Beads, booze and boobs for noobs: The comprehensive guide to navigating Mardi Gras

and | Student Life editors

With revised weather forecasts calling for temperatures in the mid-40s and almost zero chance of rain, you have no reason to miss this year’s Mardi Gras festivities. Sure, you may have midterms, but finals count for more of your grade anyway. And when you’re 30, do you really want your only memories of Wash. U. to be of the Olin Library basement?

But we’re not going to waste time trying to convince you or give you a history lesson. We’re just here to give you some advice, especially for those of you looking forward to your first Mardi Gras. Because when you inevitably decide to ditch the books and put on your sexiest layer of vodka for some fun in Soulard, there are a couple things you really ought to know.

Michael Tabb and Leah Kucera

There may be Mardi Gras parties all around town, but the streets of Soulard are where the main festivities are happening. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and last about an hour, but that’s only the beginning of a day full of live music and partying in Soulard.

Parking your car or bike by the perimeter is hard but possible, but public transportation’s a safer bet if you want the full experience.

Your best bet to get there is to take the MetroLink down to the Stadium or Civic Center stop. You got a free U-Pass for a reason, and that reason is to have someone cart you around when you’re feeling, ahem, a little woozy. You may have to literally force your way into the train car, but Mardi Gras is all about making friends.

Which stop? Well, that depends. Stadium may be closer to the beginning of the parade route, but Civic Center has shuttles for $5 that can spare you the trouble of walking over (bring some cash, but not too much that you’ll worry about being robbed). Whichever stop you decide, make sure you get off the same place as your friends—you can’t cross the street when the parade is in motion, and the two stops put you on opposite sides of the parade route. You don’t want to end up separated from your crew before the day’s even started.

Alternatively, you can try to get a cab—but good luck. (If you want to get one back to campus, they’ll all be sitting at 7th Street and Lafayette Avenue, 13th Street and Russell Boulevard, and the church lot at 10th Street and Park Avenue.)

It’s worth noting that cell reception is spotty in the area, so plan accordingly. If you do get stranded from your friends, you’ll make new ones. Probably.

Much like W.I.L.D., but without the safety of campus if/when you pass out in some random bushes, Mardi Gras is all about the long haul. Make sure you have breakfast first. This isn’t a day to be counting calories. Beyond that, drink what you feel. Just keep in mind that the same-day hangover is a real phenomenon.

For the cheapskates among you, bring a flask and enter via a side street to avoid any pat-downs. Riding boots serve as an excellent, discreet storage space, so load up those Steve Maddens with some Capri Sun pouches full of liquor. Or, alternatively, fill up a water bottle with straight vodka and if anyone questions you, tell them you’re hypoglycemic and must have a beverage on your person at all times.

Of course, you can always bypass our advice in lieu of some more creative solutions.

Lines for liquor are shoulder to shoulder, and vendors aren’t going to be looking too long at your ID. So if you “accidentally” got yours from the Internet instead of the DMV, you’re probably OK. But if you do get locked up, feel free to email to get featured in Monday’s issue! (pics or it didn’t happen)

Drinking isn’t a solo sport, and we recommend making friends with as many street people as possible. Consider the bartering system, i.e., “I’ll give you this Jell-O shot if you let me into your living room.” Or just wander right in, because you’re probably lost anyhow.

Once you parlay your way into a bumpin’ house party, be prepared for an onslaught of drunken number exchanges. We also recommend connecting on Snapchat. After all, what better way to relive the memories than to look back through all these imaginary Mardi Gras friends in your phone and ask “who’s that?”

Stealth is the operative word here. There are a decent number of cops around, so you don’t want to get caught publicly urinating. (If you’re going to be busted with your pants down, you should at least be getting some beads out of the deal.)

When you absolutely have to break the seal, there’s typically not a shortage of porta-johns on the way to the parade route. However, beware of long lines—nothing’s worse than realizing you just can’t wait or making your friends sober up behind a line of equally ready-to-burst citizens.

In that vein, you may encounter puddles of indeterminable origin at some point during the day. So don’t wear those suede booties.


With the exception of an errant camera-bearing creepster, there are few consequences to letting go of your inhibitions. However, be aware of double standards between the sexes; you might get a string of beads if you’re a guy who doffs the shirt, but you definitely can’t count on it (we blame the patriarchy).

Vendors will be on hand selling some totally wacked-up bead assortments, but those can be expensive. Save your money for the booze. You don’t need a goofy hat or a rubber duck necklace to see a pair of jugs.

For the alcohol-averse, business-minded folk, there’s always the option of bilking hordes of drunken revelers out of their crisp 20s. If you have access to a car (or a Enterprise CarShare membership, we won’t tell), you can turn your sobriety into a money-maker with a cash cab. There will be plenty of desperate folks willing to jump into your car to avoid the hectic cab scene, and if you plan ahead and stock your car with some bottles of water, you can make an easy killing.

If you don’t feel like playing the part of chauffeur, there’s always the impromptu food truck option. Stock some bottles of water and a few hot dogs in your car and sell for prices only complete blackouts would pay. Prepare for a fast getaway if the cops come by.

Another option is to treat the day as an urban treasure hunt. New Ray Bans that fell out of some girl’s back pocket and landed on the sidewalk? Check. A digital camera? Random wad of cash? iPhone 5? Check, check and check. Obviously, we expect you to return all these things to their proper owner. Or donate the proceeds to charity.

Mardi Gras only comes once a year, and with just a bit of planning, it can be a day you remember for a reason that isn’t the six hours you spent behind bars only to realize someone stole your wallet and ID. But actually, your Instagram following is bound to multiply.

*Note: Student Life does not endorse the consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors. Especially not to an extent that will cause same-day hangovers. Trust us on that one. We also don’t suggest doing anything that’ll land you in the joint, but college is all about the memories, right?