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Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or better known as Carnival to the locals, is one of those hybrid holidays that’s both geared towards adults-only and also towards families with children. It’s also known as the “greatest free show on Earth” because there are no admission fees to see parades and many of the other activities, and you’ll leave with bags of free Mardi Gras goodies such as beads, throws and other mementos. Altogether, it’s what makes the two week-long celebration unique and special. Sounds crowded? It is.

Luckily, there are a number of Mardi Gras vacation rental options, including private rental houses near parade routes and other activities, and also near trolley cars to get you to where you need to be. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a significant other, your family of five, or a bachelor party, it helps to know your options for home base during the festivities.

Mardi Gras occurs every year in either February or March, and schedules for years in advance can be found online at mardigrasneworleans.com. The last day of the holiday is called Fat (Gras) Tuesday (Mardi), where everyone lets loose in celebration in the French Quarter before the start of lent on Ash Wednesday, the next day. Parade routes meander through neighborhoods beyond the French Quarter, so check the parade routes and schedules online. That will inform you of where you may want to search for a rental depending on your party size.

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Mardi Gras For Couples

New Orleans is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world by many travel publications. Where you stay during Mardi Gras as a couple depends on if you’re seeking a rowdy or tranquil, romantic time. If you’re part of a couple traveling to Mardi Gras, the size of your vacation accommodations is probably not a priority, but perhaps you will want a bit of a quaint French- and Creole-inspired atmosphere, which you’ll no doubt have wherever you rent your vacation spot. Of course, Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras is ideal if you want a memorable, and most likely sleepless, vacation.

If you’d prefer a quiet, private, romantic adventure during Mardi Gras, it can be done. Consider some of the most romantic boutique hotels located in the French Quarter or just beyond that in the Garden District. When you’re not participating in the festivities, staying in the outskirts of the French Quarter or in the Garden District gives you a chance to experience romantic strolls or carriage rides, dine in restaurants located in historic carriage houses or enjoy cocktails in intimate settings that you won’t find on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.

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Mardi Gras For Families

If you’re traveling to Mardi Gras as a family or with a large group, the size of your rental will be one of your top priorities. The farther you rent away from St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District, which is at the heart of Mardi Gras family activity and parade routes, the more plentiful and larger the homes and rooms available.

St. Charles Avenue is filled with mansions built with gracious Southern architecture and style, but nearby in the Garden District are equally beautiful homes with bed and breakfast guest rooms or rented out whole, each large enough for families to stretch their legs.

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Carnival On Bourbon Street

If you’re attending Mardi Gras child-free because you want to be in the thick of the adult-centric celebrations, Bourbon Street, the main street in the heart of the French Quarter, is where you’ll want to hunt down a vacation rental. Of course, renting anything on Bourbon Street is easier at any other time than Mardi Gras. But if you can grab a room, preferably with a balcony if possible, from one of the boutique hotels on Bourbon Street or just beyond, you’ll be one of the lucky few. Note that Bourbon Street hotels and most other rentals require a four- to five-day minimum stay and rooms begin to be booked starting in the summertime.

Remember that Mardi Gras festivities start before Fat Tuesday of Mardi Gras when rooms may be easier to grab, plus, you’ll miss the mob. If you’re too late for the hotel room scene, scour listings for apartments and condos that locals rent out for the holiday, of course, at top dollar.

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Celebrate In the French Quarter

The French Quarter, a historic, romantic and mysterious section of the town known for its 24/7 nightlife, is also known for its French and Spanish colonial architecture, mostly in the form of apartments and townhouses and some small single-family homes. Here is the main area where you’ll find accommodations with balconies. On the other hand, because of the narrow streets and float sizes, there are no scheduled parade routes that go through the French Quarter for which you’ll need a balcony. You may see a few pop-up foot-parades without floats pass by, however.

Although the French Quarter is compact, it’s also packed with rental possibilities, from smaller versions of major chain hotels, luxury boutique hotels, plus condos and apartments for rent that are tucked behind courtyards and down obscure streets. Each room or apartment you rent during your vacation will be inherently bohemian and eclectic with a touch of elegance, simply because of its French Quarter location.

Parade Away from the French Quarter

There are hotels along main parade routes, such as on St. Charles Avenue, that may have room balconies or common balcony areas, but blocks of those rooms are often snagged years ahead of time by groups, corporations or individuals who have planned long-term for the holiday. The areas that are more family oriented are located outside the French Quarter where you’ll find more spacious homes and condos for your needs.

Though there are more private apartments, townhouses and condominiums (many are two-story) than private single-family houses available for vacation rentals in the French Quarter, if you’re lucky to snag a spot during Mardi Gras, you’ll be right in the middle of the festivities, minus parades. However, if you’re traveling to Mardi Gras with young children, you may want to steer clear of this area at any time during Mardi Gras. It’s here, especially on Bourbon Street and neighboring avenues, where it gets a bit tawdry, loud and boozy day and night. By the way, there are private apartments for vacation rentals right on Bourbon Street. Private apartments come in all sizes with any number of bedrooms you may need. If you’re looking for upscale accommodations, consider a vacation rental located in a mansion. A number of mansions have apartments on each floor with access to courtyards, gardens and patios to make you feel like you’re in your own private Big Easy paradise.

Vacation Rentals in Lower Garden District for Mardi Gras

The Lower Garden District is closer to the festivities than the residential Upper Garden District, which is filled with majestic mansions, the traditional architecture of which deserves a look between parades. The Lower Garden District is much more eclectic than it’s sister district, and here’s where you’ll find private homes to rent for your Mardi Gras vacation. You’ll still find stately neoclassical mansions lining the streets, as well as antique shops where you’ll find vintage Mardi Gras costumes, tiny parks and hip cafes. It’s also a family-friendly area for child-centric festivities and parades near St. Charles Street. You’ll find charming whole houses with numerous bedrooms for rent, though it may come with a steeper price to stay in a single-family home, but plan on traveling with a group and divvy the bill.

If you have small kids and your family is staying in this neighborhood, you may prefer to view parades from the street, joining in the fun with other families. A ladder with a built-in seat is a traditional way parents help their kids view the floats as they come by. Ladders should stay at least several feet away from the curb so they’re not at risk of tipping.

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The Former Plantation Fauborg Marigny

This remarkably quiet neighborhood, though quite close to the French Quarter, has a tongue-twister of a French-inspired name. It’s filled with cozy Creole cottages, small enough for a couple but large enough for a family to stay for Mardi Gras. The neighborhood is conveniently located near trendy areas with jazz clubs, restaurants, coffee shops and a sprinkling of street musicians. You’ll also find there are a number of quirky, off-the-beaten-path parades that travel through the Faubourg Marigny. Check to see when krewes and their floats will meander their way through the neighborhood, such as the Society of St. Anne’s, a popular parade that acts as memorial for friends and family who passed away in the previous year.

Frenchmen Street

Located in the Marigny neighborhood, Frenchmen Street is the place to stay to be close to the action of Mardi Gras and next to some of New Orleans’ best nightclubs, shopping and dining. Just outside of the French Quarter, Frenchmen Street is close to the center of everything. With plenty of private house rentals, bed and breakfasts, guest houses and hotels, finding a place to unwind after a busy day and night of celebrating is easy.

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Bywater District

Southeast of the French Quarter, the Bywater District is a trendy neighborhood full of restaurants, funky shops and lounges. If you can’t find a private home near Marigny to rent during Mardi Gras, consider the Bywater District. It’s just a one mile walk to the French Quarter, and the people-watching that takes place during Mardi Gras will have you feeling like you got to the French Quarter in no time. The Society of St. Anne’s Parade originates in Bywater and makes its way through Marigny as it heads toward the French Quarter.

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New Orleans is a large city, so if you’re looking for vacation rentals during Mardi Gras that are beyond the French Quarter and the Garden District, venture into the Central Business District/Warehouse District, where you can also find some urban-style condos and lofts for vacation rentals. That way you’ll be far enough away from Mardi Gras festivities so you can enjoy the holiday on your own terms.