Getting Around New Orleans During Mardi Gras
New Orleans is a pretty popular place around Carnival season. Hotels fill-up, relatives you haven’t heard from for a year call and ask if they can sleep on your couch, etc. Come Mardi Gras, streets are closed for parades, streetcars and busses run on irregular schedules, and it can all become quite confusing on how to get around the city to have the best experience. That’s why we put together this list of tips to help you navigate New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
New Orleans is a little big city, so make sure you have your comfortable shoes ready. Just about wherever you’re staying or live in New Orleans is going to be within walking distance of a parade. Those coming in from out of town and staying in the French Quarter or Central Business District will especially be able to enjoy walking to where the all the action is. Along with traveling by bicycle, walking is the easiest, quickest way to get around town. Speaking of which...
Another great way get around New Orleans anytime of the year is by bike. This is even truer during Mardi Gras when traffic backs up and streets are closed left and right. If you live here, make sure that the tires are inflated and the chain is lubricated. If you’re visiting, there are a number of places where you can rent bikes.
Everyone loves to ride the beautiful streetcar, and they do run during Carnival season. However, the streetcars do stop service for two hours before a parade begins and don’t start again until two hours after the parades ends. They can also tend to get crowded, and the waits can become lengthy, so you might want to consider alternative means of transportation.
Busses will be running, even though there will be some detours because of parade routes. The busses are a great alternative to the streetcars and will generally be less crowded. When the streetcars stop service for the parades, the busses are the only way to get up and down St. Charles Avenue. Keep up with the Mari Gras service alerts from NORTA.
I’ve heard that there are taxis available on Mardi Gras, but like bathrooms without a line, they might just be a myth. If you’re staying at a major hotel, there may be taxis hanging out there. However, if you want to call a taxi to come pick you up, be prepared to wait a long time. They’re working, but there is a lot of traffic, blocked roads and other passengers waiting for a ride.
If you don’t like any of the options we've listed so far, don’t mind spend hours in the car and looking for a parking spot (double that on Mardi Gras day), then you can drive your own car.
Here are a few tips to make life a little easier for the people that refuse to leave their car at home: Head out to the parade route early, like at least an hour two early. At least! Be prepared to park at least four, five or more blocks away from the parade route (which maybe isn't such a bad thing? Would you really want to park around the corner from the parade?). Be prepared to have even major thoroughfares blocked by parades. If you want to go get from Mid-City or the French Quarter to the Central Business District or Garden District while the parades are running, your only guaranteed route is take the Business 90 from one side of St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street to the other side.
Parking and traffic enforcement will be out in full force during parade season, and not just near the parade routes and the French Quarter. As far as the parade routes, remember that this year they’ve banned parking on both sides of parade route streets. Here are some other things to watch out for, directly from the New Orleans Police Department:
· Blocking a fire hydrant ($40 fine)
· Parking in a fire lane ($40 fine)
· Parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant on either side ($40 fine)
· Parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk, intersection, or stop sign ($40 fine)
· Parking on a sidewalk ($40 fine)
· Parking on a traveled portion of the roadway ($40 fine)
· Parking within 3 feet of a driveway on either side ($40 fine)
· Parking on the neutral ground and subject to seizure ($75 fine)
· Parking adjacent to the neutral ground ($40 fine)
· Parking in freight/loading zone ($40 fine)
· Parking in a handicapped zone without proper permit displayed ($500 fine)
· Parking at an expired meter ($40 fine)
· Parking in a Residential Permit Parking zone without a permit displayed ($40 fine)
· Parking in the wrong direction (vehicles must park in the direction of travel on one way streets, and with the right wheel to the curb on two way streets) ($40 fine)
· Any vehicles with unpaid parking tickets shall be booted
If you do find a legal parking spot, hold on to it!