Jan. 28th, 2013

Keeping it Classy: A Luxury Guide To Mardi Gras

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock/iStockphoto
Spring is around the corner and the Crescent City is gearing up for the biggest festival of the year— Mardi Gras. The event draws hundreds of thousands of people every year looking to take part in the theatrical parades, listen to the body buzzing music, bejewel themselves in outrageously ornate costumes, and party with dedicated bleary-eyed determination well into the morning. But if you’re among those who would rather enjoy the event from a distance, without fighting crowds or getting lost into the wild thick of fanaticism that is Mardi Gras, you may want to check out a few slightly more glamorous alternatives to celebrating this carnival season. I spoke to Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans luxury concierge service expert Liam Devine and Ritz Carlton Communications Manager Paul Loisel to learn a few insider recommendations.
 Grand Stand Seating

Grand Stand Seating

The vibrant Mardi Gras parades are a trademark part of the annual attraction, from jazz music and beautiful costumes to painstakingly crafted floats and regional food—the nearly eighty parades that perform each year are a central part of Mardi Gras. The parades are broken into “Krewes,” some of which have formation dates from the 1920’s. A few Mardi Gras veteran groups include the Krewe of Endymion, created in 1974; the Mardi Gras Indians, or “Black Mardi Gras,” donning hand-designed, beaded costumes; the Krewe of Rex, which have popularized many modern Mardi Gras traditions since their creation in 1960 including the purple, gold, and green theme colors and the throwing of doubloons; and the all-male Krewe of Alla, formed in 1932.

Wildly popular, the parade scene can become a crazed event. Devine recommended buying tickets to Grand Stand Seating along St. Charles Avenue and enjoying the colorful pageantry from a higher vantage point. New Orleans Parade Tickets allows visitors to purchase tickets to the parade event and date of their choice, so that favorite floats, marching bands, and dance performances can be enjoyed from comfortable, reserved seating in the midst of the Mardi Gras action. Guests will also have private access to restrooms and close proximity to food and beverage options.

Photo Courtesy of NewOrleansOnline.com
 Garden District

Garden District

While many bemoan the poor reputation Mardi Gras has earned for being a festival of peccancy and maintain their testament to the family-friendly events provided by the city as a whole (during the daylight hours anyways), others still say the Garden District offers areas with less “chaotic” activities during carnival season. The district features a beautiful collection of historic homes, gardens, and restaurants featuring well-reviewed regional cuisine. Considered the “epitome” of Southern charm, homes in this district have wrap-around porches and verandas while the houses are also separated by stretches of green parks and gardens. A historic cable car line runs along St. Charles Avenue through the Garden district and boutique shops litter Magazine Street. Many families can be seen in the Garden District portion of St. Charles during Mardi Gras having picnics and playing in the parks while waiting for the parades to come through.
 Krewe of Orpheus

Krewe of Orpheus Black Tie Ball

Founded by New Orleanian native Harry Connick, Jr. in 1993, The Krewe of Orpheus is one of the leading festivities of the carnival, annually ringing in Lundi Gras, the night before Mardi Gras, with a lively parade and black tie ball at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Signature floats include a 139-foot Trojan Horse and Orpheus Leviathan float featuring fiber optic lighting; Smokey Mary, a six unit float that looks like a steam engine; and the Dolly Trolley, a horse-drawn bus. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Krewe of Orpheus’ formation which promises to bring a series of extra special additions, such as a new krewe song written by Harry Connick, Jr. as well as commemorative doubloons featuring musical legend “Uncle” Lionel Batiste.

The 20th anniversary ball, or "Orpheuscapade," as it is called, will commence with live music and dancing while guests wait for the 700-person Orpheus krewe to arrive in all its majestic glory. Guests will be showered with a colorful storm of beads, doubloons, and other parade throws until dancing and music resume. The evening begins at 7 pm and lasts until 3 am, and while attendees may bring their own libations, tickets must be purchased. Black tie attire is also required.

Photo Courtesy of Krewe of Orpheus
 The Ritz Carlton

The Ritz Carlton, New Orleans Lundi Gras Package

The timeless elegance of The Ritz Carlton brand and the charming appeal of Southern hospitality converge at The Ritz Carlton, New Orleans, located in the historic French Quarter on Canal Street. One block from Bourbon Street and in close proximity to the Garden District and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, The Ritz Carlton, New Orleans is an ideal home base for a vacation to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. To help celebrate, the brand is offering the Lundi Gras Ride of a Lifetime package, which includes an incredible combination of both relaxation and Mardi Gras activity. Guests can enjoy four nights (February 8-12, 2013) in the Ritz-Carlton suite replete with 2,800 square feet of living space, views overlooking the city, Italian marble baths, and butler pantry with refrigerator.

The Lundi Gras experience also includes two mornings of breakfast in bed, a couple’s massage, club lounge access, and round trip airport transfer via limousine. The very best part of the package, however, is the two tickets into the Krewe of Orpheus Parade on Monday, February 11, 2013 (costumes and throws included). Guests will have the unique chance to take part in the revered Orpheus Krewe’s 20th anniversary celebration. Concierge expert, Paul Loisel said what makes this offering so unique is that guests will not only be a part of the krewe, their arrival at the Orpheuscapade black tie ball makes them the main attraction and reason for the party. The package costs $25,000 and also includes recovery concierge assistance for two of the four days.

Photo Courtesy of The Ritz Carlton, New Orleans
 Commander’s Palace

Commander’s Palace

Consistently named one of the top restaurants in New Orleans, The Commander’s Palace is a legendary eatery featuring “inventive modern New Orleans cooking” paired with Haute Creole cuisine. The restaurant has been in place since 1880, serving award-winning food and an authentic, Southern dining experience. Chef Tory McPhail is the current captain of the Commander’s kitchen, and strives to make sure 90% of ingredients found in their dishes come from local or nearby distributors. From gumbo and turtle soup to Hog’s Head Cheese Stuffed Pork Cracklin and Louisiana Shrimp and Grits, the Commander’s Palace menu reflects beautifully executed regional cuisine that is true to both its roots as well as modern culinary trends. A must-visit recommended by Devine as well as many other New Orleans natives.

Photo Courtesy of Commander's Palace
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