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First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

Castle Rock
Level Contributor
14 posts
3 reviews
First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

Howdy, my wife and I are considering a trip in early-ish 2019 to New Orleans or Nashville. We're early 40's/mid 30's and like to get into the local culture as much as possible when we travel.

I've read threads about Mardi Gras/Carnival and think we might look at travelling Thur-Sun 2/21-2-24 to enjoy the second to last weekend. Does this timeframe make sense?

For us being first timers, would you recommend we stay in the French Quarter? We're open to hotels or AirBnbs.

Is a car necessary to get around? I'd rather save the cost and parking fees if it's not needed for the entire trip.

Are there any neighborhoods you would avoid to either stay in or visit in the immediate area to the French Quarter? I've seen some AirBnBs across the river near Algiers Point that look interesting but I'm totally unfamiliar with the area.


8 replies to this topic
Winter Springs...
Level Contributor
772 posts
52 reviews
1. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

Is that all the time that you can spend? I would suggest adding another day or two so that you can explore the city a little bit before or after the parades. You should stay in a hotel in the French Quarter; there has been much discussion on this forum about air bnb and the negative impact it is having on the city.

You definitely do not need a car as the Quarter and surrounding area is walkable; just take a cab or uber to your hotel. Check out the Valentino Hotels and Le Richelieu for moderately priced hotels.

College Station...
Destination Expert
for New Orleans
Level Contributor
13,432 posts
2 reviews
2. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

With well located lodging, a rental car is more hassle than help. For most, not all, well located lodging will be within or very close to the French Quarter, allowing for convenient access, mostly on foot, some via streetcar and/or bus, to most of the most popular attractions.

In evaluating Algiers Point lodging, take into account both the distance from the ferry landing and the ferry operating hours (norta.com/Maps-Schedules/New-Orleans-Ferry). The ferry service ends too early at night for many visitors; the taxicab/Uber alternative is expensive.

As relates to Mardi Gras, first a little terminology. Very technically speaking, Mardi Gras is a day, Fat Tuesday, March 5 in 2019, the day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent). Carnival is a season, always beginning on January 6 (Twelfth Night), and ending between sundown and midnight on Fat Tuesday. After the initial Twelfth Night Carnival kickoff, the intensity of festivity increases as Carnival progresses, with the climax being around noon on Fat Tuesday.

However, the term "Mardi Gras" is also used by both visitors and locals to describe the last 12 days of Carnival, February 22 through March 5 in 2019, during which the famous parades of large floats occur. Two weekends encompass the last 12 days of Carnival. The first weekend, the evening of February 22 through to the afternoon of February 24 in 2019, is known to locals as "the first weekend", and to frequent visitors from out-of town as "Mardi Gras Lite". The extended second weekend, the evening of February 27 through to the evening of March 5 in 2019, is known as "the second weekend" or "Mardi Gras weekend".

Other than the initial Twelfth Night kickoff, there is not much in the way of public Carnival activities prior to the first weekend, other than the somewhat bawdy Saturday night Krewe du Vieux small float parade through the French Quarter (February 16 in 2019), although the City will be decorated in Carnival colors (Purple, Green and Gold) and it's not considered too uncool to be wearing beads.

The second (final) weekend is more intense than the first weekend. The parades are more spectacular and the crowds larger. As a from out-of-town sixty something, married to a fifty something, having experienced 14 Mardi Gras in New Orleans over the last thirty years, plus a Mardi Gras Lite and a Krewe du Vieux weekend, I prefer the second (final) weekend. But this is a matter of personal preference. My first Mardi Gras visit was during the second weekend, but I was accompanied by folks who had already experienced several Mardi Gras weekends. During my one Mardi Gras Lite experience I got tired of hearing "if you think this is something, wait until next weekend." Many, but not all, who are not accompanied by someone familiar with New Orleans, and also not experienced with attending "happenings", will feel more comfortable with the first weekend (Mardi Gras Lite). But IMO if you have not experienced at least two of the last four days of Carnival, you have not "been to Mardi Gras."

As relates to crowds, many envision Mardi Gras as consisting of the shoulder to shoulder crowds shown in the popular photographs and films of Bourbon Street, Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue. While this is an accurate depiction as relates to a half dozen blocks of Bourbon Street, a half dozen blocks of Canal Street, and maybe a half dozen blocks of St. Charles Avenue, from Friday night to Tuesday evening during the second (final) weekend, the crowds do not typically extend very far outside of the border of the photographs and films. The mentioned half dozens of blocks only constitute a small portion of the French Quarter, Central Business District, and the City. I've yet to be within a shoulder to shoulder crowd that could not be readily escaped by merely moving less than 100 feet, although that move can SOMETIMES be rather difficult.

Edited: 05 June 2018, 23:21
London, Canada
Level Contributor
27 posts
3 reviews
3. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

As first timers, I think you have picked a good time to go, but agree that another day or two would probably be good. No car is needed if staying in the French Quarter it would honestly just get you aggravated trying to drive around. There are a lot of hotels, but I stayed both at Hotel St. Pierre and the Dauphine and enjoyed each of them. If staying at the Dauphine check on youtube Unsolved The Dauphine Hotel, describes the ghosts there and was quite amusing to watch

New Orleans...
Level Contributor
200 posts
16 reviews
4. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

I agree that the French Quarter is the best place to stay. However, you could also stay Uptown at a hotel on St. Charles Avenue, as that is on the parade route. Uptown is more family friendly than the French Quarter, and there would probably be more locals Uptown. So, it really depends on what you’re looking for. In either case, a car is more of a hinderance than a help. The touristy areas of the city are geographically very small. So, you can take an Uber/Lyft for about $10. There’s also the streetcar and the bus.

New Orleans...
4 posts
5. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

If you want the best Mardi Gras experience I suggest visiting, March 1-March 5. You will get all of the best parades.. Endymion (great night parade), Thoth, Bacchus, Zulu, Rex. As for deciding between Nashville and New Orleans, both cities are great. Nashville is a much nicer New Orleans but not as much as the culture/history. Nashville is a great night life city, as New Orleans is. Great music in both.

Overland Park...
Level Contributor
155 posts
6. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

You’ll need to book a hotel early as they fill up during Mardi Gras. Also the prices are higher.

New Orleans...
Level Contributor
53 posts
7. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

To really get into the local culture I would suggest researching bed and breakfasts. The best ones have engaged owners who spend plenty of time steering their guests towards unique experiences- a benefit you will not find at a large hotel and certainly not at an Airbnb

Good neighborhoods for first time visitors are the French Quarter and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods - The Treme, Faubourg Marigny or Bywater

Level Contributor
380 posts
8. Re: First Timers - Questions and Suggestions Needed

I personally wouldn't recommend AirBNB. There's a lot of dislike for them locally as they are damaging the local communities.

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