French Quarter Hotel in New Orleans
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Mardi Gras at Bienville House: Until Next Year!

It was the most magical time of the year – well, one of them, anyway. New Orleans always brings unforgettable experiences, whether during the holidays or during festival season, but Mardi Gras is definitely one of our favorites. The 2015 Mardi Gras season was a great one at Bienville House! Our guests enjoyed all the festivities of the French Quarter in addition to beautiful decorations right within our hotel.

We taught everyone a few Mardi Gras traditions and terms, and if you weren’t here to get a king cake baby for yourself, don’t worry! Bienville House’s on-site restaurant, Latitude 29, has incredible drinks with just the right amount of kitsch – and their Mississippi Mermaid drink features a plastic bauble not unlike a king cake baby.

We’ve collected a few of our favorite photos from inside our hotel during the Mardi Gras season. Take a look below!

Purple mardi gras flowers

Our hotel was full of decorations in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold.

balcony decorations bienville house

The balcony from our interior courtyard joined in on the Mardi Gras festivities.

Lobby decorations

Our lobby decorations were a nod to the lavish floats during the parades.

Bienville House also participated in a joint effort on behalf of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and tourism leaders (including our sister hotel, Hotel Monteleone) to help fund additional state police presence during Mardi Gras and through the duration of the festival season. With added police in the city through May, visitors can enjoy a sense of security that will allow them to truly enjoy their stay.

Whether you decide to visit for festival season or want to plan your trip for Mardi Gras 2016 (Carnival season starts on Jan. 6, and Fat Tuesday is on Feb. 9), Bienville House provides a perfect venue close to all the action.

Experience a Romantic Valentine’s Day in New Orleans

With its history, music, and fine dining, New Orleans is an inherently romantic city. During Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to make room for romance – simply take a look at our list of things to do for Valentine’s Day!

st louis cathedral
Take a quiet moment at St. Louis Cathedral as part of a romantic Valentine’s Day. (Photo courtesy EMR on Flickr)

Share a Whimsical Drink at Latitude 29

With a world-famous tiki expert behind the bar, Latitude 29 guarantees an unforgettable cocktail. We love how Jeff “Beachbum” Berry has created shareable drinks like the Lapu Lapu – you can sip side-by-side with your sweetheart for a nostalgic moment. Other standout romantic drinks include the eponymous Latitude 29 (with sensuous Madagascar vanilla syrup) and the Outcast of the Islands (it’s got cinnamon in it, an aphrodisiac!).

Draw Powdered Sugar Hearts at Café du Monde

There’s really no beating fresh, warm beignets doused in powdered sugar. Café du Monde’s al fresco setting is perfect for people watching, and their petite plates are just the right size for drawing powdered sugar hearts – after you finish your dessert, of course.

Dance to Street Music in Jackson Square

Part of the magic of New Orleans is its constant flow of live music. There’s always an excuse to dance, especially when you’re with your loved one at Valentine’s Day! Jackson Square is beautiful as is, but live music creates an incredibly romantic atmosphere to dance hand in hand under the stars.

Take a Quiet Moment Together Inside St. Louis Cathedral

Reflection is an important part of any relationship. You can take time for quiet introspection at St. Louis Cathedral as you admire the architecture and artwork within this historic building. It’s open daily from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Enjoy a Moonlit River Cruise

End your Valentine’s Day on the mighty Mississippi when you take a steamboat like Steamboat Natchez or the Creole Queen for a moonlight cruise. The experience provides fabulous photo-ops and the exhilarating feeling of wind in your hair and the whole world ahead of you – a lot like how love feels, we think.

Book now at Bienville House for unparalleled access to all the romance of the French Quarter. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Latitude 29 is the Place for Happy Hour in New Orleans

Our on-site restaurant, Latitude 29, has gotten plenty of buzz since its opening last fall. From stellar Yelp reviews to write-ups in Eater NOLA, Nola.com, and more, Latitude 29 and its owner, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, are reviving the long-lost art of tiki cocktails to delicious effect. The restaurant is open from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. with a full menu of food and drink, but we’d like to highlight their happy hour.

Not only is happy hour a daily occurrence at Latitude 29 (from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.), but it’s also a chance to try special menu items only available during happy hour.

french fry banh mi latitude 29

Try the French fry banh mi for $5 during happy hour at Latitude 29! (Photo courtesy Latitude 29 on Facebook)

One of our favorite happy hour treats is the French Fry Bahn Mi – a decadent and delicious steal at $5 a la carte. Chef Chris Shortall drew inspiration from his favorite sandwich and dressed it up with house-made pickled vegetables, homemade gravy, soy sauce mayonnaise, crispy French fries, and bread from a local Vietnamese bakery. It’s vegetarian (so is the Tofu Banh Mi, another happy hour addition), so it’s healthy… right?

If savory sandwiches are making you thirsty, try ordering the Snow Leopard. Available for $8 during happy hour, this drink is a delightful mix of sweet and savory. Jamaican and Virgin Island rums with coconut cream, and lime pair up with unexpected ingredients like caraway seed liqueur, Thai sweet chili sauce, and cilantro for a complex and totally delicious drink.

Other happy hour menu items include a crisp meat pie with pickled pineapple and watermelon rind, plus all the awesome, tropical-inspired drinks you’ve come to expect from Latitude 29.

Book now at Bienville House to enjoy Latitude 29 – see you at happy hour!

Ready to Roll: Krewe du Vieux Parades this Saturday

Mardi Gras gets underway this weekend with the Krewe du Vieux parade on Saturday night. At 6 p.m., crowds will see firsthand the popular krewe and its wild costumes. Krewe du Vieux is one of our favorites during the Mardi Gras season – in part because their parade route is so close to our hotel! Simply step outside of our Decatur Street entrance and watch Krewe du Vieux roll right past. Check out the parade route in the map below (our hotel is marked by the red star):

 

Krewe du Vieux parade route at Bienville House

The red star indicates our hotel, near the cross-section of Decatur and Conti streets. Krewe du Vieux will roll right past!

 

Although the krewe is changing its route this year, one thing will stay the same: biting satire. Krewe du Vieux’s theme is, appropriately, “Begs for Change,” no doubt a nod to its inaugural cross over Canal Street.

Although the parade starts at 6:00 p.m., it’s hard to know exactly when Krewe du Vieux will roll past. As you wait, enjoy a drink in Latitude 29 or view our Mardi Gras decor throughout the hotel. There’s also another parade following Krewe du Vieux: Krewe Delusion rolls at 7:15 p.m. This krewe also uses satire to its advantage and will be led by burlesque star Trixie Minx.

Both parades culminate in balls for each krewe. Krewe du Vieux will hold a Krewe du Vieux Doo ball at Canal Theatre in the warehouse district; tickets are $40 and available at Up in Smoke and La Music Factory. Krewe Delusion’s ball, The Bedlam Ball, is open to the public for a cost of $10. The ball will take place on the corner of St. Ferdinand Street and Architect Alley in the Marigny.

Book now at Bienville House for unbeatable proximity to French Quarter parades during Mardi Gras. We’ve also got next year’s dates lined up!

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.