…And Drinking in Public Is Only Technically Legal in the French Quarter
If you want to split hairs (as cops and lawyers occasionally do), the laws applying to open containers in New Orleans Municipal Code Sec. 54-404 technically apply only to the French Quarter, as defined by Rampart Street to the west, Canal Street to the south, Esplanade Avenue to the North and the Mississippi River to the east. While open container laws generally aren’t enforced differently elsewhere in the city, it’s best to obey any cops in other neighborhoods who order you to party your way back to the French Quarter.
The Drinking Age Is 18 if an Over-21 Parent/Guardian or Spouse Is Present
Louisiana is one of 10 states that allow 18-year-olds to imbibe as long as they are accompanied by a guardian or spouse who is over 21.
Public Drunkenness Is Still a Crime
While you can drink all you like in the streets of the French Quarter, you still need to keep your behavior in check. If your free boozing gets too rowdy, you’ll find yourself with a citation. (On a related note, public urination is one of the most commonly cited crimes during Mardi Gras, so even if you’re drinking outside, relieve yourself inside.)
Bars Can Stay Open 24/7
Bourbon Street bars are famous for their open door policies, allowing drinkers to spill in and out all day long and essentially extending the party into the streets. Despite recent headlines about the city cracking down on such laissez-faire celebrations by closing bars at 3 a.m., the exact phrasing of the new security measures is a bit misleading. Bars can remain open 24 hours a day as they always have. The only difference moving forward is that the physical doors must remain closed after 3 a.m. As long as you remain sober enough to operate a door, you can still drink in any bar that remains open late, late, late into the morning.
You Can Also Grab a Frozen Daiquiri at a Drive-Thru
If you are driving down to NOLA for the celebration, consider making a stop at one of the city’s iconic Frozen Daiquiri drive-thrus, which serve oversized boozy slushies on the go. Just be sure that before you dig in, you find a convenient place to park your car for the several hours it takes to drink the monstrously sized cocktail and sober up again, because the drunk driving laws in New Orleans are no joke.
The Police Will Sweep Bourbon Street at Midnight Between Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday
Don’t be scared if you see a wave of police coming at you around midnight. You’re not seeing double. You’re seeing the ceremonial sweep of Bourbon Street, when a horde of cops clear the primary artery of the party so that street cleaners can get to work cleaning up the city for Ash Wednesday. While you should steer clear of any unlawful activity that might provoke the cops during this sweep, you needn’t worry that the party is over. After the popo pass through, most revelers return to the street or simply take midnight as their cue to move the party in-doors at one of the many bustling bars nearby.