If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but the big crowds are keeping you away, we have a solution for you: Join us for Twelfth Night.

Around the Christian world, January 6 is celebrated as the Feast of the Epiphany, which marks the end of the holiday season. But here in New Orleans it denotes the beginning of Carnival (or Mardi Gras) season. While the traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras parades won’t kick off for a few more weeks, there are some uniquely festive events that happen each year on Twelfth Night. It’s the perfect low-key way to celebrate the start of Mardi Gras.

Here’s what you can look forward to:

The Phunny Phorty Phellows kick off Carnival season each year on January 6 by taking over a St. Charles streetcar. (Photo: Infrogmation)

The Phunny Phorty Phellows kick off Carnival season each year on January 6 by taking over a St. Charles streetcar. (Photo by Infrogmation)

Phunny Phorty Phellows

One of the oldest Mardi Gras “krewes,” The Phunny Phorty Phellows can trace their roots back to 1878 when they paraded after Rex on Mardi Gras day. During this first incarnation, their annual parading ended in 1898 but in 1981 the organization was revived to its current state.

Known as “The Heralds of Carnival,” The Phunny Phorty Phellows ring in the start of Carnival season each year on January 6 by taking over a St. Charles streetcar with much fanfare. The festivities start at 7:00 p.m. sharp at the Willow Street Car Barn in Uptown New Orleans. They’re joined by the The Storyville Stompers as they roll down St. Charles Avenue.

Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc

Meanwhile, here in the French Quarter, the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc celebrates a different holiday with a parade that just happens to coincide with the start of Carnival. The 9th Annual Joan of Arc Parade honors the birthday of the French war hero beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 6, 2017 near Jax Brewery.

This theatrical walking parade offers medieval-inspired pageantry including a toast at the Historic New Orleans Collection and a sword blessing at Saint Louis Cathedral. The celebration finishes off with a crowning of the king and a king cake ceremony at Washington Artillery Park, across from Jackson Square. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own slice of king cake to savor the start of the Carnival season.

King cake is the defining treat of Carnival season. (Photo courtesy Eric Wagner on Flickr)

King cake is the defining treat of Carnival season. (Photo by Eric Wagner via Flickr)

A Season for King Cakes

Speaking of king cakes and Twelfth Night, there are plenty of king cake varieties to try while you’re in New Orleans.

The traditional New Orleans king cake tastes similar to a cinnamon roll, but you’ll often find it stuffed with cream cheese, chocolate or fruit filling. After Twelfth Night until Fat Tuesday you can usually find this type of king cake in any grocery store, bakery or coffee shop throughout New Orleans.

If you want to celebrate Twelfth Night and the birthday of Joan of Arc in a more French-inspired way, try a Galette des Rois, the traditional French pastry that is eaten throughout France on this day. Locally you can enjoy this delicacy at La Boulangerie (4600 Magazine Street). Made from a puff pastry filled with almond and pastry cream, this sweet treat offers a unique way to kick off Carnival!

Visit The French Quarter for Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night offers the perfect weekend getaway to New Orleans. You can enjoy a taste of Mardi Gras during the off-season, without the big crowds.

Bienville House Hotel is located in the heart of the French Quarter, just a few blocks away from the Joan of Arc parade route and steps from all of the best attractions.

Book your room now!