New Orleans' Hotel General Manager Shares His Mardi Gras Insider Tips
John Price of The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery's reveals his best secrets.
Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans kicked off earlier this week on January 6th. Of course we're excited for NOLA's most hoppin' time of the year, but we'll also be the first to admit that navigating the city's offerings can be a little overwhelming.
That's why we turned to John Price, General Manager of The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery’s in the Warehouse Arts District to share his tried-and-true Mardi Gras secrets for making the most of your time in Crescent City. Read on for his advice—presented chronologically by parades—and get excited for your finest festival season yet.
“Krewe du Vieux rolls through the French Quarter and the Marigny in the evening, made up of timely, creative political satire - some of the most brilliant you’ll ever see. I start off with a cocktail at R Bar on Royal and then head to Frenchman to watch the parade," says Price, who recommends grabbing a drink in a to-go cup, as bars tend to be packed during this parade.
“Everyone has a favorite parade, and place to watch them. I love watching the daytime parades like Krewe of Pontchartrain and Choctaw in Uptown, around St. Charles and Napoleon. Keep in mind parades roll downtown, but the uptown side of the street is open for pedestrians. The neutral ground will be full of families, tents, and ladders with seats for kids, and it can be tricky to get across to the downtown side. So you have decisions to make," advises Price. "If you stay on the uptown side, buy a wristband from Academy of the Sacred Heart, they have great porta-potties which you’ll find vitally important. If you decide on the downtown side, head to Fat Harry’s. They have a full bar with good food, and you can get in and out with ease. Note, its cash only, but there is an ATM inside.”
"Head to the French Quarter for the most lovable of all our parades, Krewe of Barkus, and wave in the costumed pups. Or head to the Garden District to catch King Arthur. I like to hang out around The Delachaise Wine Bar on St. Charles Avenue," says Price. "A nice glass of champagne, some shrimp Clemenceau and you’re living your best Mardi Gras life. Oh, and go ahead and order the duck fat fries, because it is Mardi Gras and all bets are off.”
Another great parade worth planning your day around? The Krewe of Muses. “One of my favorite parades, the Krewe of Muses, an all-women’s Krewe, throw fabulously decorated shoes if you’re lucky enough to catch one. My highlight of this night is the St. Augustine Marching 100 marching band. They are soul-stirring and you are reminded that New Orleans is a city of great music," says Price.
“Most of New Orleans will head to The Krewe of Endymion, a true Super Krewe and one of the biggest and flashiest parades of the carnival season. Endymion rolls through Mid-City and up Canal street all the way to Mardi Gras World. Watching the parade from Canal is the easiest for visitors, but be ready for massive crowds,"advises Price.
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“One of the most exciting nights of Mardi Gras is the Krewe of Bacchus! I like watching it right near the hotel on Tchoupitoulas, as it passes right in front of The Old No. 77 Hotel. The Bacchagator and King Kong are iconic floats and the laser show are spectacular. It is really not to be missed," comments Price. "This year, the King of Bacchus is Robin Thicke. Rest up for this night, it’s going to be a long one as the parading doesn’t stop until nearly midnight," says Price, who grab a daiquiri to go from the hotel's restaurant Compère Lapin for the road before heading on over to the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Notre Dame to go to the District Bar. "The wait for drinks might be long, but that’s how we all make friends in New Orleans — waiting in lines for food and drinks.”
February 24, Lundi Gras
“My absolute favorite night of carnival, bar none. I head Uptown to St. Charles and Napoleon to catch the Krewe of Proteus and Harry Connick Jr.’s Krewe of Orpheus," shares Price. "Proteus is the third oldest krewe in Mardi Gras, founded in 1882 and it is dazzling. Pro Tip: make your way to the neutral ground on Napoleon for these parades—the view down the avenue of the flambeaux, and the famous Smoky Mary train is pure New Orleans Mardi Gras magic.”
February 25, It’s Mardi Gras
“Prepare to get up really early. Do you parade with Zulu and Rex and cheer the King of Carnival? Or do you head into the [neighborhood] Tremé just before sunrise to meet up with the North Side Skull and Bone Gang to wake up the neighborhood? This 200-year-old tradition of spreading the message of peace door-to-door begins at 5:00 a.m. and leaves from the Backstreet Cultural Museum. And trust me, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before…that’s where you’ll find me. This is New Orleans at its most culturally authentic and beautiful. Be respectful, we are guests in this culture.”
Have a safe and joyous Mardi Gras season, dear readers. Share with us: What are your favorite parades to see during Mardi Gras? Do you have a favorite neighborhood to stay in when you're in town for the fun?