While there’s something to be said for mixing it up with the hoi polloi in the streets, access to grandstands and balconies does offer certain advantages. Because let’s face it: The Greatest Free Show on Earth draws quite a crowd, and if you’re stuck in pedestrian gridlock on Bourbon Street, tired from chasing after throws or have had enough of standing amidst the malodorous refuse of a raging party, a restricted-access perch can seem most appealing.
Respites above the fray
Enjoy watching a parade from an elevated perch with room to sit? Not thrilled at the prospect of having to contend with porta potties? Prefer to revel above the frenzied fray on Bourbon Street? Like food and other amenities provided for your partying pleasure?
While there’s something to be said for mixing it up with the hoi polloi in the streets, access to grandstands and balconies — the Mardi Gras equivalent of skyboxes at arenas and stadiums — does offer certain advantages. Because let’s face it: The Greatest Free Show on Earth draws quite a crowd!
If you’re stuck in pedestrian gridlock on Bourbon Street, or tired of standing amidst the malodorous refuse of a raging party, a perch on a balcony can seem most appealing.
Not only do balconies offer a good view of the action, they’re very much a part of the action — practically synonymous, in fact, with the theatricality of Mardi Gras in the French Quarter. Indeed, revelers on balconies engage in many of the “transactions” in the French Quarter bead economy. In other words, balconies are focal points for interaction between people with bead wealth and those who want to earn beads.
All of which makes balcony access a highly marketable commodity during Mardi Gras. Clubs and bars with balconies on or near Bourbon Street will likely be more than happy to sell you a balcony pass or a hospitality “package” that includes balcony access, food, drinks and perhaps beads.
Also, three hotels have rooms with balconies overlooking Bourbon Street: the Inn on Bourbon, Royal Sonesta and Bourbon Orleans. At the Inn on Bourbon, balcony rooms for Mardi Gras can be booked through the hotel’s reservations department (call 504-524-7611 or e-mail [email protected]). Typically, there’s a five-night minimum stay requirement for rooms with balconies on Bourbon Street. The earlier you book the better your chance of getting a Bourbon balcony room on the second floor (lower balconies are more conducive to interacting with people on the street, and thus tend to be more desirable). The hotel also has four corner rooms that open onto wraparound balconies. While Bourbon balcony rooms at the Bourbon Orleans are reserved for corporate clients, you can book rooms with balconies facing Orleans Avenue and St. Ann Street through the hotel’s reservation department (call 504-523-2222 or e-mail Res[email protected]). Minimium-stay requirements apply.
There’s also the Courtyard By Marriott at the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, with a prime second-floor balcony for parade viewing. Balcony rooms are in high demand for Mardi Gras, and are available only for groups booking 10 or more rooms. Call Marriott’s regional sales office at 404-497-4697.
Not only does the City of New Orleans erect Mardi Gras grandstands that are accessible to the public, but so do some restaurants and other businesses situated along the St. Charles Ave./Canal St. parade route. Prices vary, with some establishments offering package deals that include food and libations.