1380 Port of New Orleans Place
New Orleans, LA 70130
GRADING – B
Adult – $19.95
Child (2-11 years old) – $12.95
Seniors (65+) and students (with college ID) – $15.95
**Parking on site – $15
Touring Information: Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, the studio is open 7 days a week from 9:00am- 5:30pm, with the first tour beginning at 9:30am; the last tour begins at 4:30pm. Tours are given every half hour and are around an hour long. Mardi Gras World offers a free shuttle for your visit; simply contact them for a pickup. The studio is closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and on Mardi Gras. For more information on tours, click here to go to the Mardi Gras World website.
First time visitors to New Orleans should stop by Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World to see the intricate artwork that goes into making floats for Mardi Gras parades. Now run by Blaine Kern’s descendants, tourists can visit the studio and get a close up look at where the floats are designed, made, painted, and assembled. Be sure to bring your camera as the staff allows you to take photos, as long as they are taken without a flash.
Upon entering, you’ll walk through an amazing display of a few of Mardi Gras World’s float pieces or ‘props’. The amount of detail in both the construction and artistry is just incredible. This studio not only makes floats for Mardi Gras, but for other parades and even for spectacles in Las Vegas, Orlando, and other parts around the country.
Walk through the display until you reach the gift shop. Inside the gift shop, you can purchase tickets for tours of the studios. You can also purchase your tickets online, but there is no online discount, nor can you pick your tour time online. So, my family just decided to buy our tickets at the studio. We had no wait time, as the next tour was just starting.
Once the tour began, we were taken into a room to watch a 15 minute movie about Mardi Gras, its history, and how Blaine Kern began making floats. Afterwards, we were able to sample some king cake, a popular Louisiana pastry served from Epiphany until Fat Tuesday.
After the movie and cake, we walked into the large studio. We could see the areas where styrofoam is stored and cut to create float props. Most props are either built by cutting large blocks of styrofoam or they are made with layers and layers of foam to create a three-dimensional shape.
Recently, Mardi Gras World invested in a styrofoam cutting robot. This not only makes the work easier, but the sculpting is done much faster and with much more precision. Click here for more information on new sculpting technology at the studio.
As someone who hates styrofoam (it is terrible for the environment, rarely recycled, and does not biodegrade!), I was very happy to hear that Mardi Gras World sweeps up, packages, and recycles all styrofoam that is left on the floor after carving.
After the sculpture piece is cut to its final form, paper maché is put atop to protect the exterior and give it a nice surface for painting.
Even though most of the props are painted with a sprayer, there is still brushwork that is done. There are a lot of painting details that goes into these props!
Mardi Gras World keeps a lot of props for future use. These props are also often reused and remade into different faces or objects.
At the end of the tour, we were surrounded by a large population of props and actual parade floats as well. Many of the floats used in the 2017 Mardi Gras parades were still decorated and assembled, sitting in the studio. We were welcome to walk around and admire the artistry.
Here’s a closeup view of a horse sculpture that caught my eye because of the attention to detail.
Mardi Gras World hires very talented artists and sculptors! The following were some of my favorite props on display:
Here are the floats that we were able to see from previous parades. We even found beads hanging from a few of them!
After the tour was over, we were led back to the gift shop. Items at the gift shop are pretty pricey, which is to be expected. Bathrooms are located here in the shop as well. If you walk outside the back of the gift shop, there is a nice sitting area next to the Mississippi River, where you can relax for a bit or plan your next touring stop.
Overall, I found Mardi Gras World to be an interesting touring destination and a fun one for the whole family. The studio and its art is completely unique to New Orleans, that’s why it’s a “must-see” for every first time tourist. It costs a bit to tour (especially for a family), but it’s an hour of fun where the kids can run around and get up close and personal with some pretty spectacular and unique art.