|Your French Quarter and Downtown To-Do List: What to do this Spring
With winter giving way to a beautiful, in-bloom spring, now is the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy the French Quarter. Here are a few things to do while you’re there:
Eat Seafood (Preferably with Your Hands!)
In New Orleans, crawfish season is a magical time of year. Learn to peel these delicious little “freshwater lobsters,” then head to Deanie’s Seafood on Iberville Street where you can get them fresh at market price. If you prefer slurping to peeling, try oysters. Acme Oysterhouse is as iconic as it is delicious – it’s been a French Quarter staple for more than 100 years.
Relax at the Riverfront
Woldenberg Park is a sprawling greenspace on the banks of the Mississippi. Just a few steps away from the French Quarter, this park features a riverside jogging path, peaceful oak trees, and an up-close view of the Mississippi River.
Get a Skyline View
Not across the river but simply around the bend, Crescent City Park offers an incredible view of the New Orleans skyline despite being deceptively close to the French Quarter. Featuring sculptural installations and outdoor seating, the park is a photographer’s dream. Plan to bring your camera!
Go to the Grocery Store
Central Grocery on Decatur Street serves up incredible muffulettas – take one to go and eat it in Jackson Square! For a more literal take on going to the grocery store, we suggest heading to Rouse’s Supermarket in the Central Business District on Baronne Street. You’ll find Louisiana- and New Orleans-specific goods perfect for souvenirs – bring back regional foods like Zapp’s potato chips (we’re partial to the Voodoo flavor), Creole-style chicory coffee, and spice mixes for your friends and family.
Ready to walk around? There’s no better place to stay than Bienville House, located in the heart of the French Quarter.Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans
St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans is a celebration of the city’s rich multicultural history, which includes a strong Irish presence. Irish immigrants first came to New Orleans in the late 18th century; the city was an apt place for Irish newcomers because of its strong Catholic traditions and the shared anti-British sentiments of French and Spanish residents. The Irish immigrants integrated quickly, and by 1809 they celebrated their first St. Patrick’s Day.
Since then, St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans has evolved into a multi-day affair full of parades and music. Though many of the activities take place Uptown in the Irish Channel, there are several St. Patrick’s Day events held in the French Quarter near Bienville House. Take a look at some of the best ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the French Quarter:
Molly’s at the Market hosts its annual Irish Parade at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, March 13. You’ll see riders in carriages and floats intermingled with marching groups as they make a full circle around the French Quarter beginning and ending at Molly’s (1107 Decatur St.) Like any good parade, this one will include throws – get ready to catch edible items like cabbages, potatoes, carrots, onions, and Moon Pies plus more conventional treasures like beads and flowers.
Italian-American St. Joseph’s Parade
Though this parade celebrates St. Joseph’s Day rather than St. Patrick’s Day, it still represents the importance of Catholic traditions within the city. St. Joseph’s Day takes place on March 19, but the Italian-American Marching Group will hold a parade on Saturday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m. The parade starts at the corner of Girod and Convention Center Blvd. in the Warehouse District and will roll through the French Quarter, including a portion along Decatur St. where our hotel is located. More than a dozen floats and nine marching bands will honor this other notable Catholic holiday.
Downtown Irish Club Parade
St. Patrick’s Day itself will have another parade, this time held by the Downtown Irish Club. The parade, on Tuesday, March 17 at 6:00 p.m., starts in the Bywater and heads through the French Quarter to Bourbon Street.These Spring Festivals are Sure to Put a Spring in Your Step
In New Orleans, you never have to wait long for the next celebration. Bienville House had an amazing Mardi Gras (we hope you did, too!), but now we’re on to spring festival season. With several festivals happening right within the French Quarter, our hotel is a great home base for guests searching for an authentic New Orleans festival experience. Learn how to enjoy three of our favorite spring festivals below.
St. Patrick’s Day
The city has its own Irish Channel neighborhood in Uptown and a rich Irish heritage tracing back nearly 300 years. So, of course New Orleans celebrates St. Patrick’s Day! On Friday, March 13, Molly’s at the Market hosts its annual Irish Parade. You might catch beads, but look out for other edible throws like carrots, potatoes, and cabbages – we’re guessing that’s not what you want for dinner, so remember to check out our on-site restaurant Latitude 29 for craft cocktails and Polynesian-inspired fare.
The Downtown Irish Club Parade takes place on St. Patrick’s Day Proper (Tuesday, March 17) at 6 p.m., and in another Catholic tradition, the Italian-American Marching Club will celebrate St. Joseph’s Day with a parade on Saturday, March 14 at 6 p.m. Both parades will venture through the French Quarter! On that note, another must-see festival is…
French Quarter Festival
Running from April 9 – 12, the French Quarter Festival is a free event that showcases Louisiana and New Orleans musicians like PresHall Brass, Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, John Boutte, and several others. Spectators will also enjoy incredible food and drinks – check out a complete list of vendors – within the perennially gorgeous scenery of Jackson Square. Celebrating New Orleans’ heritage, people, food, and music, this festival is always a favorite at Bienville House.
Jazz & Heritage Festival
The annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – known affectionately as Jazz Fest, for short – features an absolutely incredible lineup of musical acts. Elton John, Wilco, Hozier, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, and No Doubt are just a few of the musicians you’ll get to hear live. The two-weekend festival also features plenty of other activities. You can explore City Park’s bountiful greenspace as you browse food vendors, a crafts market, and cultural experiences like the Louisiana Folklife Village.
Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival
Our sister property, Hotel Monteleone, is one of the hosts of the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, an annual event that pays tribute to its eponymous author through lectures, performances, a special book fair, and much more. The 2015 festival runs from March 25 – 29 (what would’ve been Williams’ 104th birthday is on March 26, so a birthday bash is part of the festivities!).
Hotel Monteleone is an especially fitting venue for the festival. Its rich literary history includes being featured in one of Williams’ plays, The Rose Tattoo; Williams also often stayed at Hotel Monteleone while he was in town. – after all, Williams featured our hotel in his play, The Rose Tattoo, and often stayed at the hotel when he was in town.
Which festival are you most excited about? Plan your spring stay now at Bienville House!
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!
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!
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.
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):
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.