If you get a chance to be there and it’s your first time in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, it’s likely that you’ll be overwhelmed by the spectacle, even if you’ve seen many celebrations in many other countries before. After all, everywhere you look there are parades, costumes, beads being hurled, and all other manner of unfamiliar customs. You know, like women taking their shirts off at a moment’s notice in exchange for small trinkets. Yes, hide the children (or at least be prepared to shield their eyes at the speed of light!)
Jokes aside, New Orleans is a fantastic destination for adults and children alike, and your experience of celebrating carnival here can vary quite a bit depending on where you camp out. For instance, the Mardi Gras experience in the uptown area of New Orleans, near Napoleon Avenue is considered more of a family-friendly spot to watch the parades, and it’s where locals like to hang out as well. At the start of the parade on Napoleon, parade goers can expect light to moderate throws, as most float riders are still too sober to be generous. If you can find a cute baby, you may be able to convince riders to throw you a stuffed animal or two. A little past Napoleon on St. Charles is where most younger locals catch the parade. These include college preps and high school kids who think they are in college.
If you want to catch the parade in this area, New Orleans, La. hotels such as the Royal St. Charles and Avenue Plaza Resort offer all the charm one would expect from the sound of the names, but are also conveniently located within walking distance of the routes of the most spectacular parades, such as Bacchus and Orpheus.
Between Jackson and Lee Circle are a variety of locals. Hipsters, food cart vendors, and grumpy bike commuters who didn’t leave work early enough to avoid the congestion. The locals are relaxed and enjoying locally brewed Abita beer. The float riders begin to panic that they didn’t buy enough throws to last until the end of the parade, and they get conservative.
If you prefer to be situated closer to downtown so you can easily access uptown and downtown on foot, The Hotel Modern (formerly Hotel Le Cirque) and Maison St. Charles are excellent choices for New Orleans hotels. All the parades you want to see will be within walking distance, and it’s an ideal way to situate yourself near all the excitement without jumping feet first into the middle of the French Quarter, just on the edge of crazy town. While this area will mostly be tourists exploring the area, you’ll still see a few courageous locals sporting their costumes and dancing in the streets. You can also explore the city’s central business district and enjoy food and cocktails at some fantastic spots. Float riders have now become so drunk, that they lose their inhibitions and begin tossing throws overboard.
But if you are there because you couldn’t resist the call of Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras day (my kind of people). Well, Lord help you, but it’ll be interesting at the very least. As long as you don’t value sleep, you can stay right in the middle of the action at well-known New Orleans hotels like Royal Sonesta Where I usually hang my hat), Hotel Monteleone and W French Quarter. You won’t have to walk a few blocks to find the action if you stay here, as it’s more likely happening right outside the hotel, or possibly on your neighboring balconies. Be warned that this is the heart of the Mardi Gras debauchery, so be ready for anything.
Whether it’s your first time celebrating Mardi Gras, or you do it every year, there’s plenty to choose from. Just make sure you come prepared with a stomach of iron if you plan to keep pace with the locals!
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