_Where do I want to stay?
Where you want to stay depends a lot on where you want to spend the majority of your time. If you’re not going to spend the majority of time downtown, then you don’t want to stay there. The traffic getting in and out is difficult and the prices of lodgings is much higher. So if you’d be happy to catch the parades in the suburbs – then stay there. I’d advise staying in just about any of the Metairie hotels around Veteran’s Blvd and the Causeway. If you want to walk to parades stay north of I-10. You’ll have to drive if you stay south of the interstate, and traffic can get heavy, but is usually do-able if you time it right. There is lots of parking at lakeside mall – but lots of people also park there. There is usually a festive feel in the area and lots of families. If you don’t have kids you don’t want to be here if you want any beads – the kids will monopolize them. Most of the people who go to parades in the other suburbs are either locals or drive into the area and then return to wherever they are staying.
If you’re planning on spending the majority of your time downtown, then you want to stay there – but there are four major places you can stay for Mardi Gras: Uptown, the CBD, the French Quarter and the Marigny.
If you’re mainly interested in parades and aren’t going to party in the French Quarter much – then Uptown or the CBD might be good for you. The majority of the parades come from the uptown area around Napoleon Avenue and travel down St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street and turn back into the CBD. There are several B&B’s in the Uptown area on or near St. Charles all the way to expressway. These areas are great for parades because there aren’t any barricades. Many families come here to watch the parades. If you’re thinking of staying in this area because it’s on, or close to, the streetcar line – be aware that during Mardi Gras the streetcar runs at irregular times. They stop running a couple hours before parades and start up at some (unspecified) time after the parade is over.
If your main interest is parades, but you also want to spend some time in the French Quarter, then the CBD may be for you. There are several nice hotels on St. Charles between Poydras and Canal Street. The Mardi Gras viewing stand is at Gallier Hall (Lafayette Street and St. Charles). There are public (pay) grandstands in that area, too. The grandstands can be nice, you have somewhere to sit while waiting for the parades, and access to porta-potty. The area between the expressway and Canal can get pretty tightly crowded – and the crowd is separated from the floats by barricades. IMHO this is a drawback – as a rider, I have a problem getting throws to the people when there are barricades keeping them so far from the float. On the other hand, you can get up front along the barricades in places and get a good view of the parade. There are also hotels in the CBD between St. Charles and the river. These are good for seeing the parades as they end. They are farther away from the prime areas of the French Quarter.
The French Quarter is THE prime area for partying, so if that is what you’re wanting to do most this is where you want to be. You’re going to have to walk to see parades if you stay in the French Quarter. You CAN see parades on Canal street, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Of all the places to watch parades, this is probably the worst place to do it. So you’ll have to walk a ways down St. Charles or catch them at the end, when they turn off St. Charles. The French Quarter is where you want to be to see costumes – especially on Mardi Gras day. It is by far the most popular place to stay, so prices are higher, there are minimum stays and you have to book early.
The Marigny is a nice neighborhood next to the French Quarter. There are several nice B&B’s there. Frenchmen Street, with lots of clubs along it, is very popular for music lovers. It’s also popular on Mardi Gras with lots of costumes parading. It’s not an optimal place if you’re interested in the big parades. It’s also a bit of a walk to the French Quarter – but do-able.
It’s important to know that you can’t just get here and expect to find a place to stay once you get here. By Mardi Gras weekend, almost all of the hotels are sold out – and those that aren’t are the expensive ones. This is one of the times that planning ahead is important. If you book early enough sometimes you can get a room for the weekend and at a reasonable price, but if you wait too long they’ll want a minimum stay and higher price.