Visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras – Tips and Recommendations from a Louisiana Native

Celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans is arguably something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Mardi Gras beads (photo courtesy of the parades to the spirited culture and the zesty Creole food, there’s truly something for everyone who visits New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Louisiana native Allison Gouaux manages public relations for Southern Comfort in the New Orleans area and has a number of tips and recommendations to share with travelers regarding the Mardi Gras celebration.

Q. Life Love Beauty – Where is the best place to stay? What part of the city?

A. Allison Gouaux – Although there are parades happening all over New Orleans, the French Quarter has an abundance of world-class hotels that put you at a great location to experience the French Quarter festivities while also being close to the Uptown and Mid-City parades. Some hotels that come to mind are the Royal Sonesta (located on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter), the Intercontinental and the W (both located on Poydras in the Central Business District), and the Astor Crowne Plaza and the Marriot located on Canal (these are walking distance to the French Quarter too.) Also, because there are several Uptown parades it may be fun to stay at an Uptown bed and breakfast or rent a local’s apartment who is out of town during Carnival. You will already be in the neighborhood, and can easily walk to parades or any restaurants/bars after the parades are over.

Q. Life Love Beauty – Which restaurants or food hot spots can’t be missed?

A. Allison Gouaux – New Orleans food experience is unlike any other. The below listings are local favorites – some dives and some more upscale.

Parasol’s – Local bar with the best roast beef po’boys in the city.
Central Grocery – Fantastic muffalettas! You can also buy your own olive spread to take home with you.
Cooter Browns – Local uptown bar that is known for their freshly shucked oysters and an enormous selection of domestic and imported beers
Café Reconcile – Great spot for lunch during the week
Upperline – An upscale fine dining restaurant known for it’s great food and local character
Commander’s Palace – Known as the grand dame of restaurants in the lower garden district that is a great place to go to brunch
Gautreauxs – Their chef just got recognized by Food and Wine as “Best Chef in 2007”
Dante’s Kitchen – Classic Creole restaurant located in the River Bend uptown with great food
A king cake is a must during Carnival season. Traditionally, king cakes are made of dough twisted in a circular bread with white icing and purple, green and gold (the traditional Carnival colors) sprinkles. You can either get the traditional cinnamon-flavored cakes or get one “filled” with either cream cheese, pralines, or other fruit flavors. Locals love king cakes from bakeries such as Haydel’s, Randazza’s, and Boulangerie (for a fancy French king cake).

A specialty drink known in New Orleans is the Hurricane. Made famous by Pat O’s Bar on Bourbon Street, this concoction is a New Orleans treat. Southern Comfort has a great recipe too.

Mardi Gras is a fun getaway idea for couples. (photo courtesy of Life Love Beauty – Which parades are the best ones to see?

A. Allison Gouaux – The most talked about parades roll the weekend before Mardi Gras and include Endymion, Orpheus and Bacchus. Mardi Gras Day include Rex and Zulu – after the parades a great spot to be is on Frenchman Street in the Marigny. It is also popular for locals to dress up in costumes on Mardi Gras. You can find plenty of unique costumes on Frenchman and in the French Quarter.

Q. Life Love Beauty – Besides the parades, what other activities are must-see/must-do for couples, families, or groups of friends?

A. Allison Gouaux –
Music – Some great places to listen to some fabulous local musicians include: Tipitina’s, Maple Leaf, DBA.
Family – If you are cominMardi Gras beads come in all shapes and colors. (photo courtesy of to New Orleans as a family, some great places to visit include the Children’s Museum, Insectarium, Audubon Zoo, Aquarium

Q. Life Love Beauty – What is the weather typically like this time of year? How should travelers to New Orleans pack/plan to dress?

A. Allison Gouaux – Typically, the weather is warm during the day, but depending on how our crazy weather is acting it may be cool at night. Parade attire is very casual (think jeans and a sweater or t-shirt), and comfortable shoes are a must. It may be a good idea to also pack a small ice chest to bring with you while waiting for a parade to pass with snacks and beverages.

Q. Life Love Beauty – Are there any major safety concerns?

A. Allison Gouaux – New Orleans is no different than any other major city. Sometimes people who haven’t been to Mardi Gras in the past have a tendency to over-indulge which may make them less aware of their surroundings and what they are doing. I say just keep your wits about yourself, and you should be fine.

About the Expert:
Allison Gouaux is a Louisiana native and a representative for Beuerman Miller Fitzgerald, and specifically for Southern Comfort in New Orleans.

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