Mardi Gras returns: Our guide to a last-minute New Orleans road trip
The countdown to Mardi Gras Day on Feb. 21 is in single digits. The Carnival season reaches a fever pitch this weekend, with multiple daily parades throughout New Orleans beginning Wednesday.
Why it matters: Major parades will run the full length of their routes for the first time since 2020, meaning it's back to the usual shenanigans for the greatest free show on Earth.
- But it doesn’t come easy (for the city, anyway). The New Orleans Police Department doesn’t have a deep enough roster for its usual crowd-control requirements, so the city has imported law enforcement from other state municipalities.
How to party like a local: Axios has landed in New Orleans, with a new Local newsletter starting there soon. Until then, here are the best tips for an unforgettable last-minute Mardi Gras, from born-and-raised New Orleans reporter Chelsea Brasted.
Getting there: Hit the road from Houston and you're looking at six hours in the car.
- Traveling on a weekday? Plan to arrive before 3pm to avoid the worst traffic as parade floats and after-school and after-work travel combine.
Where to stay
Some hotels still have availability for this weekend, but book ASAP. For the best walkability, stick to neighborhoods like the CBD and Warehouse District.
- If you're booking a short-term rental, look for a permit number before finalizing your reservation, which indicates the host has verified their listing is up to city regulations. (This is a hot-button issue here.)
- A few options we found in those neighborhoods include the Hyatt Regency, the Sheraton New Orleans on Canal Street and the JW Marriott.
What to wear: Let your freak flag fly. We highly encourage costumes and outlandish 'fits. Wigs, glitter, sequins, wacky colors and patterns — let 'em rip.
What to eat
Carnival began Jan. 6, so it's a bit late in the game for dining reservations, but experts know it's best to avoid making firm plans during Mardi Gras anyway. You can really only have good intentions, because navigating the city can be tough when most of it is partying in the streets.
- If you're downtown, you'd be right to intend to stop by Killer Poboys (inside Erin Rose or the standalone shop on Dauphine Street), Cochon Butcher, Pizza Delicious, or Tava Indian Street Food.
- Along the Uptown parade route, head to Magazine or Prytania streets for the most options. Check out Bouligny Tavern, The Daily Beet, St. James Cheese Company, Molly's Rise and Shine or Banh Mi Boys.
- And yes, it's perfectly legal to publicly consume alcohol throughout New Orleans. Just stick to plastic or aluminum containers, and look for ways to recycle on the route, or plan to pack out your empties.
Do whatcha wanna
Mardi Gras can be as family-friendly as you'd like it to be. It just depends on where — and how — you spend your time. Here are a few ideas:
- Kid-friendly fun: Stick to daytime parades and set up camp on the neutral ground (as medians are known here) Uptown. The local paper has more on the basics.
- Adults-only: Think late nights on Bourbon Street or singing karaoke at Kajun's Pub.
- LGBTQ+: Get tickets to Choke Hole, the drag queen wrestling show, or the wildly artistic Dad's Ball. Find Le Societe de Sainte Anne on Mardi Gras Day.
- Black History: Celebrate African-American traditions by watching Black Masking Indians step out on Mardi Gras in ostentatious and beautiful hand-beaded suits, or see the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade through the city.
Don't ... spend the weekend in jail: That means no public urination, don't cut across parades through the middle of bands, dance teams or between floats, and really don't touch a police horse without permission.
The bottom line: New Orleans is at its brightest and most beautiful this week. Just remember: This is a real city with real people who carry out real lives, so enjoy our playground, but respect our traditions. Be patient with traffic. Tip your servers. And try to plan ahead next year.
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