Don your green and purple, pull out your beads and grab a piece of King Cake on the way: the countdown for 2011 Mardi Gras is on. Only 11 days, 8 hours and 4 minutes remain until Krewes, balls and mayhem take over the streets of New Orleans, beginning on March 8th.
Not able to make it to the Big Easy this year? No worries. Even the world’s oldest carnival has gone high tech, so now you can say, “Throw me something, mister!” from your home computer, laptop, or phone. Read on for our top sites, apps and social media tools to, as they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
The “New Orleans Mardi Gras” Facebook page has a little bit of everything the party has to offer. With more than 7,000 followers there is plenty of input on hot topics like the best floats, the best parade routes and the best people-watching spots. You can also find links to the different “Krewes” that will rule the city come parade day, and photos too, along with articles and news clips that give you a flavor of the city and what it takes to put on an event like Mardi Gras.
Also jumping in on the Facebook action this year is Zatarain’s, “the authority on the fun and flavor of New Orleans,” with its own “Mardi Gras Central” Facebook page. Here you can use the food giant’s app to “Jazz Up” Facebook and Twitter profile pics with colorful beads and a mask, and then share it with your friends to create a virtual Mardi Gras parade. There’s also a Pandora radio station link that will take you to the best of New Orleans legendary jazz and Carnival music favorites, and live footage of the Mardi Gras parades via “Zat’s Cams.” And, of course, where there’s Zatarain’s, and Mardi Gras, there’s cooking so you can also take a look inside Chef Besh’s kitchen, follow a true New Orleans’ family Mardi Gras celebration, and access recipes for traditional Carnival favorites like Big Easy Jambalaya and Uptown Red Beans and Rice. You can also follow Zatarain’s on Twitter (@MyZatarains) to better, as they say, “let the good times roll!”
If you want to really feel like you’re on the streets of New Orleans, check out the free Mardi Gras iPhone and Android apps with a GPS feature that tracks parades down the city’s historic streets. Created by the Belo TV station in New Orleans (WWL-TV), the “Experience Mardi Gras” app also features music and event listings, along with archive video of the celebration. And, if you’re brave, er lucky, enough to attend the parades in person, the apps come in handy for trying to avoid the Mardi Gras crowds. The apps will track six of the largest parades, marking the first time anyone has offered GPS tracking of the parades in a mobile app.
On the Web, you can visit ExperienceMardiGras.com, also courtesy of Belo (WWL-TV), to watch a live-stream of the big event. The site will be populated with shots from reporters using backpack units to offer home viewers a glimpse “both from the vantage point of a rider and a parade-goer.” Or check out MardiGrasNewOrleans.com, the event’s official site, for all things Mardi Gras, and all things New Orleans. Watch live videos, view photos, stay updated with the Mardi Gras blog, upload your own photos and see a complete schedule of all activities, all here. Leading up to March 8th, you can also read up on the history of Mardi Gras, find a good recipe for King Cake and answer the age-old question, “Why again am I looking for a baby in this cake?”
Finally, what would Mardi Gras be without a little liquor, a little competition, and social media too? The age-old, New Orleans-based liquor brand Southern Comfort has launched a new-media campaign centered on Mardi Gras. A Southern Comfort billboard at the corners of Royal and Canal Streets in New Orleans’s French Quarter is home base for virtual check-ins by users of Foursquare. Those who check in at the billboard can enter a sweepstakes to win a trip for four to Mardi Gras 2012, or you can also enter by visiting the Southern Comfort fan page on Facebook. The brand is also hosting a user-generated “Guide to Mardi Gras,” with tips on everything from the best parades and good places to eat, to keeping your “krewe” intact and the phone numbers of local taxi cab companies.