Mardi Gras New Orleans 2011
All right, you're going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 2011, but are you really going to Mardi Gras, or are you just sticking around for the beads and booze on Bourbon Street? There's a lot more to a true New Orleans Mardi Gras experience than the tourist-heavy French Quarter, and many locals would say that if you just stick around there, you're not really a part of Mardi Gras at all. So whether you're going for just Fat Tuesday ("Mardi Gras" in English) or all of Carnival, here's what you need to know.
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Mardi Gras New Orleans 2011 - Where To Stay
Once you've got your flight booked, you're going to want to pick a place to stay in relaxed, Basin City style. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your budget, and how hard you plan on partying from night to night, but for the discerning traveler, New Orleans offers a bevy of terrific historic hotels both in the Quarter and the outlying neighborhoods. My personal favorite is The Columns, an elegant antebellum-style hotel built in 1883 in the Garden District. Get up for their famous "Jazz Brunch" on Sundays and be sure to go down to their Victorian Lounge for a nightcap before you head up to your room. The hotel is right off the Charles Avenue streetcar line, so you can reap the benefits of being away from the people traffic and still reach most parade routes.
See: Historic Mardi Gras Hotels
Mardi Gras New Orleans 2011 - What To Do
Speaking of parades, they're one of the single biggest reasons to go to Mardi Gras, so bring the skeptics. Even if you think you don't like parades, you must try to catch a few of the big ones on the Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before Mardi Gras. Parade societies, or "Krewes," spend most of the year and tens of thousands of dollars working on the floats, costumes, music, themes, and throws (baubles, beads, and gifts thrown from the floats) for their Mardi Gras show. You'll also see some incredible marching bands from around Louisiana and the best of the rest of the United States. It's easy to roll your eyes, but just wait: Those are some talented kids.
After the parades finish, it's time to check out the nightlife. Decatur, Frenchman, and Bourbon Streets are all known for their live music venues, though you can stumble onto some virtuoso brass or blues almost anywhere in the city. Ask for a recommendation from your hotel or a local and get your feet wandering; the depth of respect and joy for live music there is a big part of what makes New Orleans grand, and one of America's great cities.
See: Mardi Gras 2011 Parade Schedule