New Orleans was one of the only bigger cities in the U.S. that I had never visited, so recently it’s been near the top of my domestic vacation spots list. Though The Villain’s been several times, he’d never experienced the city during Mardi Gras so we headed there last weekend. Thanks to Southwest and Club Carlson points we were able to take a fairly affordable weekend getaway to New Orleans and stay right in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.
We redeemed 44,000 Club Carlson points for a two night stay at the Country Inn & Suites on Magazine Street, thanks to the bonus award night with the Club Carlson Visa from US Bank. It was definitely one of the more upscale Country Inn & Suites I’ve been to before. The hotel was in a great location, just a few minutes walk from the parade routes and the French Quarter.
Our room itself was quite small, with the king size bed taking up most of the room, but it did have a mini-fridge, a nice TV and a decent sized bathroom. We were there to experience Mardi Gras anyway, not lounge around a hotel room. The complimentary breakfast included hot and cold items and there was plenty of seating available even during a busy time. There was a small courtyard with a heated pool. While the hotel was close to the action, it was surprisingly really quiet. The parades didn’t go down our street, but some of the floats seemed to park there afterwards so we got to see some up close. I appreciated that all hotel guests were given a wristband, which were checked at the front door, to ensure that non-registered guests would not be coming in and out of the hotel. This seemed to be the general policy for most hotels during Mardi Gras.
There was a concierge available at the hotel and though they offered suggestions for where and when to watch parades, in general we thought the whole Mardi Gras experience was pretty chaotic and unorganized. There are just so many dang parades and they all have different routes and take forever so it was hard for us to figure out when to be in the right spot to catch them.
One of our biggest surprises was when we arrived close to midnight on Friday night there was still a parade going on! Welcome to Mardi Gras! Our cab driver had to drop us off about eight blocks away from the hotel, but walking was a lot faster than driving. On our way back to the airport on Sunday we again were advised to walk several blocks, crossing a parade route, to hail a cab. Cabs to and from the New Orleans airport are a $33 flat fee. We were told by our concierge to allow at least four hours for getting to the airport, but we got pretty lucky and it didn’t take us too long, which left us at the airport for several hours without lounge access (only a Delta club at MSY).
Some of our highlights of the weekend were the parades, eating delicious Cajun food (fried catfish, blackened redfish, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and beignets), strolling down Bourbon Street (fun in the daytime, way too much for us after dark) and meeting up for a late night rendezvous with my friend Nicole, who lived in Nola for awhile and showed us all the good spots, including an iconic piano bar.
We had a fabulous weekend in The Big Easy, made possible thanks to our airline and and hotel points. Mardi Gras is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and at times even felt like we were in a foreign country. I can’t say I’d go back again, though it was well worth it once. I would like to return to New Orleans during a different time of year to experience more of the city and some of the neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter.
Apologies for all the weird spacing issues with the photos. Almost a year into this and I still can’t figure out wordpress!