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The Fest: Mardi Gras is back, baby! Beginning two weeks before Fat Tuesday itself, social organizations known as Carnival krewes coordinate 70-some parades with floats, marchers, and brass bands.
Party Central: Locals tend to stay in neighborhoods like Faubourg Marigny and the Lower Garden District, which are mostly intact post-Katrina. There's plenty of drinking, flashing, and bead-tossing in the French Quarter, too, but it tends to attract out-of-towners.
The Costume: If a drunken man can conceive it, it will show up on the street: A clergyman groping strippers, Elvis at any period in his life, two men in a bathtub.
Da Funk: Marching brass bands belt out hip-hop-influenced jazz and funk.
Da Drunk: Hurricanes, Hand Grenades, or anything in a "Go Cup."
Historic Twist: The origin of New Orleans's celebration dates back to 1699 when two French explorers, Bienville and Iberville LeMoyne, celebrated reaching the mouth of the Mississippi River on Mardi Gras day.
The Big Moment: When one of the most historical and popular social clubs, Krewe of Rex, rolls through the city on Mardi Gras.
The Hangover: Soak up the rest of the booze in your stomach with a New Orleans favorite, an overstuffed po'boy from Mother's (401 Poydras St. at Tchoupitoulas; 504-523-9656). This Central Business District institution is famous for their French-bread sandwiches filled with baked ham.
Planning your own Carnival celebration? Check out the Mardi Gras recipes, menus, and party tips from our sister site Epicurious.com.