Have Deals, Will Travel: New Orleans, LA
Mardi Gras, aka “Fat Tuesday,” is just days away, but the carnival season is already in full swing in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOLA is world-famous for its celebration, which lasts for several weeks and spans almost the entire city. Mardi Gras falls on February 17 this year, and if you're not already making your way down to the biggest party in the Unites States, there's still plenty of time to plan a fantastic vacation.
Snap Up Hot Travel Deals
Already craving a beignet? Then you might want to take a few minutes and browse travel packages to New Orleans ASAP. Mardi Gras season is hot, hot, hot; believe me when I say that hotels and flights will book up weeks in advance. But, you can still find some pretty sweet last-minute package deals right now on Travelocity.com. Just before this article was posted, CheapOAir.com had flights to NOLA for less than $100. You're gonna need to snap these deals up while you can, because they won't last. But don't worry if you can't make it down there in time for the big day; the party doesn't end on Wednesday.
At the heart of the Mardi Gras festivities are the parades, and they certainly deserve a category all their own. Theses fabulous – and free! - mobile festivals happen daily, often multiple times a day, in various parts of the city, and have been going on since January. Click here to view a schedule. Some of the most popular parades, like the Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu and Rex, all take place the weekend before Mardi Gras. With the colorful themed floats and live entertainment, parade-time brings a total party atmosphere to the streets. The spectators get in on the excitement, too, by dressing up in costumes and, of course, collecting beads. All you have to do is yell, “Throw me something, Mister!” if you're looking to collect a few strands. Before you hit up any parade, I recommend that you ask someone at the front desk of your hotel for some parade-going tips; these parades are a long-time tradition, and as an out-of-town guest you'll want to be sure to respect the local parade etiquette.
If you're looking for something a little more family-friendly, check out this year's Family Gras which takes place February 6-8. Family Gras offers free outdoor concerts, family-friendly parades and floats, food, face painting and more for kids and parents.
While spending time in New Orleans during Mardi Gras season may seem like one big party, there are plenty of other things to see and do there. Visit the local swamps (trust me, it's a thing!), ride the trolley or catch an impromptu performance on a street corner. The old city is very walkable, so pack some comfy shoes! There are many guided walking tours available that cover the historic French Quarter, Garden District, St. Louis Cemetery and Lafayette Cemeteries, as well as the New Orleans Riverfront, Bourbon Street and more. Ghost walks and “Voodoo” tours are also very popular tourist attractions. Freetoursbyfoot.com is a great resource for finding and booking these tours, and payment is on a sliding scale, with some offered for free.
Those beignets you've been craving? Cafe Du Monde is the spot to get some and a Chicory coffee to wash it all down with. The Cafe is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, so it's always the perfect time to go check things out. If you're a fan of quirky art, hats, Dr. Seuss or all of the above, you'll want to stop by the Chase Gallery for the “Hats Off to Dr. Seuss” exhibit running through February 17. Or go searching for the hat of your dreams, among other interesting hand-made treasures, at the Frenchman Art Market, open nights from Thursday through Sunday. You might also want to catch a show at one of NOLA's countless jazz clubs, like Preservation Hall, which offers three all-ages shows each night of the week.
I've only just scratched the surface on all there great things that New Orleans has to offer, especially during Mardi Gras season. Make sure you take advantage of these tips, and do a little more digging. There's a memory around every corner!