Mardi Gras Floats: A Colorful and Festive Tradition

Mardi Gras Floats are A Colorful and Festive Tradition in New Orleans

Mardi Gras parades have been a staple of New Orleans culture for over a century, and the floats have become an iconic part of the celebrations. 

The first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was organized by the Mistick Krewe of Comus in 1857, and it featured two borrowed floats from Mobile, Alabama’s New Year’s Eve parade. 

Since then, the floats have evolved into elaborate, ornate structures that can reach up to three stories tall. Let that sink in!

The early Mardi Gras floats were simple, with basic designs and decorations. However, as the parades became popular, the floats became more elaborate and intricate. 

In the 1880s, the Krewe of Rex introduced papier-mâché to create more detailed and complex designs. This allowed Krewes to create larger and more intricate floats, which helped to make the parades more impressive and memorable.

Over time, the floats have become an integral part of the Mardi Gras celebrations, and they have come to represent the creativity and imagination of the city. 

The Krewes work tirelessly to create new and exciting floats that will entertain and delight the crowds each year. The floats often follow a theme and are decorated with bright colors, glitter, and lights.

The history of Mardi Gras floats is a fascinating one, and it is a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the people of New Orleans. 

If you want to learn more about the history of Mardi Gras, check out this article on how Mardi Gras started

And if you want to know what Mardi Gras is truly all about, this article on what Mardi Gras is truly all about is a great resource.

🪡 Process of Float Creation

Creating Mardi Gras floats is a time-consuming, intricate, but highly creative process spanning several months.

It involves a team of artists, designers, and builders who work together to bring the parade’s theme to life.

Designing and Sketching

The first step in creating a Mardi Gras float is designing and sketching. This phase typically begins the day after Mardi Gras, and the team gets together to decide on a theme for the next year’s parade. 

Once a theme is selected, the designers get to work on rough sketches and present them to the team. Once the drawings are approved, the building of the float can begin.

Props and Materials

The next step is creating the props and materials for the float. Kern Studios in New Orleans is one of the most well-known float-building companies, and they use a variety of materials to create their floats. 

Styrofoam is often used to create the float base, and papier-mâché is used to create the intricate details. 

Other materials, such as metal, wood, and plastic, are also used to create the various props that will be featured on the float.

Painting and Finishing

The final step in creating a Mardi Gras float is painting and finishing. Once the props and materials have been created, they are painted and finished to bring them to life. 

Artists use various techniques to create the desired effect, including airbrushing, hand-painting, and glitter. Once the float is complete, it is ready to be paraded through the streets of New Orleans.

The floats are an integral part of the parade and help bring the parade’s theme to life. If you’re interested in learning more about the meaning behind the Mardi Gras colors, check out this article on the meaning of the Mardi Gras colors.

🏆 Famous Krewes and Their Floats

Mardi Gras is synonymous with parades and floats, and the krewes that create them are an integral part of the festivities. Here are some of the most famous krewes and their signature floats:


Endymion is one of the largest and most popular krewes in New Orleans. Their floats are known for their elaborate designs and bright colors. 

One of their most famous floats is the “Pontchartrain Beach” float, which features a replica of the famous amusement park once in New Orleans. 

Other notable floats include the “Orpheus and the Sirens” float, which features a giant serpent and a group of mermaids, and the “Fleur de Lis” float, adorned with the symbol of New Orleans.


Bacchus is another famous krewe that is known for its impressive floats. Their signature float is the “Bacchagator,” a 200-foot-long float shaped like an alligator.

Others include the “King Kong” float, which features a giant gorilla holding a Mardi Gras banner, and the “Bacchasaurus” float, which features a giant dinosaur.


Muses is an all-female Krewe known for its creative and humorous floats. One of their most famous floats is the “Shoe Float,” which features a giant high-heeled shoe covered in glitter and beads.

Their “Goddess of Mardi Gras” float features a giant statue of a woman holding a mask, and the “Krewe of Muses” float features a group of women riding bicycles.


Orpheus was founded by Harry Connick Jr. and is known for its celebrity guests and impressive floats. 

Their signature float is the “Le Train Bleu,” a 90-foot-long float designed to resemble a train. Also, the “Orpheuscapade” (giant dragon and a group of dancers) and the “Smoky Mary” (replica of a New Orleans streetcar) were created by Orpheus.

🎭 Touring Mardi Gras World

If you’re interested in Mardi Gras floats, then touring Mardi Gras World is a must-do activity.

 Mardi Gras World is where Kern Studios builds the breathtaking floats seen in Mardi Gras parades and celebrations, both in New Orleans and around the world.

You can take a free shuttle from the French Quarter to get to Mardi Gras World. If you prefer to drive, there is ample parking available. 

Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff who will give you a short video introduction to the history of Mardi Gras and the process of creating the floats.

After the video, you can walk through the massive studios where the floats are being built from the ground up. You’ll see artists and craftspeople hard at work, painting, sculpting, and gluing intricate details onto the floats. 

You’ll also be able to try on authentic Mardi Gras costumes and take photos with the floats.

The tour is currently self-guided and lasts approximately one hour. It’s open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the first admission beginning at 9:00 a.m. and the last entry at 4:30 p.m. 

MGW is closed on Christmas and Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, Easter, and (of course) Mardi Gras Day.

If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, I suggest booking your Mardi Gras World tour in advance. It’s a popular attraction, and tickets can sell out quickly. Or consider joining a Mardi Gras tour to experience the festivities and parades up close.

⚜️ Innovation in Float Design

The designs have evolved from simple horse-drawn carriages. In recent years, there has been a surge in innovation in float design, with new ideas and technologies being used to create even more awe-inspiring floats.

House Floats

One of the most significant innovations in float design is the rise of house floats. With the cancellation of Mardi Gras parades due to the pandemic, New Orleans residents took to decorating their homes as floats. 

This trend quickly gained popularity and led to the creation of the Krewe of House Floats, a group of volunteers who organized a citywide house float decorating contest.

House floats have allowed for more creativity and personalization than traditional floats. 

Homeowners can incorporate their own unique style and interests into their designs, resulting in a diverse range of themes and decorations. 

This trend has also allowed for more community involvement, as neighbors often collaborate to create cohesive displays.

Twitter and Social Media Influence

Another innovation in float design is the influence of social media. Krewe members and float designers now use social media to share their ideas and designs, allowing for more collaboration and inspiration. 

Twitter (or X or whatever…) has also been used to influence the design of floats, with users sharing their opinions and suggestions for improvements.

Social media has also allowed for more interaction between the public and the krewes. 

Many krewes now have their own social media accounts, where they share behind-the-scenes looks at the float-building process and interact with their followers. 

As technology advances, it will be exciting to see what new ideas and designs will be incorporated into future Mardi Gras parades.