Fodor's Expert Review Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World at Kern Studios
If you're not in town for the real thing, here's a fun (and family-friendly) backstage look at the history and artistry of Carnival. The massive 400,000-square-foot complex, just upriver from the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, features an enhanced guided tour through a maze of video presentations, decorative sculptures, and favorite megafloats from Mardi Gras parades such as Bacchus, Rex, and Endymion. A gift shop sells masks, beads, and Mardi Gras posters, as well as tickets for the tour, during which participants can sample king cake and coffee, pose for pictures in front of parade floats, and see artists at work, sculpting with papier-mâché and fiberglass. For special events, visitors enter through a plantation alley that is part Cajun swamp-shack village, part antebellum Disneyworld (Kern was a friend of, and inspired by, Walt Disney).