MARDI GRAS - NEW ORLEANS
Every year at about this time, the city of New Orleans deteriorates into a frenzy of crazy debauchery, with the blessings of the city fathers, all of the businesses in the city, and the entire state of Louisiana.
Kings, queens, floats, beads, music, money, booze, streamers, noise, crowds, and crowds and crowds and crowds.
© Sonesta Hotels
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is synonymous with New Orleans in the same way that Carnival is associated with Rio de Janeiro. The biggest question is where to stay, and on what dates.
For those who love being in the thick of things, who don't care at all about sleep, or peace, or quiet, a hotel that faces Bourbon Street is going to be the ideal spot. They are the most prized, and thus the most expensive rooms in the city during this time, but you do get the most bang for your buck. Probably the best known of these, and the the most sought after, is the Royal Sonesta, with balconies overlooking Bourbon Street.
The Inn on Bourbon is another great spot, with balcony rooms overhanging the parades; the Bourbon Orleans has rooms facing Bourbon street, with two-level suites right at street level.
Inn on Bourbon
OK, maybe Bourbon Street is a bit outré for you; you want the excitement, but just a wee bit removed...
Many hotels surround the action of Bourbon Street and are considered "heart of the French Quarter" accommodations although they are on the periphery of the main event. One of my favorites is the Chateau LeMoyne, a Holiday Inn unlike any other in the world. Just a block off of Bourbon, it could be a world away. You can request balcony rooms facing Rue Dauphine and still catch the excitement (and noise) of Bourbon.
The Dauphine Orleans, also on Rue Dauphine, is another good choice.
One of the best hotels in New Orleans, one of the most beautiful, elegant and charming, is the St. Louis, voted by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine as "The Best French Quarter Hotel." Located just half a block from Bourbon on Bienville Street, the hotel provides easy access to the excitement and a calm, beautiful respite from the noise.
Its sister hotel, the St. Ann/Marie Antoinette, located a block away on Rue Conti, is equally charming and intimate.
The small, charming, and inexpensive Rue Royal Inn at "the quiet end" of the French Quarter is just a block off of Bourbon.
I love the architecture of the Hotel Monteleone, with its 600 renovated rooms and rooftop swimming pool, also a block off Bourbon on Rue Royal near Canal.
There are a lot of charming French Quarter hotels within a few blocks of Bourbon Street, all within walking distance of the activity.
One of the nicest is Bienville House, located on Decatur St. near the Aquarium of the Americas. With 83 rooms, the hotel offers such luxuries as down pillows, complimentary continental breakfast, and coffeemakers in each room.
Another favorite, in the same area, is Chateau Dupre, now marketed by Ramada. The historic hotel offers 54 rooms and suites, complimentary breakfast, and complimentary newspapers.
Many of the larger, convention-oriented hotels rim the French Quarter on Canal Street. The 1290-room, 41 floor New Orleans Marriott is a perfect example; the Holiday Inn French Quarter, on the corner of Rue Royal and Canal Street, is another. Across Canal, towards the business district, is Le Meridien, an elegant, upscale, 30-story, 494-room French-inspired masterpiece, and the tall, narrow highrise Sheraton New Orleans, with 1101 rooms and 41 stories.
Some of the nicest historic hotels are located on this side of Canal, in the business district. The Lafayette, for example, was built in 1916, is a member of Small Luxury Hotels, and offers only 44 luxurious rooms. Le Pavillion, a hotel built in 1907, is antique-filled, with 219 rooms and seven suites, and serves midnight peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to its guests. The Ambassador Hotel was created by annexing three 19th-century warehouses.
No matter where you choose to stay in New Orleans, during Mardi Gras or at any other time of year, it isn't hard to find a charming and enjoyable hotel experience. Unless you wait until the week before Mardi Gras, or Jazz Fest, that is, in which case you will be lucky to find any hotel room at all.