We recently got to celebrate Mardi Gras 2019 in New Orleans and it was a blast to say the least. I’ve been to New Orleans for a work trip before, which was a lot of fun. I had no idea Mardi Gras would be even better!
What to expect
Before our trip, I was worried that the debauchery on Bourbon would be absolutely insane, but it actually was just a really fun time. Except for the fact that my wallet was pickpocketed out of my purse at some point, which totally sucked, but luckily I brought my passport with me so no major harm done. I got new credit cards mailed to the hotel and I’ll just have to deal with the dreadful New Jersey DMV when we get back home in a week for a new license. But overall, the area is safe and people seemed to handle their liquor pretty well, despite having open container laws. I personally think the open container laws make it better for people to manage their alcohol. I know I’m a pretty slow drinker and Adnan [the Mr.] likes to rush and hop from bar to bar so I end up chugging my drinks and get drunk, way too quickly. At least with open container laws, you don’t have to chug, you can just walk out with it and continue sipping!
I want to share with you my tips and tricks on how to celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans and have an awesome trip like we did!
Where to Stay
I recommend staying near the far end of French Quarter, along the Uptown parade route. Maybe somewhere on St. Charles or even on Canal St. between St. Charles & Tchoupitoulas St.
We stayed at Le Meridien New Orleans across the street from Harrah’s Casino. We were upgraded to a city view room, which was right above most of the parade routes. Of course, it’s not the same viewing a parade from your room, but it was super convenient. The weather was pretty cold and windy at night so we watched the parades for about 30-45 minutes. The best part was that we got to head upstairs to spend time with Pepper [our dog] and still watch the Krewes and marching bands passing by!
Le Meridien New Orleans: Mini Review
The hotel was also great for Digital Nomads! Free coffee in the lobby everyday [by providing vouchers] and yummy croissants and breakfast pastries for under $5. One day, we were working in the lobby and they gave us free breakfast sandwiches before switching the lobby cafe into the lobby bar. We also got free mimosas! …It was a great morning!
Other amenities that make the hotel so great are the pool and the gym. The gym is not your typical rusty hotel gym. It’s legit state of the art, really really nice. Small, but has everything you need. It has new treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes. Also, a great area for free weights and a several weight machines as well. The best part is a cool wet towel in the fridge to cool off after an intense workout. There’s no music, but there is a TV. Bring your headphones, or use a pair from their basket. Yes, they even give you headphones!
We got really lucky with one sunny day with 78 degrees and the pool is heated so it was perfect. I could see the pool getting a bit crowded if there were more than 5-6 people, and probably only 3 at a time if you want to do laps, but it was perfect while we were there. I had the pool to myself and it felt huge! Another great thing about the pool area is all the lounge chairs. There are SO many that I doubt all of them ever get full. They also have three cabanas with speakers, fans & phones. The phones let you call for room service so you don’t need to leave the area to get some refreshments or food!
Other hotels I recommend
Overall, we highly recommend Le Meridien but here are some other hotels that were nearby along with their average nightly rates:
- Doubletree by Hilton: $113/night
- The Westin New Orleans: $109/night
- Sheraton New Orleans Hotel: $119/night
- Intercontinental New Orleans: $107/night
- JW Marriott: $119/night
Mardi Gras Parades
Mardi Gras isn’t just on Fat Tuesday. The celebrations start a month before and continue after as well. Check out the app, WWL Mardi Gras Parade Tracker, for all the parades dates, times and live locations. It was extremely helpful for us since we got to track the parades and only go out to Canal Street when they were nearby. Some people still stake out early for good seats, but it’s not necessary. The app also keeps you posted of any time changes or cancellations due to weather.
The parades start on Three Kings day and happen every weekend until 5 days before Fat Tuesday. The real Mardi Gras celebrations kick off on the Thursday before, and there are parades everyday until Fat Tuesday.
Most Popular Krewes
Parades are run by different Krewes, aka social organizations. Some of the most popular parades are run by the following Krewes:
- Barkus and Paws [full of dog floats!]
- Muses [all female Krewe]
- Zulus and Rex are the most popular parades held on Fat Tuesday
The easiest Parade route to catch is the Uptown route while staying in the French Quarter. If you stay in any of the above mentioned hotels, you’ll have a great view of the parades right outside your hotel lobby.
The Uptown Parade Route doesn’t actually go to Bourbon street. Something I learned while I was there was that no parades go to Bourbon or Royal street. You may be wondering, if the parades don’t go to Bourbon, then why does everyone hang out on Bourbon on Mardi Gras? Well here is what happens on Bourbon & Royal Street during Mardi Gras.
Bourbon Street: Catch the beads!
The tradition here is, you have to flash people on the balconies in order to receive beads. This is somewhat true. I threw beads without asking anyone to flash me, and I caught beads without flashing anyone. However, I do have to say that in order to get the cooler beads, the people on the balconies will expect you to flash them. This is when I had Adnan [the Mr.] flash them on my behalf lol. This worked for the most part, but some creepy guys still only wanted girls to flash them. This is when you just cut your losses and move on. There is definitely no shortage of beads to catch!
Other than bead catching, everyone is enjoying hopping around bars and enjoying street bands putting on some amazing performances.
If Bourbon Street is too crazy for you, and you’ve had your fill of parades on Canal, head over to Frenchmen Street for a much chiller vibe.
Frenchmen Street was my favorite
Here you’ll find lots of local art and jewelry at the markets, live jazz at all the bars, and some delicious food. It’s a lot smaller than Bourbon, but richer in culture. You won’t really find a lot of jazz on Bourbon. It’s more hip hop and pop. But on Frenchmen Street, it’s mostly just pure, wonderful, authentic jazz.
What to Eat
The food in New Orleans was delicious! Some things you need to try are:
- Po’ Boys:
- Basically a sub and you can choose what you want inside. I highly recommend a basic Shrimp Po’Boy dressed. [Dressed means with lettuce, mayo and tomato]
- Kind of like a stew with sausage, shrimp, vegetables, and rice
- Charbroiled Oysters:
- Grilled Oysters that are covered in butter, garlic & herbs
- Ocean Sauce:
- Creamy sauce with shrimp, crab & crawfish
- Shrimp & Grits:
- Grits are boiled cornmeal and has the same consistency and deliciousness of mashed potatoes. This is typically a breakfast dish, but it’s so good you should try it any time of day.
- Alligator Sausage:
- I’m a big fan of hot italian sausage but these blew it out of the park.
- Biscuits & Gravy:
- Can’t have creole food without some good ole’ biscuits. The biscuits down here are so fluffy and buttery. Try them!
- Italian sub with olives, salami, ham & cheese
- New Orleans seafood is AMAZING, especially the crawfish. Its cheap and delicious. Takes a bit of work, but it’s so much fun to get the meat out of these little guys!
- Don’t forget to suck the juices out of the head!
- Fried fluffy dough covered in powdered sugar. Sounds ordinary, but they’re seriously addicting!
Where to Eat: Restaurant Recommendations
We were there for 11 days and ate out for every single meal. We tried A LOT of different restaurants and these are the New Orleans best restaurants, in my opinion:
- Acme Oyster House
- Order the charbroiled oysters here!
- This is on Frenchmen Street and a true gem. Usually a wait but totally worth it.
- Hubby got the lamb, which was truly amazing.
- You have to try to Ocean Sauce here too!
- Coop’s Place
- Located between Bourbon & Frenchmen so great spot to eat at on your way down to Frenchmen.
- We had the lamb chops here and they were absolutely delicious.
- Get some New Orleans specialty dishes here too like Gumbo
- Gumbo Shop
- If you only have Gumbo once, it has to be here!
- The food here was my favorite by far.
- Boiled Seafood
- This is on Magazine Street so a bit of a drive if you’re in the French Quarter
- The seafood boils are super fresh and tasty. Great portions too!
- Mother’s Restaurant
- Super popular so you’ll almost always find a long line. It goes by quickly though.
- They are known for their baked ham so try the Famous Ferdi Special.
- Commerce Restaurant
- We had lunch here probably 3 times. It’s fresh, cheap and delicious
- I had the best Shrimo Po’Boy here!
- I know. You probably already had popeyes a million times BUT it’s originally from Louisiana and GREAT for hangovers!
- Willie’s Fried Chicken
- When you’re super drunk and need a late night meal, hop into a Willie’s for some good ole Fried Chicken and fries.
- Cafe du Monde:
- It was really hard for me to choose this over Cafe Beignet. They both have their pros and cons and multiple locations so it may just depend on who’s making them that day. But Cafe du Monde is a classic.
- I’ve had incredible beignets at both locations so try both!
What to Wear
Don’t be scared of dressing up. Trust me, you may think you have the craziest outfit, someone there will surpass the craziness.
Also, on the opposite end, if you don’t want to dress up at all, you won’t be the only one! Many people just throw on a pair of jeans and a t shirt, but everyone will end up looking like they are in the spirit just by wearing all the beads you catch!
The weather fluctuates a lot during this time. One day it was 80 degrees during the day and dropped to 40 degrees in the evening. It’s important to pack layers so you can keep the party going even when the temperature drops. I packed a bunch of dresses but kept a thick pair of tights in my bag so when it got cooler in the evening, I just threw those on and I was good to go!
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes!
The most important thing is to wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking A LOT. Between Frenchmen Street & Garden District. You’ll also be doing that walk multiple times during the day, especially when you want to party on Bourbon but then go catch a parade, then head back to keep the party going.
It’ll be almost impossible to catch a cab or an uber. We got in a cab at Frenchmen Street to head back to our hotel and ended up paying $15 to just get .5 miles ahead. Traffic wasn’t moving and the cost kept getting higher so we decided to walk the rest of the way.
Also, avoid open toed shoes by all means. There is nothing worse than having a drink spilled on your feet, or having beads thrown at you and hurting yourself!
If you only have one takeaway from this post, it should be this:
Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Try not to drink too many hand grenades early in the day if you want to make it out for the party at night.
Also, remember to have an open mind! Please don’t come here to judge people. Just shut your mouth and party!
Hope you have an amazing time at Mardi Gras. Leave comments below with your own tips if you’ve been or with any questions while you’re planning your next trip!
Also, sharing is caring! If you found this post useful, please share it on your social media pages!