I reluctantly admit that I did little to no preparation for our trip to New Orleans, besides the planning for our parade. That left us with four days with absolutely no plans, so I did what I typically do nowadays when that happens: I asked our readers for help. I did and you responded with some wonderful suggestions. One of the top suggestions was to go see Mardi Gras World.
I asked Sharon if she was interested in seeing where the floats for…
So we went to Mardi Gras World.
Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
New Orleans, LA 70130
While Mardi Gras parades start on Twelfth Night (January 6th) and run until Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday), you can get the Mardi Gras experience year round (except on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras day) at Mardi Gras World. This isn’t just some museum, it’s the actual warehouse where many of the floats for the largest Mardi Gras parades are constructed.
Mardi Gras World is located just a bit outside of the touristy area, past the convention center. Getting there isn’t hard, as they have shuttles that’ll pick you up at your hotel in either the French Quarter or Downtown areas. We didn’t want to wait for a shuttle so we called an Uber instead.
Tours start every 30 minutes and last for about one hour. Here are the current prices:
Seniors 65+ $17
Students with college ID $17
Children 2-11 $14
We were there on a weekday morning so our group was only about ten people, including us. The tour started by taking us into a theater room where we were shown a short video about New Orleans, Mardi Gras and the Blaine Kern Studios. As a reward for getting to the end of the movie, we were offered some King Cake. It wasn’t the proper season but it would have been rude to refuse such a generous offer. 😉
From there, we were taken into the actual studios. You’re walking through right where they design, sculpt, paint and assemble the floats.
We also learned how many of the props are repurposed from year to year. What was a baseball player one year can be disassembled and become something totally different the next year.
We were then taken to the float parking lot, which is where they keep all the floats. It was interesting to see them in various stages of production. Some of them were stripped clean down to the shell, others were works in progress, and even others were either finished products either from last year or for the upcoming season.
Since this area wasn’t an active workshop, we were able to get much closer and see some of the detail put into the floats. We were allowed to walk around on our own for about ten minutes.
After a short detour to visit an adjacent warehouse that’s home to an elaborate banquet space (which you can rent, hint hint), we were returned to the main area and our tour was completed. We were able to stay for as long as we (reasonably) wanted, to look around.
When we got an up-close look at a float, it looked very familiar in design to the ones we rode on during Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras parade, even down to the doors and the hooks where you hang beads. We asked our tour guide who confirmed that Kern Studios does have two other locations, one of which is located in Orlando and is responsible for the floats used in Universal’s parade.
Walking around the warehouse, there was a little bit of everything represented from KISS to Sesame Street, Superheroes to Disney to Dr. Seuss. Whatever a Krewe wants on their float, Kern Studios will design and build it for them.
We also got to look at the newest piece of equipment on site, a KUKA robotic arm, that’s used to cut massive pieces of styrofoam with micrometer precision. This allows the construction of large props, made of multiple pieces, that all need to fit together like a 3D jigsaw puzzle.
Here’s a video of the robot in action:
We had a great time at Mardi Gras World and we’d like to thank our readers who suggested we go for a visit, because frankly, we might have otherwise skipped it. With a name like Mardi Gras World, it sounds like a tourist trap designed to suck in unknowing New Orleans tourists. However, this is not a museum or a display of a few props and costumes but an active studio creating the floats you’ll see in the Mardi Gras parades. It was an interesting glimpse into the behind the scenes work that goes on year round to make these floats which will be used ONCE and then dismantled for parts in the following year parade.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary