The beads. The over-the-top floats. The très public displays of drunkenness. Mention that you’re jetting south to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and you’re sure to get mixed reactions—people either love or hate the days leading up to Fat Tuesday. But Big Easy insiders will be the first to tell you how proud they are of Carnival season, in all of its loud, brightly colored glory—and offer tips on how to experience it sans sensory overload.
Step one: Embrace the lively French Quarter, the heart and soul of the city and epicenter of the action. A stroll down delightfully touristy Bourbon Street is definitely in order, as is an old-school Creole meal at Arnaud’s, where waiters prepare flaming bananas Foster tableside. After dinner, head upstairs to the free Mardi Gras Museum: Blink twice and you’ll swear the creepy vintage mannequins (dressed in relics from past Mardi Gras balls) are blinking back.
When you need a breather from the revelry, hop on a streetcar to the (relatively) tamer Garden District, where you can gawk at the area’s famed Victorian and plantation-style homes and stroll through historical Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. The neighborhood is also home to the recently renovated Pontchartrain Hotel, a property built in the 1920s but equipped with every modern luxury—including a rooftop bar with awe-inspiring views of the Mississippi River.
For those who prefer to eat their way through NOLA, there’s the Warehouse District, where trendy restaurants abound: The spiced pig ears at Top Chef: New Orleans contestant Nina Compton’s Compère Lapin are a favorite. While you’re in the neighborhood, don’t forget to check out Fall River son Emeril Lagasse’s first New Orleans restaurant in 18 years, Meril. Then it’s back to the French Quarter to let the good times roll.
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JetBlue nonstop to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Forget the king cake—locals celebrate the season with the Gambino’s doberge cake, a six-layer buttermilk confection separated by custard filling and frosted entirely in buttercream and fondant icing.
More warm-weather escapes from our Boston Traveler 2018 issue.
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