If you’ve ever dreamed of experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you’re in the right place. In today’s post I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about visiting New Orleans for Mardi Gras, based on our experiences of spending Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
This guide includes tips on things you can do in New Orleans during Mardi Gras 2024, when Mardi Gras 2024 takes place, key parade schedules, Mardi Gras viewing locations, tips on finding accommodation during Mardi Gras, and more!
This post is based on our personal experiences of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s a time when the whole city goes a little bit wild! Visiting during this time certainly has its upsides. It also has its downsides, which I’ll go into a little later in the post.
First, let’s answer some popular Mardi Gras questions you might have.
Table of Contents
What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is a French term, which literally translates into “Fat Tuesday”. It’s based on a religious event, and falls on the Tuesday before Lent begins in the Christian Calendar. This date is also known as Shrove Tuesday. The Wednesday is known as Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of fasting in the run up to Easter, 46 days later.
In order to prepare for all those days of fasting, many people would traditionally eat a lot of fatty food in the run up to Lent, and particularly on the last day – hence “Fat Tuesday”. Obvious really.
In many parts of the world, Mardi Gras has grown into a celebration in its own right, with carnival celebrations happening all over the world.
Most famous of these is Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the Rio Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where hundreds of thousands of people descend on the cities in question to have a good time and take part in the festivities.
The US custom of celebrating Mardi Gras started in Mobile, Alabama in 1703 by a Frenchman. Mobile still holds Mardi Gras celebrations throughout the year (and has an excellent Mardi Gras museum), but New Orleans has definitely eclipsed Mobile as the US capital of Mardi Gras now.
When is Mardi Gras 2024 in New Orleans?
Mardi Gras 2024 is on the 13th February 2024, with the main celebrations happening in the two weeks leading up to the date itself. The largest celebrations usually happen on the two weekends before Mardi Gras itself, which always falls on a Tuesday.
As mentioned above, because Mardi Gras is linked to a religious date, which is in turn linked to cycles of the moon, the date changes every year.
The biggest parades in New Orleans happen on Mardi Gras day, which is the Tuesday before Lent begins, 47 days before Easter. This date can fall anywhere from the 3rd February through to 10th March.
For reference, the next few years of Mardi Gras dates are:
- Mardi Gras 2024 – 13th February
- Mardi Gras 2025 – 4th March
- Mardi Gras 2026 – 17th February
- Mardi Gras 2027 – 9th February
The main Mardi Gras parades happen on the Tuesday itself, with a good many other parades in the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day itself.
There’s also a tradition of celebrating on the Monday, which has come to be known as Lundi Gras.
If you are planning on visiting New Orleans specifically for Mardi Gras, we’d suggest coming for the six days leading up to Mardi Gras to give yourself plenty of time for sight-seeing as well as parade watching.
How Long Does Mardi Gras Last in New Orleans?
Officially, Mardi Gras starts on the 6th of January, and runs until Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans, the majority of Mardi Gras celebrations are held in the two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday itself.
The biggest parades tend to happen over the weekend before Fat Tuesday, and on Fat Tuesday itself, so if you don’t have a lot of time, we’d suggest that would be the best time to go. However, there are parades from the start of Mardi Gras through to the end.
What is the Parade Schedule for Mardi Gras 2024 in New Orleans?
There are normally around 80 parades scheduled in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, running from the 6th January through to Mardi Gras itself. So whenever you visit, you should be able to see a parade.
Our recommendation is to try and see at least one of the parades by one of the “Super Krewes”, as these tend to be very visually impressive.
The three super krewes in the city of New Orleans are Orpheus, Bacchus and Endymion. Whilst there’s no formal definition of a super krewe, they usually have at least 1,000 members and at least 500 riders participating in the parades, making for quite the spectacle of floats!
For 2024, the parade schedules are not yet published.
The parade schedule for Mardi Gras 2024 will be available here.
You should also try and see at least one parade in the French Quarter, as these are foot parades rather than vehicle driven parades, so they have a different feel.
We’d also recommend trying to catch some of the other parades during your time in the city so you get the full experience. There are multiple parades a day following various routes, so you shouldn’t have difficulty finding one to watch.
The full parade schedule and route maps for Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be found here.
Where to Watch the Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans
There are three main options for watching the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans. You can watch from the street, you can watch from a balcony, or you can watch from the purpose-built grandstands.
Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, and I’ll go through each of these.
Watching Mardi Gras from a Balcony
When you think of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the image of beautiful wrought iron balconies clad in revellers probably pops into your mind somewhere.
The most famous (or perhaps infamous?) balconies in New Orleans during Mardi Gras are those which are found on Bourbon Street in the French quarter. However, since the 1960s the major motorized parades haven’t gone down Bourbon Street as it is too narrow. There are still some parades that come through here, but they are all foot based.
This hasn’t stopped this part of New Orleans becoming the centre of the Mardi Gras party, with costumed party goers flocking to the street itself and the bars that line it, many of which have balconies overlooking the street. Be aware that the action here can get a little adult, so you might want to steer clear if you’re looking for a more family friendly experience.
Good venues in Bourbon Street with balconies include Bourbon Vieux, Bourbon Cowboy and Cat’s Meow.
If you want to watch the larger parades from a balcony, there are a number of venues to consider, including bars and hotels. Generally these venues will have some sort of Mardi Gras package or booking requirement, and there will invariably be a fee for watching Mardi Gras from these locations.
If you want to watch Mardi Gras from a balcony, hotel or restaurant along the route, advance booking is absolutely essential.
Here are some options to consider:
- The Avenue Pub – has a balcony view over St. Charles street, where many of the parades go.
- InterContinental New Orleans – rooms on St. Charles offer good views, and they have public viewing stands available as well
- Lafayette Hotel – balcony rooms are available for watching the parade from.
- JW Marriott – right on Canal St, most of the parades pass by and there are rooms with full balconies
- Royal St. Charles Hotel – boutique hotel on St Charles with views of the parade route and a balcony area
- Holiday Inn Express New Orleans – right on Lee Circle, St. Charles Ave, you can see the parade from some rooms, and there’s a dedicated viewing area as well
- Courtyard By Marriott – this popular hotel on St. Charles has some balcony rooms which are close enough that you should be able to catch throws from the parades as they go by
The advantages of watching the Mardi Gras parades from a balcony are that you will have a good view, the chance of seating, and the ability to buy drinks. You’ll also have easy access to restrooms.
However, as you are elevated, you might not feel quite as much a part of the proceedings compared to being on street level. It’s also harder to interact with the parade participants, who tend to aim their throws at the throngs on ground level.
Watching Mardi Gras from a Grandstand
If you want to be closer to the action than a balcony, but still want to be able to sit down, then your best option will be to book a spot in one of the grand stand seating locations.
There are a number of these grandstand locations on St. Charles Ave, with two options in Lafayette Square, and two on the intersection of St. Charles and Poydras.
Tickets for these locations needs to be booked in advance, which you can do here. Pricing varies depending on the parade you choose, and you need to pay per parade.
There are a number of advantages to booking a grandstand location. First, you don’t have to stress out about trying to find a good spot to watch from, as they are in prime viewing location. Second, they have their own portable restrooms that you have access to.
The only real disadvantage is that you have to pay for them, so obviously they are more expensive than just finding a spot on the street. Still, we can definitely recommend watching at least one parade from these for a great view.
Street Locations for Watching the Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans
Finally, you can also watch the Mardi Gras parades from anywhere along the parade routes themselves. The routes can be miles long, so there are a lot of options for finding a spot to watch the route from. Here are some spots to consider:
- Lee Circle – this traffic circle offers a unique view of the parades going up and down St. Charles. Right next to the aforementioned Holiday Inn
- Polymnia & St. Charles – this intersection is by the Avenue Pub, which has an excellent balcony for watching. If you don’t get a spot on the balcony, this street location is another excellent, if very busy, choice
- Canal Street – after leaving Lafayatte Square many parades turn onto Canal Street. Just try and stay on the east side of the street, as otherwise you can become stuck once the parades start
- St Charles Ave – most of the parades run down St. Charles Ave, so a good option is just to wander down this street until you find yourself a spot and make it your own!
Watching from the street is definitely an authentic experience, and we’d recommend watching at least one parade from the street.
Just be aware that for the more popular parades, the best spots to watch from can fill up hours in advance. People even bring little ladders to stand on for optimum viewing.
Watching from the street is free, and can have a great atmosphere as you jostle for throws from the parade floats. However, unless you bring a chair, you’ll likely be standing for a prolonged period. Whilst there are public portable restrooms in some locations, they are not everywhere.
Things to Do in New Orleans During Mardi Gras 2024
Despite New Orleans being focused almost entirely on Mardi Gras at this time of year, we’ve found it is still possible to do a lot of sightseeing in the city and surrounds.
Just be aware many of the downtown roads are closed off for the parades at various times throughout the week or so leading up the event so driving and parking can be very challenging.
It’s just worth bearing in mind, in New Orleans anyway, that the day of Mardi Gras itself is a holiday, so not everything will be open. Although we’d advise putting that day aside to enjoy the festivities anyway!
Here’s everything we’ve done in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, to give you some ideas of what is possible in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
1. Drink Coffee at Café du Monde
Easily the most famous Café in New Orleans, Cafe du Monde is known for its beignets (a type of doughnut) and chicory blended coffee (this can be a bit of an acquired taste!). It’s famous for people watching and is incredibly popular, which means you’re likely going to be queuing.
Whenever we’ve wandered by, regardless of time of day or night, it has always seemed busy (it’s open 24 hours a day!). If you just want to try the famous coffee and beignets, you can queue for the takeout line which is often quicker than waiting for a table.
2. Jackson Square
Just near Café du Monde is Jackson Square, a historic park which sits in the French Quarter. The French Quarter is generally regarded as one of the prettiest parts of New Orleans, home to all those lovely houses with balconies which are so representative of New Orleans.
Jackson Square has been at the centre of public life in New Orleans for hundreds of years, and is still frequented by painters, musicians, and street performers of all ilk.
It’s historically important too – it was in Jackson Square that the French handed over New Orleans as part of the Louisiana purchase in 1803 – a historic land sale that saw the US pretty much double in size overnight.
The centre of the Square is a lovely park, whilst the square itself is surrounded on three sides by historic buildings, including the Cabildo – the original Spanish City Hall.
There’s definitely a lot to see here, and we loved wandering around, people watching, sipping on our Café Du Monde coffee, and taking in the street performers! You can also explore the French Quarter in traditional style with a carriage ride like this.
3. Eat Beignets at Café Beignet
So I already mentioned Beignets. The reason we didn’t eat Beignets at Café Du Monde was that we were saving ourselves for the Beignets at Cafe Beignet. The theory being that if a place has named itself after its main food offering, it should be a reliable place to eat them.
This turned out to be a good bet. The breakfast at Café Beignet was absolutely magnificent, and there were plenty of options to choose from as well as those delicious, powered sugar covered Beignets. If you’re in New Orleans, you need to eat Beignets, and this is a great place to do just that.
4. Visit Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras is an essential part of life in New Orleans, and the best way to learn about it in the city is at Mardi Gras World.
Operated by Blaine Kern studios, this is a living workshop where the massive floats that make up Mardi Gras are created, and many of them are also stored. Although, as we learnt, the company has a total of 16 warehouses around the city to store all the Mardi Gras paraphernalia, which should go some way to giving you some idea of the scale of this event!
Mardi Gras World is a fascinating place to visit, where you can see new floats coming to life, and learn all about the traditions and customs of Mardi Gras via a guided tour that includes a video and some King Cake.
We learnt a lot, including the fact that everyone who rides on the Mardi Gras floats has to pretty much purchase all their own throws (the beads etc. that are liberally distributed from the floats to the crowds), and that floats can cost upwards of $50,000 to create!
The one downside of visiting Mardi Gras World during Mardi Gras itself is that many of the floats won’t actually be in the warehouse – they’ll be out either parading, or being prepared to parade. When we visited, the majority of floats were out.
This wasn’t a problem though, as we saw them in their full glory on the streets of New Orleans, and were still able to appreciate the workshops, as well as some sneak peeks of the following years’ designs. If you’re in New Orleans and want to learn a bit about Mardi Gras, we definitely recommend heading to Mardi Gras World.
Note, Mardi Gras world is about a mile or so from Canal Street, but there’s a free shuttle service. Just call the Mardi Gras World shuttle service (number on their website), and they’ll come pick you up. Tickets for your visit and tour can be bought in advance here.
Mardi Gras world is also included on the New Orleans sightseeing pass and the Go City New Orleans Pass.
5. Visit the Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture
If you’re more excited by the clothes and history of Mardi Gras, then you will want to make a visit to the Mardi Gras Museum of Costume and Culture. Here you can learn more about the traditions of Mardi Gras, and what goes into making the costumes for the event.
You’ll also get to play in the “costume closet”, where you’ll have access to a whole range of outfits you can dress up in for photos!
This is a ticketed attraction, and you can buy your tickets in advance here. You can opt to do a self-guided tour or a guided tour, we’d recommend the latter as you’ll pick up a lot more knowledge from the guide.
6. Take a Cemetery Tour of New Orleans
Ok, so this one is a bit weird, but hey, that’s New Orleans. One of the top tourist attractions in the city of New Orleans are the cemeteries.
You might be wondering why.
Well, the answer is that New Orleans is built on a swamp. This makes the traditional practice of burying people in the ground a bit tricky, as all that decomposing body stuff isn’t really something you want leaking into your groundwater.
The city’s solution? Above ground graves. These graves are like little houses of their own, into which citizens are placed on their death.
Usually, a grave will hold multiple bodies, and the heat means they actually work a little like ovens, accelerating the decomposition process, and meaning more space for the dead in each individual grave.
It’s a bit ghoulish, but it is unique to New Orleans, so a tour is an essential part of any visit.
We did a 2 hour walking tour of St Louis Cemetery #1, most famous of all the New Orleans cemeteries. You can also tour Lafayette cemetery on this tour, and visit some of New Orleans other cemeteries on this tour.
The tour we took covered both the cemeteries, and also touched on some of the Voodoo culture of New Orleans – with infamous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans Marie Laveau buried in the cemetery we visited.
The tour was a lot of fun, and we learnt a great deal about burial in New Orleans.
We also visited some notable graves, including that of actor Nicolas Cage (not dead at time of writing, but clearly a man who likes to plan ahead!), civil rights activity Homer Plessy, and of course, Marie Laveau.
Note – in order to visit the St Louis Cemetery #1 you have to be on a tour with a guide who is specifically licensed to visit the cemeteries.
We saw people being turned away who had unlicensed guides, so the policy is quite strict – we definitely recommend going with an official tour company like this.
7. Take a Swamp Tour
Speaking of swamps, another popular activity in New Orleans is to take a Swamp Tour, so naturally we signed up to do this, taking a Swamp Tour.
This did involve a bit of a drive out of the city. Most tours include pickup, or you can drive yourself out and save a bit of money. There’s no public transport to the swamp that we could figure out.
The swamp tour was a lot of fun, although as we were visiting in February, it wasn’t the ideal temperature to see the main attraction, which are the alligators, as they were mostly buried in mud waiting for the temperatures to improve.
We did see a baby alligator though, which was pretty cool, as well as some other Louisiana wildlife including a raccoon and wild pigs.
If you’re interested, you can book a swamp tour here. Those of you looking for more of a thrill might consider a high-speed swamp airboat ride instead.
8. Explore Bourbon Street
Back in New Orleans, one of the more famous streets in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street, so naturally we had to explore this.
This is where one of the Mardi Gras myths has to be dispelled. Prior to visiting Mardi Gras, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I imagined a fairly adult environment, with beads being bargained for clothes and revellers all over town.
The reality was a little different. The main parades are a family friendly environment throughout the day and into the night (although there was plenty of liquor being consumed!), and there are more than enough beads coming off the floats that you don’t need to give up your clothing for them.
Mardi Gras is also held relatively early in the year, and despite what you might think about Louisiana, it can get pretty cold here in February. Most people therefore are wrapped up fairly warm, even if the sun is out.
If you are looking for a more raucous Mardi Gras experience though, Bourbon Street is a good place to start. In the old days of Mardi Gras, the main parades used to run through the French Quarter, but this has become impractical due to fire and safety regulations.
That’s not to say there are no Mardi Gras celebrations in the French Quarter though! Bars are stuffed full of patrons knocking back exotic looking drinks, and folks throw beads down from the balconies which line the streets. People wear all kind of fun outfits, some of which are definitely skimpier than others. And there are still floats, but they’re being pushed by people rather than drawn by tractors.
The epicentre of the French Quarter Mardi Gras celebrations is Bourbon Street, which is definitely a very pretty street in the French Quarter, and worth exploring anyway, even when it isn’t jam packed with people who have beads raining down on their heads.
But it’s also here where you can get a more adult oriented Mardi Gras experience, complete with street partying throughout the night. At least, until midnight on Mardi Gras Tuesday itself, when the party ends!
9. Longue Vue House
If you’re looking for something a little different to do in New Orleans, and love historic properties as much as Jess does, then a visit to Longue Vue House and Gardens should definitely be near the top of your list.
This is a really interesting house to visit, largely because it was built to the vision of one couple, who had the whole house designed around their specific requirements.
Philanthropists Edith and Edgar Stern had the home built in 1939 to replace their previous home in the same location, which no longer met their needs.
Open now for guided tours, the home features three beautiful floors and a variety of features that would have been ground breaking in the day.
The gardens are also well worth exploring, and it’s a nice break from the city centre madness of New Orleans during Mardi Gras!
Getting here from the city centre is a little tricky. We ended up taking public transport, which gave us the opportunity to take the lovely old New Orleans tram, but did also require a twenty minute walk to the house from the tram stop.
If that’s too much, grab an Uber, or take a look at the options on the Longue Vue house website for additional transport ideas, as well as opening information and pricing. Longue Vue house is also included on the Go City New Orleans Pass and this tour.
10. Steamboat River Cruise
Our last night in New Orleans was pretty special, as we took a Steamboat Cruise on the mighty Mississippi River, aboard the Steamboat Natchez – the only steam powered river cruise operating out of New Orleans, and one of only two steam powered sternwheel boats on the entire Mississippi River.
This was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours, as the boat cruised down the river, and we enjoyed live jazz and a full three course meal, accompanied by drinks. If you want to do something similar, you can book a dinner cruise here. Daytime jazz cruises are also available.
The views from the river of the city by night were quite special, and it was a fantastic way to end our New Orleans adventure, and in fact, our whole Deep South Road Trip.
11. Eat King Cake
Ok, onto serious topics. When you’re in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you basically have to eat King Cake. This is a brioche style dough covered in sugar, with the twist being that there’s a figurine of a baby inside. The theory goes that whoever finds the baby in their slice of cake, has to throw the next party.
Whatever the obligations, King Cake is good, it’s colorful, and it’s definitely worth getting your hands on a slice when you’re in town.
12. Go To Mardi Gras!
This one should be obvious – we went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, so naturally we took in a few parades! There are a great many parades that run in the weeks running up to Mardi Gras, winding their way on various routes through the city.
Each parade is operated by a “Krewe”, and will be made up of a great many floats – up to forty five floats in a single Krewe in fact, with some of those being double floats.
There are over thirty Krewe’s that parade through New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and seeing them all would like be quite the effort. So, aim for the highlights, with the Krewes of Rex, Endymion, Zulu and Bacchus being particularly noteworthy.
All the information on the parade times and routes can be found on the official New Orleans Mardi Gras website, plus you can download apps for your smartphone to get live updates on parade locations which is very useful when you’re standing and waiting for them to start rolling by!
In terms of watching a parade, the routes are very long, and we found that the further from Canal Street we went, the better chances we had in terms of getting a good spot.
The most popular parades will be very busy, but if you just want to get some fun throws, head along to a middle of the day parade, and you’ll find yourself quickly weighed down by more beads than you’ll know what to do with!
There are also a number of side events that occur throughout Mardi Gras.
Two highlights for us were the Lundi Gras celebrations, which featured live music and evening fireworks, and the Bacchus Bash street party, which took place on the Sunday before Mardi Gras Tuesday, the same day as the Bacchus parade took place, and also featured live music throughout the day.
13. Visit a Plantation
Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is the famous river road, which is home to a number of beautiful plantation homes.
Destrehan Plantation and Ormond Plantation are the closest plantations to New Orleans, although Oak Alley is one of the famous and visited of all the plantations.
We visited 12 of the plantations along the River Road, staying overnight at Oak Alley, and put together a detailed guide to visiting the Louisiana Plantations. The plantations can all be visited as a day trip from New Orleans, either by car or by tour.
If you want to take a tour, we can recommend this guided tour which visits Oak Alley Plantation, whilst this tour visits St. Joseph and Laura Plantations and this tour visits Destrehan Plantation.
There are lots of tours to choose from – we’d suggest you take a look at GetYourGuide’s tours here as they offer lots of different day tours, both group tours and private tours from New Orleans.
14. Take a tour of New Orleans
As well as the previously mentioned specific tours such as the cemetery tour, there are lots of other tours available which cover more of the city and its history. Our favourite walking tour company, Take Walks, has a number of walking tours in the city, such as:
- This half day tour of the Garden District, which includes a cemetery tour, streetcar ride, tour of a 150 year old southern mansion and praline tasting
- This 3 hour tour of the French Quarter, which includes Bourbon Street, a haunted mansion, Beignet tasting and a visit to the Hurricane Katrina Exhibit
Of course, there are other tours available in the city, such as:
- This 2 hour walking tour of St Louis Cemetery #1
- This 3 hour tour of the French Quarter and Bourbon Street
Hopefully one of these tours is of interest to you during your visit to New Orleans.
Save Money in New Orleans during Mardi Gras
If you’re visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras, you’ll have noticed that many things are quite expensive!
One way to save money, if you plan on doing some sight-seeing, is to invest in a city attraction pass. Two options to consider are the:
These passes can save you money on a great many New Orleans attractions and tours, as well as some of the plantations on the River Road, and swamp tours.
Definitely a good way to save a bit of money during Mardi Gras if you think you’ll use them.
Why You Should Visit New Orleans During Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is a fantastic experience. People really get into the spirit, with awesome costumes in the crowd, and a real party atmosphere pervades the city. And that’s not even mentioning the floats, which are truly mobile works of art. You can also still see a lot in New Orleans, as we did.
Disadvantages of Visiting New Orleans During Mardi Gras
There are two main disadvantages to visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras. First, it’s going to be super busy. If you’re not into large crowds of people, streets being closed off and all the things that go along with a city partying for a couple of weeks, this might not be for you.
The other disadvantage is price, and in particular accommodation. A lot of people come to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and this pushes accommodation prices through the roof. We paid around $1,000 for a weeks vacation rental accommodation during Mardi Gras, which was an incredible bargain – even if it was much higher than you would normally have to pay.
I wouldn’t let these two things put you off experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or coming to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Just be prepared for the experience!
How to Find Accommodation During Mardi Gras in New Orleans
I’m not going to lie, finding accommodation in New Orleans during Mardi Gras can be a challenge. Mardi Gras is a seriously popular time of year to visit New Orleans, meaning prices are going to be high, and availability in New Orleans hotels will be low.
Here are some options for hotels in New Orleans to consider. Our recommendation – if you find a property that you like the look of that falls within your budget, book it as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.
- Holiday Inn Express Harvey Marrero – this is a well rated 2* hotel around 5 miles to the south of the city centre. If you want to save money during Mardi Gras, staying out of the centre is your best option, and this hotel gets excellent reviews. Breakfast is included, and the rooms include microwaves, refrigerators and coffee makers.
- SpringHill Suites by Marriott New Orleans Downtown – this is a centrally located 3* option by Marriott which has good reviews. Rooms have fridges and microwaves as well as coffee making facilities, and a buffet breakfast is provided with hot and cold items.
- The Jung Hotel and Residences – Well located on Canal Street, this hotel makes a great base for getting to the parade routes as well the French Quarter. This 3* property offers comfortable en-suite rooms and is highly rated by guests
- Royal Street Inn & Bar – Found on Royal Street, around 8 blocks from the French Quarter, this 3* property gets rave reviews. The property features large rooms with coffee making facilities, as well as an on-site bar.
- La Quinta by Wyndham New Orleans Downtown – Found right in the heart of downtown, this is an excellent value 3* property for the location in New Orleans. It’s an easy walk to many of the highlights of the city, including the Mardi Gras parade routes.
- Hilton New Orleans Riverside – This 4* hotel is located right by the river side, so you can watch the paddle boats go by on the Mississippi. This is an excellent location within walking distance of the highlights of the city and the Mardi Gras parade routes. The hotel is well reviewed, and we thin it offers excellent value for a 4* hotel in this location.
- New Orleans Marriott – Found right on the edge of the French Quarter, just a 5 minute walk from Bourbon Street, this Marriott is very well located for the Mardi Gras celebrations. The property has a gym, and some rooms have views of the Mississippi
- The Whitney Hotel – Just off Lafayette Square and a short walk from the French Quarter, this well reviewed historic 4* hotel is well located for many of the parade routes and Mardi Gras festivities.
As well as traditional hotels like the above, there are of course other options, although these prices will also go up during Mardi Gras.
On vacation rental sites like Vrbo (see New Orleans listings here), you’ll see prices double or triple, and even then, there won’t be much availability. Your best option is to book as far in advance as possible, or be prepared to put up with properties that are a little distance from the center.
We ended up staying in a vacation rental on the south side of the river, in the historic “Old Algiers” part of town. This was a ten minute ferry ride across the river into the heart of downtown, so not too much hassle, and was a very quiet neighbourhood, so we were able to escape the hustle of the main Mardi Gras parties when we wanted to.
If you aren’t having much luck with your favourite vacation rental website, I’ve compiled a series of AirBnB alternatives that you should take a look at to give you more options.
Otherwise, check the usual suspects for their New Orleans listings: booking.com being our preferred option for hotels and apartments.
Book as soon as you find a reasonable deal as they sell out quickly, and good luck!
Further Reading for your New Orleans Mardi Gras Experience
We experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans as part of a road trip through the Deep South of the USA. That adventure started in Charleston, South Carolina, and we went through four states, ultimately ending up in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
You can check out all the posts from our southern USA road trip here – more are on the way as I fill in more of the blanks. We’ve also written a number of other guides on travel in the USA and beyond, and we have some other resources you might find useful. In no particular order:
- If you’re planning on visiting any of the plantations along the river road, check out our comprehensive guide to the River Road Plantations of Louisiana
- We’ve written a guide to how much it costs to travel in the USA
- If you’re planning on taking a road trip and are new to driving in the USA, this post will give you some Tips for Driving in the USA
- As well as New Orleans, we’ve also written guides to other cities in the Deep South, including Savannah, Baton Rouge and Charleston
- We’ve visited a lot of other cities in the USA! See our guides to things to do in Austin, things to do in Albuquerque, things to do in Cambria, things to do in Huntsville, and things to do in Santa Fe to get started!
- This is my South – a travel blog focused on what to see and do in this part of the world
- Lonely Planet’s guide to Louisiana and the Deep South
- Our guide to the best Airbnb Alternatives, to help you get the best lodging, whatever your budget
And that’s the end of this post on Visiting New Orleans During Mardi Gras! We hope you found it useful. As always, if you have any feedback or questions, let us know in the comments – and do feel free to share this post on social media if you found it useful!
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Wondering about the prices of ride shares? Was there fare prices higher all week or just on day Tuesday?
Laurence Norah says
It varies depending on how busy it is, but it is more often higher than usual just because there are so many people in town. In addition, rides can take longer because of the parade route diversions.
Hope this helps!
I was thinking of visiting NOLA for local food and jazz music this Feb 20-23, 2021, and have a few questions.
Will it be worth the trip during this pandemic? Will there still be aftershocks of Mardi Gras at the time we plan to visit? Love this column by the way, and will follow you guys from now on.:-)
Laurence Norah says
So there are quite a few restrictions in place in New Orleans at the moment, including some around live entertainment, dining and drinking. You’ll want to read the guidance on the NOLA website to decide if these restrictions mean you want to visit or not:
Mardi Gras officially ends in New Orleans at midnight on “Fat Tuesday”, so there won’t be Mardi Gras related activities after that day. There’s a traditional “sweep” at midnight by police, firefighters and first responders to end the festivities and mark the start of Lent.
I hope this answers your questions!
Mardi Gras events end at midnight
Spring is a wonderful time to visit New Orleans! Many homes near Tulane University and also in the Garden District will have masses of colorful azalea bushes in bloom. While in the Garden District do have lunch or dinner at Commander’s Palace, it is a blue building on a corner across from one of the historic graveyards.
Another part of town is out St. Charles Ave. Pascal Manale’s. It created the first barbequed shrimp dish. This it is not barbeque, but rather a unique dish of whole large cooked shrimp served in a sauce of seasonings and light butter in a bowl. A bib and plenty of napkins accompany this a historic Sicilian Italian cuisine.
Royal Street in the French Quarter. Many shops feature beautiful chandeliers, old French furniture, jewelry, and there is one full of swords and guns of the era.
The French Market for rows of spices, vegetables, and eclectic boas, and jewelry, and more. Also drive out to Magazine Street to shop in antique stores featuring beautiful china oyster dishes, and many of the old things used in the city’s past.
Laurence Norah says
Great tips Dixie, thank you so much! We are really looking forward to our visit and will definitely do all of the above, especially the barbequed shrimp dish!
Dixie Fuzak says
It was such an enjoyable time I spent reading about and seeing the photos you shared of Mardi Gras
in New Orleans. It brought back memories of 1950 when my college offered a trip there. Since then
my husband and I have visited New Orleans five more times. Everything you said is true and will be helpful to future visitors. I am now 87 yrs. “young at heart”, and wish I could do it all over again.
Laurence Norah says
Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your comment! We love New Orleans too, and will be heading back there this May in fact 🙂 It sounds like you have made some wonderful memories in the city, which is what life is all about 🙂
Happy travels, be they real or virtual 🙂
Kristen N says
Great tips! I would recommend taking a kayak swamp tour instead of any other swamp tour (especially the ones that feed or let you handle the gators) as they can be very detrimental to the native wildlife. I’m taking the Manchac Mystic Wildlife Kayak Swamp Tour, which includes transportation from the city as well. Can’t wait for my trip next month!!!
Laurence Norah says
This is a really good tip, and we agree, tours that encourage unnatural interactions with wild animals aren’t ideal. We hope you have a wonderful time in New Orleans, and enjoy the swamp tour!
Tsinda Coombs says
Thanks guys! Just starting to look for info about planning a big birthday trip in 2021, and this seems to have it all in one stop! Well written, comprehensive guide to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Laurence Norah says
Our pleasure! We were actually in New Orleans for my birthday over Mardi Gras – it is an awesome location for a birthday! Have an amazing time and do let us know if you have any questions.
Thank you for the article! It was well-written and helpful. Safe travels 🙂
Laurence Norah says
Our pleasure D – thanks very much! Hope you enjoy Mardi Gras if you’re heading that way!
Keith Carreon says
Thank you Laurence Norah, the good things here for the readers is the the full guides and informations that you gives, because it very important before to go to place they want to go, that’s why this blog is awesome for me, this is a must read of every traveller this can helping them to budget and enjoy their vacation.
Laurence Norah says
Thanks very much Ketih
I fell in love with New Orleans in 2016 – I can’t get enough now! And after visiting Mardi Gras World when I was there, I 100% need to get to Mardi Gras one of these years!!
Laurence Norah says
Mardi Gras is so much fun in New Orleans. I have to say, you guys over in the USA sure know how to put on a good parade 😀
Craig Makepeace says
Excited to be heading to NOLA for Mardi Gras next month, so enjoyed learning more about the history and seeing your photos of what we can expect. Won’t be going too crazy on the party side of things as we’ll be with our young kids, but have taken note of those tips on places to eat and drink. And Mardi Gras World does sound very interesting, it’s on our list.
Laurence Norah says
Just make sure you eat lots of King cake and have at least one Hurricane cocktail 😉 Have an awesome time!
Craig Makepeace says
Kristin Lun says
I’m curious how much to expect by way of lodging. I imagine even on Airbnbs it’s probably upward of $300 a night! I do love New Orleans, though—I think I might want to visit during Jazz Fest even more than Mardi Gras. I was back there last summer with my girlfriends and ate so much I needed a week-long nap afterward!
P.S. Noticed you didn’t make it to Nashville on this particular trip. You need to change that in the future! =)
Laurence Norah says
Yeah, we got away with $1000 for the week, which was a mind-boggling bargain for seven nights for the two of us, and by far the cheapest we found. $300 a night sounds much more what to expect! And yes… there is so much more of the USA we want to explore, and Nashville is certainly on the list. A friend of mine went to Jazz fest in NOLA and she loved it. Definitely one to consider 🙂
Stéphanie Bayle says
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is my absolute goal! I might go there for next new year, which is great as well, I hope I can do it!
It’s an amazing experience! We were there for a whole week, and it happily co-incided with my birthday. Definitely an experience to remember 😀
Gessell + Lee says
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an amazing experience. The other best place to go during Mardi Gras has to be St. Louis. If you’ve never been you should see it. Glad to see New Orleans doing well post Katrina. Great post. Love the pictures!