Dining during Mardi Gras (and the days leading up to it)
So, I'm here in NO for work and will be leaving right after Mardi Gras. I know it will be crazy here (I'm staying in the CBD), but I don't really know what to expect. Do most restaurants stay open? Will it be impossible to get uptown by car? I've read that it might even be tough to cross Canal Street depending on the parades. Speaking of, are the parades at night or during the day? If I want to revisit some of my faves (like Commander's) before I leave town (Fri-Tues), will lunch or dinner be easier to get to?
I realize this is a little all over the place, but I just want to get an idea of what will be possible during my last week in town. I will be posting a my-trip-so-far report soon! Thanks!
Here's a parade schedule for 2012. Click on the parade to view the route. There are no major parades during the day on weekdays, but there is at least one every night in the week leading up to Fat Tuesday.
Dining out can be problematic, particularly during the final four or five days of Mardi Gras. Service can be spotty and many restaurants switch to a limited menu. Reservations are often a problem because of the many no-shows. All in all, not the best time to enjoy the New Orleans food culture.
re: Big Easy
The key thing to remember about parade routes and times is this - parades usually traverse about 5 miles in distance, and usually take 4-6 hours to march, depending on if its a regular parade or one of the superkrewes like Bacchus and Endymion. For example, a parade that begins at 6pm uptown by Napoleon and St. Charles will be marching down Canal St. around 10pm or thereabouts.
Also scrutinize the parade schedule to see if there are multiple parades following each other, or if there is an afternoon parade, then a night parade on the same route.
A detailed map of the city will also help you navigate around town and around the parades.
Check the websites or call the restaurant to make sure they are open on the day you want to go. The only day most restaurants close will be on Mardi Gras Day.
You are asking us to teach you how to dance via written instruction. Get Arthur Hardy's Carnival Guide and memorize it. There are day parades and night parades. It will not get truly hectic until the last week but generally speaking there willl be night parades on a regular basis from now on. You need to learn how to navigate around the parades. Restaurants stay open for the business but some of the FQ one close down at the end..too much trouble. Others are booked by the Carnival Krewes. The Uptown joints are mostly all open throughout. Getting to Commanders during a big evening parade requires a knowledge of navigation that I will not disclose but it requires imagination.
Totally agree with hazelhurst. I lived there all my life and it can still be a challenge to navigate from down to uptown during a day parade. Get the parade schedule and maps and carry it around like your life depends on it (if you don't know the streets well)
If you're in nola now (sounds like it) just go eat at all your spots you want now and plan to be flexible as the parades start up. Tourists overrunning the city can make it hell to even go eat at a chain restaurant, especially the week before Mardi Gras.
This is my favorite, but definitely the most stressful time of year to be in our fair city. Get some easy to carry around foods and drinks and hit up the parades and enjoy them every night (and day, during day parades) but I'd head uptown if I were you to do so. You'll have a blast.
Do you by any chance have a bike, or could you rent/borrow one? Cycling is by far the easiest and most efficient way to get around during Mardi Gras. The weather is usually nice enough that you can make a leisurely bike ride in dinner clothes and not be any the worse for wear when you arrive at Commander's or wherever.
Thanks for all of your feedback! I've been here since early November and will be doing my best to hit all my favorites over the next few weeks. I was just wondering if any will be available during that final week. I think I will make sure I've hit all my must-dos and consider anywhere I get to go during that last week as a bonus! Just lucky that my work is wrapping up the Friday before Mardi Gras and I get to stay until Wednesday!