Bucket List Done Right
What comes to mind when you think of New Orleans? Maybe the bayou, or maybe French-inspired architecture. But let’s be honest, it’s most likely visions of Mardi Gras during the last two weeks of February. Cue parades, costumes, beads, and a lot of chaos. Oddly enough, this wild celebration stems from a Catholic holiday, and was born in Medieval Europe. French explorers brought the festivities to their new southern territory and a Carnival season of deep cultural and geographical roots has existed ever since.
So how does one navigate this Carnival season? For starters, the parades do not occur within the French Quarter, contrary to popular belief. During Carnival season at night, parts of this neighborhood turn into areas known for more risqué festivities–including the infamously wild Mardi Gras behavior. But don’t be alarmed: there are tons of other ways to explore the city during this wonderful time.
So if you’re like one of the many people who want to enjoy the festival in a more chill setting, Mardi Gras is still for you. The key is to figure out which parades you want to see in which neighborhoods. Pick which “krewes” you want to watch, what times you’d like to go, and then find your spot! A great resource for an exhaustive list of krewes and parade routes is the official Mardi Gras New Orleans Website.
Prime viewing spots include the intersection of Lafayette Square at St. Charles, and Lee Circle–a major traffic circle that most parades pass through. Pro tip: Pay a small fee and get seats in one of the grandstands along the route, many of which are at Lafayette Square at St. Charles.
Stay lively, hydrate, dine locally, and enjoy this culturally rich celebration.
W New Orleans
If you’re a fan of the W, then your choice is already made. Here, you can expect the traditional W treatment—with swanky design, inside and out, a gorgeous pool, and excellent cocktails. This spot is actually within the French Quarter, but is within walking distance to Lafayette Square and Lee Circle for great parade viewing. This is a great choice for those looking to opt in and out of the Mardi Gras experience throughout the day.
Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans
The Sonesta is drenched in Mardi Gras at all times. Their traditional New Orleans balconies overlook Bourbon Street’s 24/7 parades and antics. Earplugs might come in handy if you’re looking to catch a quick nap between hangovers, but needless to say this isn’t the best choice for those seeking a relaxing getaway.
Four Points by Sheraton
The Sheraton in New Orleans is unlike any other Sheratons in the world. Situated in one of the best locations on Bourbon Street, a reservation here can instantly turn your vacation up to an 11. The Four Points was built on the site of the historic Old French Opera, and often features today’s up-and-coming opera talent during performances in its lobby bar. It’s quite the experience, but try not to throw beads at the talent.
Bourbon Orleans Hotel
Stories of haunted hotels draw curious travelers from all over the world to New Orleans. If you happen to be one of those, look no further than the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. The lore states that lost souls from throughout the establishment’s history still wander the halls to this day. While that may sound scary on the surface, I’m willing to bet the ghosts are up for a good time.