Mardi Gras in New Orleans — better known as “Carnival” to the locals — is one of those unique holidays geared to both adults and families. It’s also known as the “greatest free show on Earth,” because there are no admission fees to see parades and many other activities. Plus, you’ll leave with bags of free Mardi Gras goodies such as beads, cups, trinkets, and other mementos, collectively referred to as “throws.” Traditions like these are what make the two-week-long celebration all the more special.
When it comes to booking a vacation rental, it helps to know your neighborhoods. All the best New Orleans Mardi Gras action happens on Bourbon Street and in the French Quarter. The streets quickly become filled with bustling crowds of people. To avoid getting mired in traffic, consider renting a home on the outskirts of the festivities. Keep reading to find your best options for New Orleans Mardi Gras apartments and rentals below.
Stay in the French Quarter
The French Quarter is a historic, romantic, and bewildering section of town. The epicenter for 24/7 nightlife, it’s the oldest area of New Orleans and — you guessed it — the home of the infamous Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street hosts major Mardi Gras events such as the adult-oriented Krewe du Vieux parade, the Chewbacchus parade, and the Mystic Krewe of Barkus.
Considered one of, if not the best place to stay during Mardi Gras, private apartments, condos, and house rentals go fast in the French Quarter. Plan to book way in advance, especially if you want one of the coveted balcony apartments. However, 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.
Stay in the 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 all the people-watching that takes place during Mardi Gras will have you enjoying your stroll. The Society of St. Anne’s Parade originates in Bywater and makes its way through Marigny as it heads toward the French Quarter.
Stay in the Garden District
The Garden District is a charming neighborhood with picturesque streets and historic architecture reminiscent of the Old South. Here you find a selection of Southern-style mansions with manicured lawns, jasmine bushes, and magnolia trees. This neighborhood offers the type of residential architecture you probably think of when you picture New Orleans. Tree-lined streets and stately mansions offer a serene experience during the revelry of Mardi Gras. Rentals in this area require a bit of a walk to the French Quarter, but the scenery of old New Orleans makes it a pleasurable experience. You can even stop along the way for a po’ boy or some shopping on Magazine Street.
Stay in the Lower Garden District
The Lower Garden District is closer to the festivities than the more residential Upper Garden District, which is filled with majestic mansions and traditional architecture. The Lower Garden District is much more eclectic than its sister district. Here you’ll find stately neoclassical mansions lining the streets, as well as antique shops selling vintage Mardi Gras costumes, tiny parks, and hip cafes. It’s also a family-friendly area for children-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. Consider going in on one with a group and diving up the bill to make it infinitely more affordable.
If you have small kids and your family is staying in this neighborhood, you may prefer to view parades from the street with other families. A ladder with a built-in seat is a traditional way parents help their kids safely see the floats. Ladders should stay at least several feet away from the curb so they’re not at risk of tipping.
Stay in the Faubourg Marigny District
This remarkably quiet neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny has a tongue-twister of a French-inspired name. Pronounced FAW-burg MARY-nee, the Marigny District is artsy and eclectic with restored homes in bright colors and plenty of private house rentals. 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. Marigny offers a quiet, relaxed vibe, bordered on one side by the Mississippi River and running east of the French Quarter.
It’s a short walk to Bourbon street for Mardi Gras events, but you can also sit on the front porch of your rental and watch as the Society of St. Anne’s parade walks by. This parade is popular because it acts as a memorial for friends and family who passed away the previous year. You’ll also find a few other quirky, off-the-beaten-path parades that travel through Faubourg Marigny.
Stay on 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.
Stay in the Central Business District
The Central Business District, also known as CBD or the Warehouse District, is the city’s commercial center. This is where you’ll find skyscrapers, the convention center, and the Superdome where the Saints play. It’s also home to some of the city’s most trendy restaurants and bars. From the CBD you can easily walk to the French Quarter on the other side of Canal Street and find plenty of public transportation. As the name implies, this neighborhood is quirky and distinctive with brick buildings, trendy restaurants, and art galleries.
Since this is more of an urban neighborhood, you’ll find single-family apartments and condominiums to rent rather than suburban-style single-family homes. But you’ll be close to the Mardi Gras activities. Luxury apartments, condos, and other vacation rentals are typically located in historic New Orleans buildings, many renovated, but dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Vacation Rental Options for All Vacation Types
Whether you’re traveling alone, with a significant other, your family of five, or a bachelor party, it helps to know your vacation rental options to create a home base during the festivities.
Mardi Gras occurs every year in either February or March, and schedules planned years in advance can be found online. The last day of the holiday is called Fat (Gras) Tuesday (Mardi). Fat Tuesday supplies the festivities with their name because historically everyone would let loose before Lent began on Ash Wednesday. Parade routes meander through neighborhoods beyond the French Quarter, so check the parade routes and schedules online to find the best rental for your party.
Mardi Gras for Couples
New Orleans is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world by many travel publications. If you’re a couple traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, the size of your accommodations is probably not a priority, but perhaps you will want a bit of a quaint French- and Creole-inspired atmosphere. 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 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 in the Garden District. When you’re not participating in the festivities, staying on the outskirts of the French Quarter gives you a chance to experience romantic strolls or carriage rides, dine in restaurants located in historic carriage houses, and enjoy cocktails in intimate settings.
Mardi Gras for Families
Mardi Gras is often unfairly depicted as an adults-only Bourbon Street party. However it can be a G-rated experience for families, too — as long as you plan for it. New Orleans is full of traditions, and it’s rich with history. If your family loves a parade, Mardi Gras is a perfect celebration and an entertaining vacation. Find the updated parade schedule and hit family-centric parades before the actual Mardi Gras day, which generally have tamer and more behaved crowds in attendance.
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 stay from St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District — the heart of family-friendly parade routes — the more plentiful and larger the homes and rooms become.
St. Charles is lined with exquisite mansions. But nearby in the Garden District are equally beautiful homes with enough room for families to spread out and have their own space.
Mardi Gras for Child-Free Fun
If you’re attending Mardi Gras because you want to be in the thick of the adult-centric celebrations, you’ll want to hunt down a vacation rental on Bourbon Street. Of course, renting anything on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras can be a challenge. The lucky ones will secure a room with a balcony from one of the boutique hotels on Bourbon Street or just beyond. Note that Bourbon Street hotels and other rentals require a four- to five-day minimum stay, and rooms are booked well in advance, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Remember, too, that the biggest Mardi Gras festivities start a couple weeks before Fat Tuesday, when rooms may be easier to grab. If you’re too late for the hotel room scene, scour listings for apartments and condos that locals rent out for the holiday.
Book Your Mardi Gras Adventure
Interested in seeing all that New Orleans has to offer? Try grabbing a Mardi Gras vacation rental on a parade route or right on Bourbon Street. This holiday needs to be experienced at least once, so why not make it memorable?
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