phone until a month or two beforehand will result in you staying in your rental car for your vacation, because all of the hotels in the New Orleans area will be full. To make sure you get something, make sure you at least call before August rolls around. Many hotels will not book you for a single night. 4 days is the minimum, so be aware of that. Make sure your flight and rental car are booked well in advance too.

You may have gotten the impression from films and news programs that New Orleans during Mardi Gras is not a safe place to take your kids on vacation, but this isn't true at all. The Mardi Gras parades are geared especially to please children and you will find that most of the people lined up along the parade route are families like yours. You need be no more worried about attending the Mardi Gras parades than about standing along any Santa Claus parade.

If your idea of Mardi Gras runs more toward getting drunk and going wild, steer well clear of the parade unless you want to be arrested. The kind of drunken masked cavorting featured in movies occurs only in the French Quarter. You should not take children into this area. If you do go, take more precautions with your valuables than you normally would when leaving your home, as theft is fairly common.

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