The fantastic floats of Mardi Gras World

by Sarah Z. Wexler (Portland)

The warehouse is filled with heads of the likes of Princess Jasmine, Medusa and Salvador Dalí.

I’ve never been too interested in going to Mardi Gras, but I’ve always wanted to see the floats in person—in all their glorious artistry and weirdness. So when I visited New Orleans recently, I knew I had to check out Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, the vast warehouse where nearly every parade float has been designed, constructed and stored by the Kern family since 1947.

How it works: Kern’s artists spend an entire year sculpting the figures out of fiberglass and Styrofoam, re-purposing pieces from floats past, while tourists (like me) get to watch the process. The warehouse (which spans more than a dozen football fields!) is the coolest, most eccentric place I’ve ever been. Plus, they hand out slices of traditional New Orleans King Cake—and you can’t argue with a museum that provides free dessert, can you?