MeFite goes to Mardi Gras January 29, 2009 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Out-of-town MeFite coming to Mardi Gras...any tips? And, who's in town?

New Orleans-area folk: I'm heading your way for Mardi Gras weekend (it's not the first time I've been to New Orleans, but it is the first time I've been there at that specific time); arriving Saturday February 21st, and heading back home on the 25th (which is also my birthday, hence this trip).

I actually don't want this trip to be "all parades all the time" -- I've got a couple museums and such in mind for other things to do -- but I'm looking for other ideas and suggestions. And if anyone wants to get together, I'd be down with that too; I'm staying near a streetcar stop in...I think it's the Garden District?...but can get anywhere where public transporation could get me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to MetaFilter Gatherings at 8:16 AM (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Be warned: most museums and other attractions will unfortunately be closed that weekend. Mardi Gras consumes the entire town.

Having said that, I'll be down for Mardi Gras (either Sunday or Tuesday) and would love to meet up. I've tried to get folks together in years past, but have never made it happen, but I'm optimistic this year.

Also: I've got tons of tips, but perhaps it would be easier to ask if you have any specific questions.
posted by ColdChef at 8:54 AM on January 29, 2009

Be warned: most museums and other attractions will unfortunately be closed that weekend. Mardi Gras consumes the entire town.

Aw, blast -- I was thinking a trip to the art museum one afternoon would be a change of pace, because it was out-of-the-way from the Quarter, etc.

No real specific questions come to mind; I tend to just jump into the middle of a place and say, "so...what's here?" rather than necessarily having a given Agenda. I'm probably going to visit a particular bookstore, but that's more as a favor to a friend. But knowing if there are one or two particular "If you only see one parade the whole time you're there, MAKE IT THIS ONE" kinds of tips, that'd be good.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on January 29, 2009

Here are five of my favorite New Orleans things:

The Pharmacy Museum in the Quarter.
City Park, particularly Storyland.
The Zoo.
Taking the ferry across the Mississippi.
Fritzels on Bourbon.

Other than Fritzel's, which is a European-styled jazz club near the residential end of Bourbon, I would recommend staying the hell away from Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

The three must-see parades, in my opinion, are Muses, Rex, and Zulu. Other than that, if you want to experience Mardi Gras the way New Orleaneans do, get out of the city and into the suburbs. Metairie throws some awesome parades, and they are what Mardi Gras parades historically had been -- family events, free from the drunken debauchery that tourists associate with the celebration. If you see drunks flashing their breasts, its almost always going to be a tourist.

One of the great things about New Orleans is that it is one of a handful of American cities where just going out and doing things is guaranteed to be an adventure. I lived in the Quarter for a year, and couldn't leave my house without seeing something memorable. Keep your plans loose and your eyes open.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

New Orleans Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Art, Civil War Museum (which looks like it's closed).

Luckily, you'll be there in time for the best parades. Saturday night is Endymion, Sunday night is Bacchus, Monday night is Orpheus, and early Mardi Gras day is my favorite parade, Zulu (where the almost all-black Krewe wears blackface and chunks spears and hands out coconuts--something that everyone should see at least once).
posted by ColdChef at 9:07 AM on January 29, 2009

Parade schedule.
posted by ColdChef at 9:07 AM on January 29, 2009

I would recommend staying the hell away from Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
True dat.
posted by ColdChef at 9:08 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hell, I didn't even go to Bourbon Street when I was there on the off-season. Not only that -- I went an entire week there and only had one single alcoholic beverage. And it was not a hurricane.

....Food was another story.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2009

My absolute favorite parade to go to was always Bacchus because it went down ~both~ sides of Canal Street which meant more beads, cups and doubloons. Of course, that only really works if you ~want~ cheap plastic crap to bring home with you. *grin* My only excuse is that I was young at the time.

I had my wedding reception at the Aquarium of the Americas and stopped in once after Katrina - totally worth my money and I love it every time I go.

Other than that, I try to find a different place to eat each time (as a kid, we didn't go out to eat in New Orleans much and I moved away during the age I'd've done so) and always make it to Cafe du Monde because NOTHING keeps me away from beignets. EVER.
posted by oreonax at 11:30 AM on January 29, 2009

ColdChef will steal all the loose change from your pockets.*

You have been warned.

*Not true
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2009

Nthing Metarie and staying away from Bourbon, if not the entire Quarter, during that weekend.
posted by squorch at 2:31 PM on January 29, 2009

Anyone want to party during the second week of Jazzfest?
posted by CunningLinguist at 2:54 PM on January 29, 2009

Metairie throws some awesome parades

Nthing Metarie and staying away from Bourbon, if not the entire Quarter, during that weekend.

I don't think people visit New Orleans to go to Best Buy - Metairie is a soulless sprawl of suburban strip malls. What a nightmare.

The French Quarter is raucous during Carnival but you can stay away from Bourbon Street and still have a beautiful time in the Lower Garden District and all along the hanging oaks of St. Charles. During Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras day anything with wheels is pretty much stuck so you may want to plan to just walk up and down the street car tracks from Audubon Park to Royal Street.
posted by plexi at 2:58 PM on January 29, 2009

I'll be there from the 21st to the 25th as well. Staying at Bienville house. Fuck the parades.
posted by nitsuj at 3:07 PM on January 29, 2009

dittoing plexi. i cannot imagine going to metairie for a parade. there was this one time that my cousin, who is a benedictine monk, which makes him a brother, so i call him cousin brother james (cbj), was in town at the start of the season. the only parades going on were in the burbs, so i took him to (shudder) slidell for the festivities. he seemed to enjoy it, but trust me: that ain't mardi gras.

if you're staying in the garden district there's not too many ways to avoid the madness unless you do go to met'ry. they stop running the street cars a couple of hours in advance of the parades--you have to go up to napoleon to catch one going further uptown if they're even making that leg of the run. however ... you'll be in walking distance of some of the finest free entertainment on the face of the earth.

try cafe atchafalaya on louisiana, and cafe rani on magazine just above washington is good (great salads). i've been to lago a couple times and can testify that they do a helluva sunday brunch. say amen!

quintron is playing at 1-eyed jacks on lundi gras, and that is certain to be lunacy but if you're into music ... oh, dawlin' ... you can't beat it for fun.

if you can get there, lafitte national park is beautiful. they've got some nature trails & such, and there are a couple canoe rental places so you can paddle out into the swamp & commune w/nature while you dodge the gators.

i'll try to think of non-mg related activities & places to visit that aren't going to be tourist populated. i'll memail you w/any other ideas.

have fun!
posted by msconduct at 3:26 PM on January 29, 2009

You can get lots of free beads, for very little work.
posted by orthogonality at 4:05 PM on January 29, 2009

I'll be there...staying about a quarter block off Bourbon street...bringing lots of Aleve
posted by meeshell at 5:18 PM on January 29, 2009

Lots of great stuff, all -- commenting on a few things...

My actual birthday is Ash Wednesday, and that's also the day I'm flying home to New York -- I have deliberately scheduled my return flight for the afternoon, specifically because I want a chance to get one last birthday beignet that morning before getting on the plane.

if you can get there, lafitte national park is beautiful. they've got some nature trails & such, and there are a couple canoe rental places so you can paddle out into the swamp & commune w/nature while you dodge the gators.

How tough would that be to get to for someone who doesn't have a car? That sounds like a great side trip and right up my alley. Also, what does anyone know about the Longue Vue House and Gardens? (I'm a member of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and they have a sister program, so hey, if it's free....)

Definitely want to try hitting the Museum of Art, and I was looking at the Orpheus and Zulu parades -- and corny as it is, I wouldn't mind if I caught some parade throws. (Although, I will NOT be flashing for them; I've been telling friends that turning 39 means you're old enough to know that you can always BUY the damn beads if you want them that bad.)

I'll be there...staying about a quarter block off Bourbon street...bringing lots of Aleve

I'm at a youth hostel, I may have you beat.

Actually, it looks like there are now 3 out-of-towners who'll be there, and a gig on Lundi Gras -- do people want to try organizing some kind of...organized thing for that night? Or some other night?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:58 PM on January 29, 2009

I'd love to come down but right now money is tight so I'm guessing that even with a local friend that has opened up his house, and said to "come on down" I'm gonna have to sit this one out. Enjoy it for me, I do love Mardi Gras.
posted by nola at 6:52 PM on January 29, 2009

In fact, it's pretty easy to get beads without flashing. Just waving your arms and being assertive will get you plenty of throws. Cups and anything with lights or medallions will be fought over. I love Muses and Endymion. Make sure to bring some spare change for the fire carrier people (what are they called again?) to tip them. They have cups and will come near you with their big fire things to get your tips.
Palace Cafe on Canal is a yummy place for lunch or coffee, The Coffee Pot downtown makes some of the best cala cakes and breakfast in general.
A walk through Audubon Park could be relaxing, there are some pretty gazebos, and it's fun to people-watch and feed the turtles.
posted by Night_owl at 9:27 PM on January 29, 2009

fire carrier people (what are they called again?)

"You'll see some parade-watchers, throwing coins to the carriers, rewarding them for their gyrations. This tradition of throwing quarters, dates back to when the only compensation for the task was thrown by the crowds in appreciation, not only for the light that they provided, but the show some would put on to keep the parade interesting."
posted by ColdChef at 5:29 AM on January 30, 2009

Seeing Marva Wright was one of the highlights of my trip for last year's French Quarter Festival. Unforunately, the Chef was not in NO for that festival. Did I mention that seeing Marva Wright was one of the highlights of my trip?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:20 AM on January 30, 2009, would anyone be intersted in a meetup -- what would folk say to Sunday night, say?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:50 PM on January 31, 2009

Unfortunately, I am going to be on call on Mardi Gras weekend, but BUT BUT! I am going to be down in New Orleans on Mardi Gras day around the 3600 block of St. Charles (near Superior Grill). I'll be in the neutral zone with my family to watch the parades from early in the morning until mid-afternoon. Email me and I'll send you my cell number if you think you might want to try and meetup. I will bring King Cake. Lots of it.
posted by ColdChef at 8:20 PM on February 1, 2009

So, somehow we got listed on the side as a February 22nd meetup, but it looks like ColdChef isn't in that day -- would the 24th be better? Or are more folks able to on the 22nd?

I can do either, or hell, both.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 PM on February 4, 2009

Right -- so here is what I propose!

* ColdChef is setting up camp pretty near a parade route early in the day on the 24th.

* I am staying at a youth hostel very nearby that point.

* Let's pick a time where any other interested parties can meet me AT that youth hostel, and then we all go join ColdChef together. (ColdChef, could you suggest a time?)

* Then when we're all there, if people get paraded out we can then all decide to go somewhere else (but y'all will have to tell ME where, I don't know).

Sound good?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on February 6, 2009

That'll work for me. We'll be there from around 8am until 1pm in the middle of the street (where the streetcars normally are). If anyone thinks they might come down, email me and I'll send you my phone number.
posted by ColdChef at 4:15 PM on February 6, 2009

We could just all meet at ColdChef's base camp, but if anyone wants to meet me at the hostel and walk down en masse, I'll figure out a time (probably late morning) and just hang out in the hostel lobby for about 15 minutes first and then head out. I'll post that as we get closer to the day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on February 8, 2009

Depending on where your hostel is, I'd recommend taking the walk to the Canal Street ferry so you can jaunt over the river to beautiful Algiers Point. There are two excellent bars right on the Algiers side, and there is usually something cool to see.

If you're feeling touristy and want a museum that's less artsy and more, well, MG-centric, there is Mardi Gras World nearby. I'm sure that they are probably at their busiest that weekend, but it is still a good time.

I was raised on the Metry parades and but am married to a woman who wouldn't be caught dead there. I personally think they are a blast, and like anything else in and around this city, it is exactly what you make of it. Caesar, which is one of the best Metairie has to offer, occurs the weekend before you get in town. If you want to maximize your fun for that weekend, nola proper is where it's at.

Enjoy your time in the city. Eat everything you can afford, and tip everyone!
posted by snapped at 7:40 AM on February 10, 2009

Call Mardi Gras World before-hand to see if you can get in. They are usually insane right now. Ask for Sabine. If you like exceptionally rich food, eat at Jacques-Imo's. Also try Basil Leaf on Carrollton for great Thai food and an excellent peach martini. Have the bread pudding at Muriel's Jackson Square, but only bread pudding. They're fairly pricey.

As noted above, you must see Endymion, Bacchus and Rex. If you can, try to catch the Half-Fast Walking Club, or at least the beginning of it before you meet up with ColdChef. I'm pretty sure they're still running (walking?), but I don't know definitely.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 11:17 AM on February 12, 2009

I've actually been to Mardi Gras world once, on my last trip -- it strikes me that it would be rather...packed at this juncture.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on February 12, 2009

So here's a time!

I'm planning on heading out to meet ColdChef at about 10 am on Tuesday; I'll be at my hostel first, so if anyone wants to meet in the lobby there first and then join ColdChef, I'll check in the lobby first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 PM on February 20, 2009

Official, here's-the-info post to be highlighted:

February 24th. 10 am. Meeting at the lobby of the hostel on 2249 Carondelet Street.

I will be already out on the street (ColdChef, I"ll probably come meet you earlier, as I think Zulu's parade is that early), but will come back to collect people at 10 and bring them back to ColdChef.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on February 22, 2009

Today was awesome!!!!! Will post pictures as soon as I can figure out what radioboyfriend did with the camera!
posted by radioamy at 4:01 PM on February 24, 2009

Great to see y'all! Looks like we all just barely avoided getting shot.
posted by ColdChef at 5:32 PM on February 24, 2009

I am now back in New York, and am still a little overwhelmed -- but in a good way. Thanks for one of the best birthdays ever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 PM on February 25, 2009

...And now that I am more coherant after some more sleep:

You guys were GREAT fun. ColdChef,, I am seriously taking notes about how to be the World's Best Aunt from watching you with your nieces; I also had intended to be the relative who takes my niece to all the geek stuff. She's only six months, so I've got time...(oh, and P.S. -- tell Kennedy to keep giving knitting another try!)

And Radioamy -- sweet Jesus, you even had cake. Not just cake -- but BIRTHDAY cake. Now that is one prepared hostess.

Again -- best damn birthday I've had in a long time. Thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on February 26, 2009

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