Congestion. The influx of people for Mardi Gras into the narrow streets of the French Quarter made the driving rather precarious. The slow speed did, however, allow us to see the architectural appeal of the buildings clustered right next to the street.
Bourbon Street. Although we arrived two weekends before Fat Tuesday, Bourbon Street would be the place to experience all of the misbehaving of Mardi Gras any time of the year. Before we participated in the celebration, we found it worthwhile to walk the street with a clear mind to take in the scene. Alcoholic drinks are permitted in the street, so we felt reassured to see the New Orleans Police Department monitoring the partying. Overall, we felt a friendly atmosphere in amongst the people on Bourbon Street.
Pat O’Brien’s. Original home of the potent Hurricane mixed drink, Pat O’s is a must when partying on Bourbon Street. At eight dollars a pop, we found the authentic Hurricanes to pack much more punch than similarly priced drinks in the area. We took a break from the madness outside by sitting in the bar, but we found that grab-and-go was the best approach at Pat O’s.
Royal Street. When we had our fill of Bourbon Street, we walked one street over to Royal Street, where we saw a jazz performance right in the middle of the road. This street is quieter, with more antique shops than bars, in a family-friendly atmosphere.
The Ruby Slipper. Just off Canal Street, The Ruby Slipper is open from 8am to 3pm for breakfast and lunch, serving standard American fare, Southern dishes, and New Orleans favorites. For a late Sunday brunch, there was a 45-minute wait, giving us just enough time to walk halfway down Bourbon Street and back. Our server informed us that the kitchen was running behind, and with all of the waiting considered, it served as a nice break from the greasy food on Bourbon Street.
Canal Street. While in New Orleans, a walk down Canal Street is part of the experience, but we recommend spending more time on the smaller streets in the French Quarter. Although it has resonances of Bourbon and Royal, Canal is largely dominated by heavy traffic and tourist shops.
Riverfront. As we walked to the waterfront searching unsuccessfully for Café du Monde, we felt largely removed from the action. While there were some family-friendly restaurants and an aquarium, we returned quickly to the area of the French Quarter around Bourbon Street.
Highlights of walking on Bourbon Street include: finding a balcony spot overlooking the street, catching a show at a dueling piano bar (Howl at the Moon), and people-watching. Our weekend in New Orleans went smoothly thanks to our hotel located a few streets over from Bourbon Street, but we wonder how different our experience may have been had we been forced to coordinate taxis amidst the chaotic atmosphere.
Timing. We were in New Orleans the weekend preceding Mardi Gras, so our experiences were almost certainly atypical relative to the rest of the year. Consequently, we spent the majority of our time on Bourbon Street, and did not see other areas of the city, such as the Garden District.