French Quarter Hotel in New Orleans
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New Orleans Speak: Learn Mardi Gras Traditions and Terms

Whether you’ve booked at our hotel for this year’s Carnival season or are planning on visiting next year, it can be hard to navigate all the Mardi Gras traditions and terms. Learn to celebrate like a local with our handy guide – we suggest reviewing it at Latitude 29 while you sip on the Bourbon-based Paniolo.

king cake

King cake is the defining treat of Carnival season. (Photo courtesy Eric Wagner on Flickr)

King Cake

The tastiest of Mardi Gras traditions, king cake comes in many forms. We mentioned some of our favorite bakeries in a previous post, but there are other fun and interesting iterations worth trying. Across the city, you’ll find king cake milkshakes, king cake lattes, king cake donuts, and more. This Sunday, there’s also the Second Annual King Cake Festival held at Champions Square featuring desserts from more than 22 bakeries.

As for the plastic baby? The tiny toy symbolizes good luck for whomever finds it inside a slice. At Latitude 29, you’ll find a similar good luck trinket perched on their Mississippi Mermaid drink – a worthy substitute, we think, for a plastic baby!

Beads

Beads are a big part of Mardi Gras, and you’ll want to drape several around your neck to celebrate the event. Beads aren’t just found in necklaces, though. Check out the artwork at the Carousel Bar & Lounge (at our sister property, Hotel Monteleone) for a subtle nod to Mardi Gras traditions. You can also admire the incredible beadwork in the costumes of the Mardi Gras Indians. Speaking of…

Mardi Gras Indians

The Mardi Gras Indians parade is perhaps the least recognized tradition of Mardi Gras, but one of the most beautiful. What was once a day for Indian krewes to settle scores is now a day to admire one another’s craftsmanship in the elaborate, and often enormous, costumes they wear.

JFP

The traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold are far from arbitrary. In 1892, Rex, the king of Mardi Gras, chose these colors based on what they stood for. Purple represents justice, green is for faith, and gold is for power. Be on the lookout for decorations at our hotel in this important trio of colors.

Zulu Coconuts (and other throws)

Part of the Mardi Gras fun is catching what krewes throw off of their floats. The Krewe of Zulu – check out their parade schedule here – hands out decorated coconuts to a few very lucky parade watchers. The Krewe of Muses throws beautifully adorned shoes that are also a crowd favorite. Beads are a popular throw item, and sometimes krewes will surprise audiences with a new throw – Krewe of Sparta, for example, is tossing a top-secret item this year.

Book now at Bienville House to experience the best of the Carnival seasons.

Mardi Gras Parade Schedule: Where to Go and What to See

Mardi Gras comes early this year on Feb. 17, which means Carnival season is short and sweet – and packed with parades. Even if you won’t be here on Fat Tuesday, there’s still plenty to enjoy leading up to the big day. Grab a slice of king cake (try classics from Haydel’s Bakery or Manny Randazzo or modern twists like the apple and goat cheese version from Cake Café) and map out your Carnival schedule based on our guide for parades within New Orleans proper below. Note: If you’re interested in the complete Mardi Gras parade schedule, which includes parades in areas like Metairie, Westbank, Mandeville, Chalmette, and Slidell, visit Mardi Gras New Orleans’ official website.

mardi-gras-bienville-house

Mardi Gras parades are a must-see experience. 

Saturday, Jan. 31

Krewe du Vieux parades through the French Quarter at 6:30 p.m. Expect wild satire and political commentary from this gloriously louche krewe – not to mention some of the best brass bands you’ll find during Carnival. Krewe Delusion, a new kid in the school of scathing satire, rolls in the Quarter directly after Krewe du Vieux. Head to our on-site restaurant Latitude 29 to get you in the Carnival spirit prior to the parades: drinks like the creamy and exotic Pontchartrain Pearl Diver have a distinctly New Orleans feel.

Friday, Feb. 6

Uptown hosts two parades: Krewe of Oshun and Krewe of Cleopatra, an all-female krewe celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In the French Quarter, Krewe of Cork (as in wine cork) rolls at 3:00 p.m. – we can’t think of any occasion that calls more for vino at our sister property, Hotel Monteleone.

Saturday, Feb. 7

Starting at 1:00 p.m., five krewes will roll down St. Charles in Uptown, starting with Krewe of Pontchartrain and culminating in Krewe of Pygmalion, set to roll at 6:45 p.m. You’ll catch plenty of throws like beads and doubloons, plus some TBD treats: the Krewe of Sparta is bringing a top-secret mystery throw this year. In the Marigny, the micro-krewe ‘tit Rex and the Krewe of Chewbacchus roll at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., respectively.

Sunday, Feb. 8

Dog lovers, take note: the Krewe of Barkus rolls in the French Quarter at 2:00 p.m. With the theme of “Dogzilla: Barkus Licks the Crescent City,” the krewe brings plenty of pups to the streets of New Orleans. Three parades roll in Uptown, starting with the Krewe of Carrolton at noon on Magazine Street.

Wednesday, Feb. 11

The Krewes of Druid and Nyx parade down St. Charles and Magazine streets, respectively. Nyx is one of the newest krewes (founded in 2012), but boasts a robust membership – last year, Nyx paraded Uptown with 1,230 members.

Thursday, Feb. 12

Krewe of Muses rolls at 6:30 p.m. in Uptown – do your best to catch a shoe, one of the most popular throws of the whole Carnival season. Prior to Muses, attendees can watch the Knights of Babylon and the Knights of Chaos. Muses is a favorite at Bienville House, so we’ll be heading Uptown via pedi-cab to catch the parade.

Friday, Feb. 13

A trio of krewes light up Uptown on Thursday night. The Krewe of Hermes kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. with their white horse and group of more than 700 riders. Krewe d’ Etat and Krewe of Morpheus follow.

Saturday, Feb. 14

Only one krewe rolls through Mid-City throughout Carnival, and Valentine’s Day is the day to see it. The Krewe of Endymion parades down Canal Street at 4:15 p.m. It’s just a short walk from our hotel, and Canal Street is known for its festive atmosphere this time of year. If you’re Uptown, fret not: the Krewe of Iris (the first and oldest all-female krewe) and Krewe of Tucks parade at 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 15

Krewe of Bacchus is the one to see in Uptown at 5:15 p.m. Bacchus himself is usually portrayed by a celebrity guest – past Bacchuses have included William Shatner, Dick Clark, and, last year, Hugh Laurie. Other krewes rolling in Uptown that day are Okeanos, Mid-City, and Thoth.

Monday, Feb. 16 (Lundi Gras)

Major krewes Proteus and Orpheus parade through Uptown at 5:15 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., respectively. Proteus, founded in 1882, is the second-oldest krewe in Carnival history, while Orpheus, founded in 1993, counts Harry Connick, Jr. and his father, Harry Connick, as founding members. Expect celebrity guests at Orpheus – past riders have included Sandra Bullock, Stevie Wonder, and Joan Rivers.

Tuesday, Feb. 17 (Mardi Gras)

The big day! Four parades roll through Uptown starting at 8:00 a.m. with the krewes of Zulu, Rex, Elks Orleans, and Crescent City. You’ll find celebrations throughout the city, plus festive decorations perfect for a photo op at our own hotel.

Can’t make it this year? Plan a trip for 2016! Carnival kicks off Jan. 6 and runs through Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Celebrate the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial

Just as the Battle of New Orleans wasn’t only one battle, neither is its bicentennial celebration a single event. We’ve rounded up all the best happenings to commemorate the Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial event:

jackson square

Jackson Square gets its name from Andrew Jackson, the major general of U.S. Armed Forces during the War of 1812, which culminated in the Battle of New Orleans. (Photo courtesy Wally Gobetz on Flickr)

Today

The final battle of the War of 1812 occurred on Jan. 8, 1815 – exactly 200 years ago today. With the exact anniversary in mind, you’ll find celebrations happening day and night. At noon, the United States Daughters of 1812 will perform a wreath-laying ceremony in Jackson Square. Fireworks will illuminate the New Orleans riverfront at 8:00 p.m. tonight, celebrating the American victory over the British.

Friday

Another wreath-laying ceremony takes place on Friday at 10:00 a.m. – this time from the Daughters of the British Empire – at the De La Ronde Ruins in Chalmette. The ruins are all that is left of De La Ronde plantation, which was used as British headquarters during the battle. Beforehand, a Rosary Procession led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond will take place, followed by Thanksgiving Mass after the ceremony.

All Weekend

Chalmette Battlefield will host authentic battle re-enactments on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as part of the bicentennial celebration. Gates open at 9:00 a.m. daily. Although Friday’s reenactment is free, tickets for Saturday and Sunday’s events cost $10 (purchase your tickets online).

Later in the Month

Throughout the month of January, you can seek out events related to the bicentennial – including a symposium hosted at our sister property, Hotel Monteleone. The symposium brings in professors and experts from around the world to discuss the lasting effects of the battle in shaping the Gulf South. Registration is required, and students or teachers can sign up for a discounted price. Visit The Historic New Orleans Collection for more information.

Bienville House Highlights from 2014

A huge thank-you to all our guests who stayed with us this past year. 2014 was an exciting time to be in New Orleans – and an even more exciting time to stay at Bienville House! Take a look at some of the Bienville House highlights at our hotel and around the city over the past year:

Latitude 29 Opening

We couldn’t be more thrilled that Jeff “Beachbum” Berry chose Bienville House as the site of his new restaurant, Latitude 29. This tiki-themed establishment offers up authentic cocktails and pan-Asian food that is fresh and tropical – even locals feel like they’re on vacation with a visit to this restaurant!

lapu-lapu

The Lapu-Lapu is one of many handcrafted Tiki cocktails at Latitude 29. (Photo courtesy Annie Quast)

French Quarter Fest

Our location in the French Quarter means we’re always close to all the action. In April, French Quarter Fest took over the neighborhood for a weekend full of celebrating. From live music and entertainment to all the very best food the city has to offer, the festival saw an influx of visitors to the Quarter ready for an unforgettable time.

Voodoo Arts + Music Experience

Halloween is always a delight in New Orleans, especially when it’s on a Friday. All around our hotel, guests experienced a scary good holiday, whether they people-watched on Frenchmen Street or followed the Krewe of Boo parade. We also were a destination for visitors in town for the Voodoo Arts + Music Experience. Performers like OutKast and the Foo Fighters drew in a big crowd – there’s no pairing more fittingly New Orleans than music and a costumed holiday!

Christmas in the City

We finished the year on an especially festive note. The beautiful decor throughout the French Quarter always gets us in the Christmas spirit, and walkable destinations like NOLA ChristmasFest and the lights on Canal Street brought us joy every single day of the holiday season.

Ready for your own Bienville House experience? Book now for an unforgettable vacation any time of year!

 

Our Top Five Must-See Spots for the Holidays

Bienville House’s prime location in the French Quarter gives guests an unforgettable New Orleans experience any time of year – but at Christmas, the scenery is even more magical. We’ve put together a list of all the must-see spots for the holidays in the area, all within walking distance of our hotel. Enjoy the holidays (and a scenic walk) with these five festive activities:

View the holiday decor at Hotel Monteleone.

hotelmonteleone

Hotel Monteleone has a lobby brimming with stunning holiday decor. (Photo courtesy Paul Broussard)

Our sister property, Hotel Monteleone, bedecks their lobby with trees, lights, and garlands to ring in the holidays. You’ll also find live music in their Carousel Bar & Lounge, caroling from local school choirs, and plenty of yuletide cocktails.

Check out Riverwalk, too.

You’ll find a large, decorated Christmas tree and lots and lots of lights. There’s a Chanukah celebration on site, and you’ll also have sweeping views of the Mississippi River – and bedecked vessels like Steamboat Natchez dressed in their holiday best.

Follow the lights down Canal Street.

One of the best light displays in the city is Canal Street itself. You’ll find more than one million lights lining the street, whether they’re wrapped tightly around iconic palm trees or spiraling up lamp posts. The display spans the street from the Mississippi River to Elk Place.

Explore the Great Hall of Trees.

NOLA ChristmasFest at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center has more than 50 decorated trees on site. Whether themed or dressed in traditional Christmas cheer, each tree is between 10 and 15 feet tall.

Carol in Jackson Square.

The New Orleans tradition of caroling in Jackson Square on the Sunday before Christmas continues this year on Dec. 21 at 7:00 p.m. Thousands of residents and visitors amass on the square to sing classic carols by candlelight using provided music and candles – plan to arrive early, as the amount of participants often exceeds the square’s capacity.

Our hotel still has rooms available for you to enjoy unbeatable access to all the merriment of New Orleans at Christmastime. Happy holidays!

Walk to NOLA ChristmasFest from Bienville House

Bienville House’s proximity to the French Quarter and the Central Business District keeps our guests close to all the holiday action. This year, the CBD is turning out a host of holiday events, including a Menorah lights at Riverwalk, plus the Holiday Movies on the Mississippi (playing Elf tonight at 6:30 p.m.!). Another holiday destination is NOLA ChristmasFest, a massive, all-indoor event at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center kicking off tonight. ChristmasFest runs through Dec. 24 and features a flurry of holiday festivities:

bienville house-christmas

Throughout our hotel, you’ll find beautiful decorations that reflect the Christmas spirit. (Photo courtesy Annie Quast)

Ongoing Highlights

NOLA ChristmasFest has turned the convention center into a winter wonderland. You’ll find a Santa’s Playland with plenty to do for the kids, including a very modern update: Skyping with Santa’s elves. The event will also host cooking demonstrations, a petting zoo, putt-putt golf, and an ongoing gingerbread house competition that benefits Operation Homefront, a non-profit organization aiding military families in need.

Meet-and-Greets

Ice-Princess-Ice-Queen-and-friends

Children and families can meet the Ice Princesses at NOLA ChristmasFest. (Photo courtesy NOLA ChristmasFest)

‘Tis the season for a great photo op, and you’ll have several options at this event. On Dec. 18, local children’s musicians the Imagination Movers will play a holiday-themed set. Tickets are $30 and include a meet-and-greet after the show where fans can take pictures with the Movers.

Just before Christmas, the Fest will host a sing-along pajama party with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Tickets are $35 and include a photo with Santa, story reading, and milk and cookies.

The Ice Princesses will be at NOLA ChristmasFest as well. Children and families can meet the princesses for $35 (includes general admission to the Fest and autographs) over the course of several days: the princesses are hosting half-hour meet-and-greets twice daily at 12:00 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.

Special Events

On Sunday, the Santa Paws pet parade and costume contest gives pet owners the chance to dress up their dogs in their holiday best for a good cause: proceeds benefit the Louisiana SPCA.

The festivities continue into next week as well. Head to the Fest on Thursday, Dec. 18 at 8:00 p.m. for Karaoke Caroling & Cocktails, a 21+ event where guests can belt out their favorite Christmas songs as they sip on seasonal drinks.

General admission tickets are $15, and the convention center is just about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. We still have rooms available so you can enjoy all the Christmas cheer New Orleans has to offer.

Best Bets for Holiday Shopping in New Orleans

Christmas is a magical time in New Orleans. You’ll find holiday beauty all over the city, from the glittering lights of Celebration in the Oaks to the festive decorations right within our lobby. You’ll also find plenty of worthwhile destinations for shopping in New Orleans. Work through your gift list with our guide to nearby stores!

christmas-presents

Take care of your holiday shopping in New Orleans at a mix of local and national stores. (Photo courtesy Alice Harold on Flickr)

Where: Shops at Canal Place

How Far: 0.2 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: Shops at Canal Place features high-end stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s. Beloved national chains like Lululemon, Anthropologie, and J.Crew are also inside, alongside local New Orleans shops like Mignon Faget and Jean Therapy. After you’re finished shopping, head to the theatres upstairs for a holiday movie, complete with in-seat dinner service!

Where: UAL

How Far: 0.2 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: An acronym for United Apparel Liquidators, this store is a label lover’s dream. UAL is chock-full of brand-new designer pieces at deeply discounted prices. Find brands like Lanvin, Chloe, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Current/Elliott, Rag & Bone, and much more. The prices can still be high, but if you consider the overall savings, you’ll understand why UAL is a must-do.

Where: The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk

How Far: 0.5 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: Under new management and a makeover inside and out, this outlet mall re-opened earlier this year, enticing visitors with incredible deals from stores like Coach, Neiman Marcus, Gap, and more. You can experience stunning views of the Mississippi River as you nosh on beignets from Café du Monde (located inside).

Where: H&M

How Far: 0.1 miles from Bienville House

What You’ll Find: H&M delivers on affordable gifts for the entire family. In addition to on-trend clothing for women, men, and children, the store also features an impressive selection of home goods. Bedding, decorative items, rugs, and towels in fun prints and colors cover the upstairs portion of the store. High on design but low on prices, H&M also features fun stocking stuffers like candles, lotions, and accessories.

After your shopping excursion is over, head to our on-site restaurant and bar, Latitude 29. Sip on tiki cocktails as you review all your fantastic purchases!

New Orleans Christmas Tradition: Celebration in the Oaks

New Orleans is full of beloved holiday traditions, from Christmas Eve bonfires on the levees to five-course Reveillon dinners like the ones available at our sister hotel’s restaurant, Criollo. Another perennial favorite this season is Celebration in the Oaks, an ongoing event in New Orleans City Park where all decorations are completed in house. While the light show is a local favorite, we encourage visitors to experience it for themselves! Here’s what to expect:

A Twinkle in the Trees

Celebration in the Oaks starts the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, offering a perfect way to cap off your day of shopping. Centuries-old oak trees get a holiday makeover thanks to thousands of sparkling lights, creating a magical spectacle for guests who walk under the glistening boughs. Children will delight in themed trees (the Who Dat tree is a local favorite for Saints fans) and the kid-friendly light displays in Storyland. For adults, head to the Botanical Garden for glittering lights that adorn the more than 2,000 varieties of plant life on the property. Along the way, you’ll see charming walkways decorated by local schools. Are your feet tired yet? There’s also a two-mile train ride to take you through the exhibit.

Christmas in the Oaks is kid-friendly but also romantic. Here, the Botanical Garden greenhouse is drenched in light and holiday decor. (Photo courtesy Justin McGregor on Flickr)

Christmas in the Oaks is kid-friendly but also romantic. Here, the Botanical Garden greenhouse is drenched in light and holiday decor. (Photo courtesy Justin McGregor on Flickr)

Overall, the light display spans more than 25 acres, and our typically mild winters make the park an excellent spot for meandering and admiring (with a cup of hot cocoa, perhaps?) at your own pace.

Getting There

While you can drive and park at City Park, we suggest taking the streetcar for fun and festive transportation. Our hotel is just steps from Canal Street, where the streetcar line runs to take visitors all the way to the Celebration in the Oaks venue. While the streetcar is iconic, though, it’s not always the quickest. If you can’t wait to get there, let us know so we can arrange a taxi!

 

 

Turkey Day, NOLA Style: Things to do on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. For some, the perfect Turkey Day entails staying in pajamas and watching football with the fam; for others, it’s a day off to explore and enjoy. If you’re in the latter camp, take a look at things to do on Thanksgiving in New Orleans.

Friendly Competition

College teams the Southern Jaguars and the Grambling Tigers play one another in the Bayou Classic, a Thanksgiving tradition at the Superdome that celebrates one of the biggest team rivalries in the region. You may not find turkey with all the fixings, but there are plenty of concessions at the Superdome to keep you satiated and smiling.

thanksgiving-at-the-races

Thanksgiving is also opening day at the Fair Grounds Race Course. (Photo courtesy MissMalaprop on Flickr)

Thanksgiving at the Track

If the weather is nice, you can head to the Fair Grounds Race Course in lieu of the dining table. Thanksgiving is opening day for thoroughbred racing season, and the course hosts a Thanksgiving buffet in the upper-level clubhouse to celebrate (guests must be 21 and older). Guests can also enjoy concessions on the lower level as they watch live racing from 11 a.m. until about 3 p.m. Come in festive finery – this event draws fanciful crowds who love a good costume and a good time.

Where to Dine

Our new restaurant, Latitude 29, will be closed on Thanksgiving, but guests who book now at Bienville House can still take advantage of plenty of incredible restaurants in the area. Criollo, the restaurant at our sister property Hotel Monteleone, will host Thanksgiving dinner from 12:30 to 8 p.m. French Quarter favorite The Court of Two Sisters is open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. for lunch and then again from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. for dinner. Luke, Borgne, Morton’s The Steakhouse, and Dickie Brennan’s Tableau are just a few of the many restaurants open on this food-filled holiday.

Latitude 29 Grand Opening: Bienville House’s New Restaurant

Walk into Latitude 29 prepared for a good, old-fashioned game of eye spy.

Do you spy the ship’s bow that doubles as a host stand? Real starfish suspended for eternity in a stained-glass lamp? How about an expanse of textured seagrass (hint: look up)?

Latitude29-drink-pool

Sip your Latitude 29 cocktail (like the Mississippi Mermaid pictured here) overlooking the courtyard pool at Bienville House. (Photo courtesy Annie Quast)

Authentic tiki carvings and totems line the walls, and nautical elements like buoy-esque lights create a believable Polynesian atmosphere: we’re not in New Orleans anymore.

Latitude 29 celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, and Bienville House couldn’t be more excited about this incredible bar and restaurant, housed right within our hotel.

The work of the world’s leading tiki expert, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, this restaurant is authentic, fun, and full of special details. We walked through our lobby and into the restaurant for a closer look (and taste) at all things Latitude 29. Here’s what we found:

The Drinks

Our waiter guided us toward the Pontchartrain Pearl Diver to start. This creamy, frothy concoction gets its flavor from a honey-butter-spice mix blended with passion fruit, lime, and plenty of Jamaica rum. We couldn’t help but notice the glass, a retro vessel with a cylindrical shape and banded detail. As it turns out, the glass is a replica of a rare vintage design: you can search all over the world, but you’ll only find it – and the delicious drink inside – at Latitude 29.

Another drink of note is the Mississippi Mermaid. Presentation alone makes this cocktail a standout: a tiny, plastic mermaid (perfectly kitschy) sits on the rim with a tamarind candy balanced on her tail. You’ll find notes of tamarind in the drink as well, alongside allspice, lemon, and vodka. The effect is festive without any cloying sweetness: spicy and delicious.

The Food

Chef Chris Shortall created the “PolynAsian” menu – one that beautifully complements traditional tiki cocktails. Shrimps in blankets were the starter of choice. We loved how the giant shrimps (with the heads on) were a subtle nod to New Orleans-style crawfish; the sweet-and-sour dipping sauce cut through the rich flavors of the outer won-ton pastry.

Perhaps our favorite dish of the day was the Loco Moco – an absolute must-try. The dish has its roots in traditional Hawaiian cuisine, although this version is made with sumptuous ground filet rather than pork. Fashioned into a patty and sandwiched between savory mushroom rice and a fried egg, the filet is topped with shitake mushrooms and a sprinkling of green onions. As for the taste? Shepherd’s pie meets stir fry: ultimate comfort food with subtle Asian flavors.

Berry’s wife, Annene, has long been a fan of this traditional Hawaiian dish. “I joked to my husband that it’s the most expensive Loco Moco ever,” she says. “Someone had to build a restaurant to make it for me!”

 The Atmosphere

On an unseasonably cold day, we were grateful that Latitude 29 could take us through time and space to a 1950s tiki utopia. From retro music to staff outfitted in Hawaiian shirts, the playful mise en scene was immersive: we felt completely transported. Despite the vintage vibe, however, the space is technologically advanced. Latitude 29 doesn’t feel like such a throwback when you’re charging you’re phone in an outlet (available in each booth) and posting photos to Instagram in real time. #yum.

For unbeatable access to Latitude 29, book now at Bienville House.