As we are now officially one week away from Mardi Gras it’s time to make those last minute plans. Some will be headed down here for the first time, others have spent a lifetime of escaping the parades and heading for the ski slopes. Our list has a little bit for everyone, including those feeling the effects from this awful flu season and might be on bed rest. So let’s jump into it…
Plenty of “experts” will tell you that you need to avoid Bourbon Street. “It’s too packed! It’s stupid!” they will tell you. You might even hear the name Chad thrown around by some. But the magnetic pull of the street will grab you. You’ll find yourself on Bourbon Street at some point, so be wise. Start at 811 Conti (Erin Rose) and get a large Frozen Irish Coffee. Proceed to walk down Bourbon Street until you hit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Order yourself a VooDoo Daiquiri as your reward. You have seen Bourbon, you have survived, and you can cross a daiquiri off your newbie bingo sheet.
If you’re new, you’ll be best served soaking in the parade scene downtown along Canal Street and in the Central Business District, or “CBD.” The territorial nature of some neighborhoods further Uptown has grown fierce and you’re best advised leaving the spray painted grass boundaries for those with a little more knowledge about this tradition.
Parades to catch: Iris, Bacchus, Proteus, Rex.
Bars to check out: Follow your fellow beaded friends. You’ll find something that sticks. When you find your spot, make it your rally point. A couple of ideas if you keep it Quarter/CBD based this trip: The District, Barcadia, Ryan’s on Decatur, Copper Monkey.
ProTip: Don’t pick up beads. The ground is filthy. New Orleans turns 300 this year so that means the ground is really filthy.
You’re one of the above referenced experts. You’ve done Bourbon, seen the super krewes roll down St. Charles Street. We’re not talking to locals in this. If you consider yourself a local, or a former local, or “basically” a local this advice is not directed at you and frankly it’s somewhat shocking that you’ve read this far. Let’s call this our two, three, maybe fourth time Mardi Gras veteran.
Going to spot you Friday night. If you’ve been to one Mardi Gras and done it proper, you should have a couple of people you want to say hi to. So Saturday get up and chase the hangover with a Bloody Mary at Molly’s at the Market (shameless plug). Then it’s time to head towards Mid City. Walk out along The Lafitte Greenway. Just as you leave the Quarter, hit up The Black Penny for a can of beer. You’d be wise to make this your rally point for the weekend. Lunch is waiting for you at Bevi Seafood. Grab crawfish and wait for Endymion. Depending on the speed you eat and the speed of the floats you may get antsy. If so, head back down the Greenway and hit Bayou Beer Garden. Assume that at this point you will be well on your way to figuring out what else to do with your night. But if someone whispers in your ear they have half a MoMs Ball ticket, call the audible and to quote Hunter Thompson “take the ride.”
Sunday could be a wash if MoMs was in the cards. If not, get back out there and watch the marching bands on St Charles and Calliope. Get on the corner where you can get in and out of Circle Bar. Make it a day. There’s nothing like it when the bands let it out there.
Lundi Gras: Skip parades. Breakfast at Killer Poboys. Day drink on St Bernard Ave. Dinner (Sneaky Pickle, Reds, Junction, Arabella) and night drinking on Saint Claude.
Mardi Gras: It’s about Zulu & St Anne’s. Pick one and hustle to the other. If you are crossing Frenchmen Street at all in the morning grab those $3 Don Julio shots at 13. It’s a bold move but you get the year to reset. After St Anne, follow the trade winds.
ProTip: Don’t catch any beads after the parades turn off Canal and head to the convention center.
This is a thing. It’s actually a wonderful part of living here. Mardi Gras is a state holiday in Louisiana: an extra day off to do what you want. And some people take that Monday off, so it’s a really nice four day weekend every year.
Run the parade routes before the parades. The streets are blocked off, you get to see multiple neighborhoods on each route, and it still gets you out the house. Explore City Park. Miles of trails and hardly anyone there. (This idea is good everyday except Saturday, due to Endymion.) Enjoy the lakefront.
You don’t have to go far to get outside. You can hit Fontainebleau Park to get on the 27 mile trail. It’s just on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and while it’s probably a bit late to grab a cabin in the park, it’s a beautiful day trip. Also, an often overlooked day trip is the option of heading south to Grand Isle. Grab a fishing charter if it’s not too late, and spend the rest of your Mardi Gras working on your own Redfish recipes.
If you have the means to go further than a day, maximize bang for your buck by taking a few extra friends with you. Cost of rentals go down and if you are talking about having to rent gear, you might be able to talk a local shop owner into a sweetheart deal on those Monday/Tuesday rentals with a group.
If it’s snow you seek, head to Big Sky Montana. Currently all lifts and trails are open. They are skiing on 6 inches of fresh powder. The weather is calling for snow everyday until Saturday. So add that to the 80” they already have, and then tack on a bit more for good measure on Monday. Rent a house for $150 & up, or stay in a hotel for $250+. Currently both are available.
Maybe you’re not trying to practice your Wim Hof technique this Mardi Gras and you want something a little warmer. With all that New Orleans has gone through, and as thousands of tourists flock to the city, remember the lean years right after the storm. The years people asked if there was anything left? If there was even a reason to come? If you are leaving in search of warm weather all 42 bridges along U.S. 1 are good to go. The Florida Keys were smashed last year by Hurricane Irma. Much like NOLA with a major financial driver of the local economy tied to tourism and hospitality, The Keys are open for business, the temps are in the high 70’s and low 80’s for all of this Mardi Gras.
This flu season has been especially brutal. If you end up sick, not able to join us on the parade routes, or on the trail heads, you will be missed. Do yourself a favor right now, even if you don’t have the flu. Order “Freedom Found” by Warren Miller. The perk of ordering it even if you aren’t sick is that come Wednesday, you’ll know you have it for that hangover. He pioneered action sports movies before GoPro founder Nick Woodman was born. If you’re too sick to read, order one of his films. Higher Ground is a Truest favorite, as it paved the way for Matchstick Production and all the beautiful work they did with Shane McConkey.