Non-stop Spring Celebrations!

February 03, 2016
The “Greatest Show on Earth,” otherwise known as Mardi Gras will be celebrated early this year on February 9th. The biggest free party thrown in North America always falls 46 days before Easter and is the city's most popular attraction. Visitors and locals alike love the party atmosphere, the crowds, costumed revelers, and the camaraderie.

While the large motorized floats of the big parades have been prohibited since the early 1970s from going down the Quarter's narrow streets due to size restrictions, you should take a short jaunt to Canal Street to see the big parades of the grandest krewes. However, there are many wonderful walking krewes that may have mule or man- powered small floats to be found in the Quarter. There are numerous parties, costume contests, small marching krewes, parading jazz bands, and groups of revelers converging on the streets of the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day, known as “Fat Tuesday.”

Mardi Gras parades are organized by Carnival Krewes that begin parading at least two weeks before Fat Tuesday. The float riders toss throws to the crowd who often yell, “Throw me something, Mister!” The most common throws are strings of colorful plastic beads, aluminum or wooden doubloons usually impressed with their krewe logos, decorated plastic throw cups, and small inexpensive toys. Major krewes follow the same parade schedule and route each year, mostly along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street on the upriver side of the French Quarter. The traditional colors of Mardi Gras are purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. In his book “Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival: Comus to Zulu,” Errol Laborde shows the above-mentioned meanings of the Mardi Gras colors to be false. He gives a much simpler origin, having to do primarily with looking good. Yes, New Orleanians really think that purple, green, and gold look fabulous together!

The first Mardi Gras parade to roll through the French Quarter every year is the decadent Krewe du Vieux, with the theme of “XXX” which is definitely adult-oriented and extremely satirical. It starts at Elysian Fields at Chartres at 6:30 p.m. on January 23rd. They carry on old traditions such as hand-made, human or mule-drawn floats and showcase twenty of New Orleans most incredible brass bands. Hand-made unique and often lewd throws, costumes, themes, and floats make it the only parade where it is inappropriate to bring children yet it provides hilarious adult entertainment and is highly recommended.

Before the big day of Carnival, one of the marching krewes to catch if you love wine is the Krewe of Cork, founded in 2000. This Bacchanalian group strolls down Royal and Bourbon Streets on January 29th celebrating wine, food, and fun. They begin on Royal Street between St. Peter and Toulouse at 3 p.m. The 400 members parade through the French Quarter donning wine and grape-related costumes. There will be wine, of course, a brass band, and more wine.

The population of New Orleans more than doubles with visitors the weekend before Fat Tuesday. On Thursday, February 4th, don’t miss the all-women's parade featuring the 1100 member strong Krewe of Muses. It is popular for its highly sought after hand-decorated shoes, lighted necklaces, purses, mirrors, and other fun “girlie goodies" and satirical themes poking fun at politicians and celebrities. Their theme is “Happy Are They Whom the Muses Love.”

Royal Sonesta's annual “Greasing if the Poles” is a spectacle that takes place Friday February 5th at 10 a.m. sharp! A celebrity Judges Panel rates greasing competitors with trophies for the winners. Competitors grease the poles to keep Mardi Gras revelers from climbing up to the balconies and they compete to the tunes of a live jazz ensemble.

Friday night, February 5th, the large Krewe of Hermes and satirical Krewe D’Etat parades, ending with one of the most beautiful and premier parades, the Krewe of Morpheus, named for the Greek God of Dreams that seeks to give onlookers an “old school” parade experience. Their theme is “Morpheus Takes a Staycation.”

On Sunday, February 7th, the Krewe of Bacchus, the God of Wine, will parade; this “Super Krewe” is a highlight of the Carnival season. Its floats are bigger and more spectacular than most and they always have a national celebrity as King leading their parade. With more than 1,000 members, and over thirty animated floats, the Krewe of Bacchus is revered as one the most spectacular Krewes in Carnival history. Signature floats such as the Bacchagator, a 105 foot three-piece float that accommodates 86 riders are among the many striking and eye-catching floats. Their theme will be “Flights of Delight.”

On Lundi Gras, February 8th, the Zulu Lundi Gras Festival is a fun-filled day for locals and visitors to get a close-up look at the characters who will parade down St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street on Fat Tuesday. The festival is free and the 600 members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club welcome all to enjoy an exciting day of food, music, arts, and crafts along the beautiful riverfront of Woldenberg Park from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The festival features local, world renowned, and Grammy Award winning entertainers performing Cajun and brass band genres on three stages. Headliners include Amanda Shaw, Rockin’ Dopsie, and the Rebirth Brass Band. The Zulu King and Queen will arrive at 5pm. Later on Lundi Gras evening, the Krewe of Orpheus will stun revelers with one of the most eagerly anticipated parades of the season. It was founded by local singer, Harry Connick, Jr and is inspired by music. Orpheus flaunts signature floats such as Leviathan, a smoke-breathing sea monster and Smokey Mary, a multi-float locomotive with train cars.

Finally, Fat Tuesday arrives on February 9th and you should be ready for a fun-filled day of Bacchanalian revelry! Don a costume to become a part of the party rather than just a spectator! One of the first marching krewes you will see coming down Canal Street and rolling into the French Quarter around 9 a.m. is Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Marching Club with Pete Fountain and other local jazz musicians playing through most of the parade. After a brief interlude on Canal Street, the Club enters the French Quarter at Bourbon Street and wanders through the French Quarter eventually ending at the Riverfront Hilton in the early afternoon. Following Pete Fountain’s Club, Mondo Kayo Social and Marching Club triumphantly dances down Canal Street with the color and joy of Caribbean Carnival, then continue on to Jackson Square. Finally they wind their way over to Chartres at Frenchmen Street where they dance and play until dark.

The old-line krewes of Zulu, who will be celebrating “100 Years of Incorporation,” Rex, celebrating “Royal Gardens,” and Proteus with the theme of “Hindu Heavens” will stage high-quality, all-original parades, as they have since the mid-19th century.

The weekend after Mardi Gras the fun continues in this most romantic city. Salon by Sucre is offering a Lovers Tea on the weekend of Valentines Day. In addition, Salon is expanding their Cicchetti (savory snacks and small dish) specials. From 4 to 6pm on Wednesday to Friday, Salon will offer complimentary light bites at the bar with drink specials. On Wednesday, they are offering still wine specials. Thursday will feature classic cocktail specials, and Friday will offer sparkling wine specials, all to be enjoyed in Salon’s bar or lounge with light offerings from the kitchen. Guests can sidle up to a cocktail at the long, white marble bar or take a seat at one of the plush, gray banquettes that line the windows overlooking the Louisiana Supreme Court building on Royal Street. A long dining room in the back of the building offers more intimate dining space. The lunch and afternoon menu includes bar snacks, sandwiches and salads and an afternoon tea presentation featuring assorted finger sandwiches, pastries and confections, including the shop's signature macaroons. At dinnertime, savory dishes, available in small and large portions, arrive beautifully presented, adorned with delicate tendrils of microgreens and edible flower petals. Razor-thin slices of beet are wrapped around soft, whipped goat cheese and topped with shavings of unsweetened chocolate and decorative greens and flowers.

Tea service features prominently on the menu, but even those who don't consider themselves aficionados may want to try the flowering marigold varietal. The white tea boasts a mild, floral taste and when served in a clear brewing pot, the delicate leaves of the marigold flower uncurl and blossom before your eyes, a dramatic end at an engaging new French Quarter dining spot. 622 Conti St., (504) 267-7098.

Before or after a romantic lunch, tea, or dinner, consider a cruise on the last authentic Steamboat on the Mississippi River, the Steamboat Natchez. It runs daily, year round and features dinner and daytime live jazz cruises. The daytime cruise includes a jazz pianist or trio along with live narration of the river sites and history. The 7pm dinner cruise features live jazz by Grammy nominated “Dukes of Dixieland.” Come aboard and enjoy New Orleans hospitality… Steamboat style! Just when your head stops spinning from Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day, don some green clothing and claim to be Irish because St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in the French Quarter in the form of more parades! It's always the perfect season for another celebration ... after all, it's New Orleans, and we love to parade and party in the streets! Men and women in walking groups from various Irish marching clubs in the city dress in tuxedoes and costumes of green and give out white and green flowers and beads, drink green beer or Guinness Stout, and kissing lucky parade goers along the route, all to the music of bagpipers and drummers. The parade's most famous throws are cabbages, carrots, onions, potatoes...everything needed for a hearty Irish Stew… and moonpies!

On March 11th, Molly's at the Market Irish parade rolls at 6 p.m. from 1107 Decatur Street. Arrive early and imbibe and mingle with the many marching groups and riders in carriages.

Pace yourself because the next evening, March 12th, the Italian-American St. Joseph's Parade floats down Royal and Chartres Streets. Though it includes sixteen floats, marching bands and a whole lot of guys with puckered lips dressed in tuxedos, only the marchers and bands are allowed to venture deep into the French Quarter.

On March 17th, the Downtown Irish Club Parade begins in the nearby Bywater neighborhood at 6 p.m., and proceeds up Royal to Decatur, then up Bienville to Bourbon. The parade makes several "pit stops" on its way to Bourbon Street so be patient! They may not arrive until 8 p.m.!

The Maison Dupuy is located at 1001 Toulouse Street, an ideal location in the French Quarter. A couple of blocks from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street, and the beauty of Jackson Square, the Maison Dupuy is located in the heart of the charming, residential section of the French Quarter. Picturesque townhouses framed with wrought iron fences line narrow streets. Gas lamps cast a path through moonlight causing visitors to hesitate, wondering if they are in modern America or have been transplanted somehow to an earlier century. There are hidden treasures within the graceful buildings that surround the hotel. The central point of many of these dwellings is, in fact, outdoors. Beautiful courtyards containing lush, tropical gardens are characteristic of French Quarter architecture. The look is exotic and unique. Modern day French Quarter style is a product of three centuries’ evolution and reflects a mix of many cultural influences. The Maison Dupuy was recently chosen as one of the top 172 hotels in the nation and one of just four Louisiana hotels selected. The Maison Dupuy is "a charming, distinctively New Orleans hotel" and "a hop, skip and a jump from all the attractions."

Sippin’ In The Courtyard returns to the Maison Dupuy Hotel on Wednesday, March 30th and April 27th from 5 to 8 p.m. - Listen to modern Jazz in the largest public courtyard in the French Quarter. Enjoy great food and drink while relaxing in their lush smoke free garden paradise. Admission to the courtyard is free. Specials will be offered with part of the proceeds going to the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. Visit or call 504-586-8000 for further information.

Just when you catch your breath from all the street parties and parades and get your beads packed away, it’s festival season! French Quarter Festival, April 7th - 10th is the largest free music festival in the United States. Twenty-one stages throughout the French Quarter celebrate local music and represent every genre from traditional and contemporary jazz to R&B, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, classical, cabaret, and international music as well as a music stage for children. Our best restaurants create “The World’s Largest Jazz Brunch” takes place in Jackson Square, the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint, Decatur Street, and Woldenberg Riverfront Park is a signature event featuring authentic local cuisine from over one hundred renowned area restaurants. French Quarter Festival has been consistently voted “favorite festival”, “favorite food festival”, and “favorite event open to the public” by locals.

We love our street parades, block parties, and festivals here in the French Quarter! There’s never a dull moment and we live to celebrate life and our cultural heritage. Join us and “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” …a Cajun expression meaning "Let the good times roll!" It strongly conveys our "joie de vivre" or "joy of living" attitude that pervades the magical festivities in the Vieux Carre!