Last year, I was invited to spend four days in a Bourbon Street hotel during Mardi Gras. It was my first New Orleans experience so I wasn’t sure what to expect. These few tips would have been helpful to me on my first Mardi Gras visit:
Don’t drive: There is no point in driving. If at all possible, fly in and use a taxi service to your hotel. You will be walking nearly everywhere you go if you stay in the French Quarter; or for farther distances you can ride a carriage. Hotel parking is about $12 per day. Many of the streets are blocked off by 6 PM and there are so many people on the streets it is nearly impossible to get a car through without hitting someone.
Purchase beads in bulk: If you plan on throwing beads to people on the street this will save you a lot of money. One great place to order from on-line is the Oriental Trading Company. You can order masks and other party supplies from them as well. Make sure you check the close outs and clearance items.
French Market: The French Market was not what I expected. It is pretty much a flea market selling the same products you can buy in any gift shop on Bourbon Street, a few hand-made items, and palm reading.
Pat O’Brien’s: Be sure to visit the world famous Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon St. for a 24 oz hurricane in a souvenir glass. At your request, the wait staff will rinse out your glass and box it up for you to take home. I recommend that you sit in the piano bar where two talented pianists perform on one stage, taking requests for a small tip. Sing along to your favorite songs for a lot of fun with your friends. Have your picture taken at your table with your group.
Children: I was surprised at how many children were out on the street with their parents in the midst of all the drinking and promiscuity. This is not a place for children. If you do take your children, I recommend you also take a baby sitter to stay with them in the hotel after dinner. The partying starts early and by dinner it’s time to get the kids off the streets.
Do’s and Don’ts:
- Do take a lot of small bills for tips
- Do expect great food and service
- Do take a jacket or sweater, sun block, and umbrella
- Do take lots of pictures
- Don’t make eye contact with street people
- Don’t stop to talk to anyone who tries to stop you on the street, they will do anything to try to get your money.
If you keep these few tips in mind, you should be prepared for a great first Mardi Gras experience.