I lived in the French Quarter back in the day (early ’90s) when you could afford to be a student and live in the French Quarter. My then boyfriend and I lived in a dive the size of a small boat’s hull. One day when I was taking a shower, I ran my soapy hand over the dark grey tile only to discover it was actually white. When we moved, I discovered this was due to a faulty heater that belched out and black soot. Such things escape you when you are a starving student. In retrospect, I am grateful to be alive. I attribute this to the many gaps, drafts, and lack of insulation in the abysmal place.
Other notable charms associated with the hole, which was located upstairs from a lovely, if tourists-only courtyard restaurant, was the 9 a.m. sharp every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday emergence of a tragic, nameless Dixieland Jazz Band. We were hard partying students and the yowling and howling of the bandleader accompanied by another guy beating on a banjo was torture.
When not working on a Friday night, the BF (he at Napoleon House, me at The Times-Picayune) and I would acquire a six pack (I know) and a bucket of popcorn from the Circle K (yes, there was a Circle K eating up real estate in the FQ) and drive around the Quarter, often for hours, looking for a free, legal, “safe” place to park. Be mindful that the murder rate in NOLA in 1994 was a walloping 424 compared with the 280 we hit in 2022. If you think things suck now…
When we first moved to the Quarter we looked forward to Mardi Gras with anticipation. The phone started ringing months out with friends from all over the world eager to join us in our tiny hovel. We happily complied. There is no way to describe life in the middle of the FQ during Carnival. A roar starts two weeks out and does not dissipate until midnight on Mardi Gras Day, if the residents are lucky. The City strips FQ residents of their rights, disallowing most from even driving to their homes, much less parking on the street At least that was the case back then.
This long trip down Memory Lane leads me to the actual point: Are you expecting guests this Carnival season? If money is no object and your guests have money to burn, or you have a swank guest house you are all set. But what if neither you nor your guests are rife with cash when the city’s biggest tourist bash in coming down. What then?
Don’t roll out the air mattress just yet. There are options located on or near the parade route that won’t break the bank.
The Eliza Jane: Once a printing house and bitters factory, The Eliza Jane is a decadent respite with a thoughtful blend of elegance combined with just the right mix of fancy and funky. The boutique hotel features 196 rooms, including 50 suites with eclectic accents and elegant brass fixtures, a fitness center and an intimate atrium lobby bar and lounge, The Press Room, for cocktails and small bites in a rich, book-filled setting. The property recently reopened its signature dining outlet, Couvant, serving elevated French cuisine with Southern soul. Menu highlights include Brioche Crusted Veal, Cote de Beuf for two and Smoked Salmon and Oeufs Mayonnaise.
- Starting rate: $130
The Pelham Hotel: Situated on the site of the former residence of New Orleans founding father Jean Baptiste LeMoyne de Bienville, The Pelham Hotel unveiled an extensive interior renovation earlier this year. The transformation included a redesign of the lobby, guest rooms and bathrooms, guest corridor and more. Evoking the city’s history of lavish parties and over-the-top events, the redesigned guest rooms contain oversized decorative mirrors and vintage accents like Victrola radios, and a color palette composed of jewel tones mixed with high-contrast colors such as orange and green. Enjoy craft cocktails at Lobby Lounge Concessions and brunch at Ruby Slipper Café.
- Starting rate: $101
Hyatt Centric French Quarter: Positioned on a full city block on Bourbon Street, the Hyatt Centric French Quarterfeatures 254 chic guestrooms and suites with outdoor balconies, 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a fitness center, breakfast spot, and Batch Bar, serving house-infused whiskey cocktails.
- Starting rate: $178
Aloft New Orleans Downtown: Within walking distance to the acrtion Aloft New Orleans Downtown captures energy with eclectic design and vibrant art. Soaring 11 stories above downtown, guests can splash into relaxation in the property’s spacious outdoor rooftop Splash Pool. Fresh salads, sandwiches, and snacks are available from Re: Fuel, or a grab a cocktail and Cajun-infused bites from the W XYZ® bar.
- Starting rate: $107
Homewood Suites by Hilton New Orleans French Quarter: Offering spacious suite-style guest rooms with full kitchens and separate living areas, Homewood Suites by Hilton New Orleans French Quarter is the perfect home base.
Lastly, if you are on a route and need to feed a crowd Chef Eric Cook’s newest venture, Gris-Gris to Go Go, a grab-and-go retail store located next door to Gris-Gris, offers a variety of entertaining staples from Cook’s award-winning restaurants (Gris-Gris and Saint John) including chicken and andouille gumbo, red beans and rice and chicken and dumplings (quarts/pints available daily, gallon 48-hour pre-order) along with Saint John’s well-known brown butter corn , plus pre-made sandwiches, salads, and a daily rotating vegan option Gris-Gris to Go-Go will also accept online pre-orders for its in-store stapes, plus build-your-own boards (charcuterie, chocolate/candy and baked goods boards), sandwich platters and more (48 hours advance notice for larger orders).Order online at the restaurant’s website Gris-Gris Nola.