A Local’s Guide for NOLA Newbies
Feeling just a smidge stressed from the holiday season right about now? You’re not alone. But those cookie exchanges, countless family gatherings, shopping trips, nights spent wrapping precarious packages, and days of running to Target, not once, not twice, but thrice – we’re here to let you know that yes, those all shall pass.
Then it’s a new year with new adventures awaiting – new possibilities, new people to meet, new places to see. Sure, there’s also that whole “new year, new you” where you might be counting calories and drinking green juice for a few weeks. But again, that too shall pass.
And frankly, we’re firm believers in rewarding yourself for a job well done, and making it through the holidays definitely counts on our official list of Reasons to Treat Yourself (right now we’re up to a whopping 743 reasons… so far). But maybe you decide that this year you deserve something a little decadent. You feel the real need to let loose and… dare we say… let the good times roll.
Can you hear those faint brass horns drawing you in? That sweet hint of fried dough with piles of powdered sugar flying through the air. The feathers, the floats, the beads, the one… two… trois Sazeracs.
Okay, that’s it. Decision made. You’re going big and doing Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Fat Tuesday, February 25, 2020. It’s happening.
(We’re jumping up and down and are ridiculously excited for you, too.)
Now drop everything you’re doing (besides reading this) and book your Mardi Gras Stay Alfred ASAP. Most NOLA vacations rentals and hotel are already booked by December, and while we’re proud to offer so many Stay Alfreds in NOLA – this is your low inventory warning.
Local Tip: If you want to avoid the biggest crowds and loudest revelers on Mardi Gras, consider visiting NOLA during either of the three weekends preceding the climactic day. In fact, you can catch parades as early as Saturday, February 1, 2020.
But more on that in just a few – we don’t want to kill your euphoric vacation vibe. So first, a short history lesson on how all this unbridled revelry came to be.
History buffs believe the first Mardi Gras took place in America on March 3, 1699, when French explorers Iberville and Bienville landed in what is now Louisiana. And, rightfully so, they got their party on and named the location Point du Mardi Gras.
In the decades that followed, New Orleans and other French settlements began marking the occasion with street parties, masked balls and decadent dinners. But the party was proverbially over when the Spanish took control of New Orleans and banned these rowdy rituals. The ban remained until Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812.
But leave it to students to fight for their right to party! On Mardi Gras in 1827, a group of students sported some colorful costumes and danced through the streets of New Orleans, mimicking the revelry they had seen while visiting Paris. Fast forward a decade and the first recorded New Orleans Mardi Gras parade took place, a tradition that (obviously) continues to this day.
Who has a weird fascination with secret societies? Awesome! We do, too. And this is New Orleans, people. In 1857, a secret society of NOLA businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Mardi Gras procession with marching bands and rolling floats, setting the tone for future celebrations in the city.
Since then, “krewes” have remained a fixture of the Mardi Gras scene throughout Louisiana. And of course other long-lasting traditions include throwing beads, wearing masks, decorating floats and eating King Cake.
Sidebar: Let’s talk plastic babies in cakes. This is a thing. The lucky person who receives the slice of cake with the baby has the next king cake party or brings the next cake for the office.
Now that you generally know the why – let’s dive into the how and talk digs – aka your NOLA vacation rental sanctuary.
There’s no need to be modest here – this is where Stay Alfred shines. Where better to come home to after long days and night in NOLA than your very own travel apartment just blocks from the action – but enough blocks to allow you to ditch the crowds and actually sleep. Better yet – all of our Mardi Gras vacation rentals keep that signature Big Easy historic charm, but have been modernized and renovated so you feel right at home.
Stay Alfred at Factors Row – Factors Row has had a rich history in NOLA since 1858, but its updates and modern amenities make it a guest favorite. Guests have access to a top-notch fitness center, multi-media community room, (complete with a grand piano), and Instagram-worthy courtyard. You’re close to just about everything in the French Quarter, plus the city’s best restaurants, art galleries, shopping and nightlife are just minutes from your front door.
Stay Alfred on North Carondelet Street – This historic building, designed by famed Southern architect James Gallier, is the epitome of classic New Orleans. Recently updated, it offers the best of NOLA’s signature architecture and design elements, but with all the modern conveniences you would expect in a New Orleans vacation rental.
Stay Alfred at Hibernia Tower – One of New Orleans’s most iconic buildings, this 23-story historic landmark in the Big Easy’s downtown served as a navigational beacon for ships on the Mississippi River back in the day. While retaining its gorgeous and historic exterior, apartment interiors are handsomely restored and complemented with resort-style amenities, like a rooftop swimming pool and sky lounge. Plus, you’re just blocks from Bourbon Street and the Canal Street Streetcar Line, as well as fantastic music venues and festivals in the nearby French Quarter.
Stay Alfred at the Motorworks Building – Once a historic showroom for Jeffery Automobile Co. in the 1920s, a Stay Alfred travel apartment at the Motorworks Building is the epitome of "industrial-chic." Combining vintage touches like polished concrete floors and exposed ductwork and brick with high-end amenities like stainless steel appliances and fiber optic-enabled internet, a New Orleans vacation rental here will take you back in time (but with all the comforts of home).
Stay Alfred at 820 Union – Comfortably close is always nice when it comes to staying near NOLA’s French Quarter, and Stay Alfred’s 820 Union travel apartments give you just that. Frolic the French Quarter all you want, then duck out for a midday (or midnight) break where it’s nice and quiet without wearing holes in your walking shoes. How’s that for location? And, the Central Business District itself offers great family-friendly fun, from fine arts to museums to even more live music in the lovely Lafayette Square. Each travel apartment in this thoroughly updated building has huge windows that flood the rooms with light, along with homelike comforts like in-unit laundry, a full kitchen and a spacious living area.
And like every Stay Alfred travel apartment around the country – in New Orleans, you’re going to have plenty of space to spread out no matter if you’re traveling just a deux or with your party crew. And your full kitchens and in-unit laundry always come in handy.
Once you check dates and rates and book – the real rabbit hole of fun begins. Planning!
Mardi Gras is nothing if not an event steeped in tradition, and it’s easy to feel like you don’t know what way is up in the Big Easy. Never fear – your local Stay Alfred staff is here to help make any outsider feel like an insider during Mardi Gras.
Top 5 Mardi Gras 2020 Tips – How to NOT Look Like a Newb Edition
1) Make Sure Your Poster Game is On Point – Clever posters made especially for a certain parade can really help your chances of catching the “good’ throws. Let’s see that pun game, people.
2) You Should be Down with Dressing Up – This might be the only time in your life when you can literally dress up as anything imaginable. There are contests for costumes in every part of the city, and the crowd-watching is as much fun as the parades.
3) Put Your Foot Down on Doubloons – Your fingers will get smashed if you reach for these popular coin throws when they hit the street. Instead, step on the doubloon to claim it and wait for a chance to pick it up. Locals can get feisty when scrambling for unique throws. Don’t take their efforts personally – as one resident explained, ‘All is fair when trying to catch something.’
4) Embrace the Chaos – Don’t stress too much about parade schedules or things going wrong. This is one long party, and unexpected surprises can be amazing.
5) Donate Beads for a Good Cause – Arc of Greater New Orleans is committed to securing for all people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to develop, function, and live to their fullest potential. You can support this non-profit by donating beads.
Next up – welcome to the only Mardi Gras Parade Schedule you’ll need. Most people will arrive in New Orleans by Friday, February 21, 2020 to have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities through Fat Tuesday on February 25, 2020. (But really why stop there? We’re seeing more and more people stay through the week with their Valentine, Galentines or… Palentines? Sure, why not. Let’s go with it.)
Word to the wise – plan ahead for crowds. This may sound like a “duh” rec, but parade routes can look empty and then crowd sizes can swell fast within an hour or two of the parade, making that front-row spot four or five people deep. For the biggest parades rolling in the evenings on the weekend before Mardi Gras, plan to get there about four hours ahead of time to get a great spot.
But wait – there’s also an app for that! Mardi Gras parade routes go on for miles, but they often roll later than scheduled. To monitor their progress, savvy Mardi Gras 2020 goers use smartphone apps like Mardi Gras Parade Tracker for up-to-the-minute updates. Local TV stations, such as WDSU (NBC) and WWL (CBS), also feature the most popular parade trackers.
We know – it’s all kind of a lot to take in. Just wait! But much like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, New Year’s Eve in New York, Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, or heck, even Coachella in Indio – Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a bucket list experience that you will never forget. It’s a rare moment in time when people from all over can get together and celebrate the best of what life has to offer, indulge the senses, and as always, let the good times roll. HAVE FUN!