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New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras during the pandemic, in photos

The city’s beloved celebrations don’t look the same, but house floats and king cakes keep the spirit alive.


A house float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

For about a million reasons, Mardi Gras doesn’t look the same this year. The city’s beloved parades are officially canceled. Its bars are closed. Its streets are empty. And to add insult to injury, the New Orleans weather forecast is wet, cold and icy, dashing many last-ditch efforts to spend time with loved ones outdoors at a safe distance.

Nonetheless, the city has found a way to celebrate Carnival season against the odds. Residents went through great lengths to decorate their homes like parade floats. King cake business has boomed, as people in town and across the country ordered the delicacy for a taste of normalcy. At home, locals are donning costumes and turning on the Mardi Gras music they’re missing.

With gray skies and empty streets, the spirit of Mardi Gras still finds a way.


Bourbon Street is quieter than normal as Fat Tuesday approaches. The city of New Orleans announced plans to close all bars and block off popular gathering spots in the French Quarter to prevent crowds from gathering. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

With parades canceled and many of the city's Carnival traditions incompatible with social distancing, the city of New Orleans is getting innovative this year. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

Locals have transformed their houses into Mardi Gras floats. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

A cottage becomes a house float in the Bayou St. John district of New Orleans. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

Birds flock at a house float in the Bayou St. John district of New Orleans. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Bywater Bakery has stayed busy shipping their popular king cakes across the country in advance of Mardi Gras Day. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

Bywater Bakery employees sprinkle sugar onto fresh king cakes destined for shipping. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

St. Charles Avenue is lined with house floats ahead of festivities. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

A house float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Roses bloom all around this float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Musician Professor Longhair is depicted on a house float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

The Garden District of New Orleans shows off another house float. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

A house float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

Musician Dr. John is depicted on a house float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

The spirit of Mardi Gras is everywhere, despite the rainy weather. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

A house float on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. (William Widmer/For The Washington Post)

Read more on travel during the pandemic:

Tips: Advice column | Coronavirus testing | Sanitizing your hotel | Updating documents

Flying: Pandemic packing | Airport protocols | Staying healthy on planes | Fly or drive? | Layovers

Road trips: Tips | Rental cars | Best snacks | Long-haul trains | Rest stops | Cross-country drive

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