See the Workshop Where Mardi Gras Parade Floats Are Born

Eldon Baldwin Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Eldon Baldwin Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) means king cake, colorful beads, and elaborate parade floats rolling through the French Quarter. If you can't make it to New Orleans on carnival day, there are still ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in the Big Easy the other 364 days of the year—you just have to know where to look. At Mardi Gras World, visitors can tour the warehouse where Mardi Gras sculptures are built and get a sneak peak at upcoming parade floats, Smithsonian reports.

Mardi Gras World invites the public into Kern Studios, the workshop where the most elaborate and iconic displays are built for the New Orleans's parades. Open since 1984, about 200,000 visitors explore the site each year to learn about the history of the Mardi Gras celebration, see floats from years past, and see sculptures in the process of being made for upcoming parades. The 30-minute guided tour includes a video presentation, a photo op with Mardi Gras costumes and props, and a slice of king cake.

With the theme of the Mardi Gras festival changing year to year, Mardi Gras World has produced a diverse array of sculptures, including Day of the Dead skeletons and the Incredible Hulk. The workshop also builds statue props that have ended up in a Mobile, Alabama art installation, at the stadium where the Atlanta Braves play, and on the Las Vegas strip.

Mardi Gras World holds tours seven days a week with tickets costing $22 for adults. Check out the pictures below for a sneak peek inside the studio.

Float in Mardis Gras World.
Richard Martin, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Statues at Mardis Gras World.
Bob Jagendorf, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Mardis Gras float at Mardis Gras World.
Erin Pawlicki, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Gorilla statue at Mardi Gras World.
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

[h/t Smithsonian]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

The 10 Best Beaches in America, According to Dr. Beach

Grayton Beach? More like Blue-Ton Beach.
Grayton Beach? More like Blue-Ton Beach.
Jacob Boomsma/iStock via Getty Images

When searching for the perfect stretch of beach to laze away your vacation days, there are quite a few factors to consider. Some, like water clarity or sand texture, are more obvious than others; for example, you might not realize how much noise pollution a nearby highway generates until you’re already on the beach.

To help you choose your next seaside getaway, Florida International University coastal research professor Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” has released his annual list of the top 10 beaches in the U.S. Based on 50 criteria, ranging from the beach’s width at low tide to the presence of jellyfish, the data reveals the Florida Panhandle is home to the best beach in the country. Grayton Beach State Park boasts exceptionally fine, white sand known as “sugar sand”; shallow, warm water with calm waves; and a 2000-acre nature park with rare coastal dune lakes and a hiking trail. It wasn’t the only Florida beach to make the list—Caladesi Island State Park, off the coast of Dunedin and Clearwater, came in at number six.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands were well-represented, too, with Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach and Buxton’s Lighthouse Beach taking the second and fifth spots, respectively. Dr. Beach also bestowed top honors on two of Hawaii’s beaches: Oahu’s Duke Kahanamoku Beach and the Big Island’s Hapuna Beach State Park.

Even if you can’t make it as far as Florida or Hawaii, Dr. Beach’s metrics can help you decide what’s important to you when it comes to choosing the best beach closer to home. Maybe you’re not bothered by online reviews that warn about giant waves at a certain beach, but you’re unwilling to budge about overcrowding.

The list of criteria isn’t the only way that Dr. Beach is helping beachgoers plan the best, safest summer vacation possible—he’s also compiled a few handy tips for heading to the beach during the coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, you should check the beach’s rules before you go; some places are only open for exercise, while others have made masks mandatory (even if yours doesn’t require a mask, however, you should still wear one). Dr. Beach also recommends having a backup plan, just in case your ideal beach hits capacity before you get there.

See the full list of top 10 beaches below, and find out more about them here.

  1. Grayton Beach State Park // Florida Panhandle
  1. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach // Ocracoke, North Carolina
  1. Coopers Beach // Southampton, New York
  1. Duke Kahanamoku Beach // Oahu, Hawaii
  1. Lighthouse Beach // Buxton, North Carolina 
  1. Caladesi Island State Park // Dunedin, Florida
  1. Hapuna Beach State Park // Big Island, Hawaii
  1. Coast Guard Beach // Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  1. Coronado Beach // San Diego, California
  1. Beachwalker Park // Kiawah Island, South Carolina