New Orleans is an extraordinary city, and with its unique culture and history, it has long enchanted a wide variety of visitors with a penchant for the romantic, the spiritual, the beautiful and at times, the unusual. (In what other U.S. city would a voodoo priestess be buried next to the mayor’s family, or funerals be celebrated with a jazz band and a processional?)
The first Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans in the mid 1800’2 and the traditions of the parades, favors and revelry live on. It’s the greatest 4 day party in the country.
It’s estimated that a little less than a million people attend Mardi Gras each year. This event marks a time where participants can let loose and have fun before Lent begins. Celebrations will be taking place all day on February 28th.
For those that are planning on attending Mardi Gras there are some things that they should know.
When To Go:
Although Mardi Gras is typically a one day event that takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday, most people travel to New Orleans well before that. There are so many events that occur leading up to it that they usually plan to arrive the Friday before.
Two of the larger parades, Bacchus and Endymion are held the Saturday and Sunday before Fat Tuesday. Between the two of them there are over 65 floats and 60 marching bands.
What To Do:
By far the most popular things to do in New Orleans during Mardi Gras are to watch the parades, drink and eat. There are so many different parades that are happening with very different floats that they continue to hold the fascination of spectators no matter how many parades that they’ve seen. The Krewe of Bacchus is one of the largest parades, as well as Endymion.
The French Quarter is the oldest part of the city and provides a great mix of bars, shopping, restaurants, voodoo vendors and beautiful homes. If you enjoy antiques, take a walk down Royal Street. Bourbon Street is where some of the most popular tourist bars are. If you want to hang out like a local, check on the bars on Frenchmen Street.
Local cuisine is a mixture of several styles with a heavy influence from Creole, Cajun and French foods. When it comes to food many people enjoy traditional chicken, shrimp and pork sausage Louisiana gumbo, or a twisted bread called King Cake that has sugar and purple, gold and green icing. If you do happen to eat one of these cakes just be careful biting down on it because there’s usually a plastic baby baked inside it, which is good luck for the person who finds it. Red beans and rice are eating all week, but most popular on Mondays. Another local tradition is enjoying a jazz brunch. We recommend the brunch at Brennan’s Restaurant, which has been in the same location since 1956. They are off of Royal Street. An even more historic restaurant is Antoine’s opened in 1840, which makes it the oldest family owned and run restaurant in the country.
Milk punch is one of the favorite beverages consumed by many Mardi Gras attendees. Brennan’s claims they have perfected the recipe.
Here’s a recipe you can try at home:
Brandy Milk Punch Recipe
In a cocktail shaker, combine the brandy, milk, and sugar with 3 ice cubes and shake until frothy, about one minutes. Strain into a double-old fashioned glass with cracked ice. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.
There are numerous places to stay at during Mardi Gras. Because so many people attend this event it is necessary to have a wide variety of lodging available to travelers. Some of these choices range from low budget motels to more swanky accommodations. The most popular choices are those that are right on the parade route. They do tend to fill up months in advance. Popular properties in or on the edge of the French Quarter are the Four Points by Sheraton, Maison Dubuy, Bienville House or Monteleone. The Sheraton has balcony rooms overlooking Bourbon Street so you can watch the parade from the comfort of your room. The down side, you might not get a whole lot of sleep at night, as the bars do not close until around 4 am.
How To Get Around:
Many streets are closed during Mardi Gras. Although public transportation is available to get around the city, they often have to change their routes during Mardi Gras and aren’t very reliable because of traffic delays. The best way to get around is by walking or renting a bike. If you do rent a bike don’t forget to get a chain so that you can lock it up and keep it safe when you aren’t riding it. The picture to the left is of Bourban Street, so as you can see you’ll have plenty of company if walking when walking the area.
Mardi Gras Fun Facts:
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