Mardi Gras on a Budget

Airfare is lower and many events are free.

The cost of travel during peak seasons in New Orleans can be intimidating. Mardi Gras is our busiest time of year, but it’s a mistake to think you can’t afford to experience the greatest show on earth. Parades are, after all, free. is reporting the national average for airfare is lower for Mardi Gras this year than it was in 2015. For 2016, the average airfare is $350, a decrease from $364 last year. Depending on the city of departure, rates range from $97-$800.

While airfares are lower, hotel rates have increased slightly. The 2016 average daily room rate for Mardi Gras week is $246, compared to $217 in 2015. Rates for 4-star hotels currently range from $286-$539 and rates for 3-star hotels range from $207-$487.

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“Rates typically are higher the closer you to get to the actual Mardi Gras day, Fat Tuesday, which is February 9th this year,” said Travel Analyst, Brian Ek. “However, the parade schedule is already in full swing leading up to the big day. Travelers on a budget can visit the city anytime between now and Fat Tuesday and still get a taste of what Mardi Gras is like.”

But Ek makes a great point. Many travelers don’t realize how many parades and festivities happen in the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras day, most of which are free. Starting today, there are parades every day through Mardi Gras. That’s seven days of parades and the complimentary events that go with them.

Non-parade events include the always strange “Greasing of the Poles.” On Friday, February 5, the Royal Sonesta New Orleans hotel will hold their 46th annual event. It’s a Carnival tradition where the hotel applies petroleum jelly to the poles that support their balcony to prevent Bourbon Street revelers from climbing them for better views. It has become a competition that features local and national celebrities. This year actor and writer Bryan Batt will host and the competitors include t-shirt maven Lauren Thom and burlesque performer Trixie Minx, among others.

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The competition starts at 10 a.m. and will be judged by Irvin Mayfield, "Big" Sam Bolden, Margaret Orr, Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman and chef John Folse.

On Monday, February 8, known as “Lundi Gras”, or the Monday preceding Mardi Gras day, the Lundi Gras Festival is hosted by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Zulu is one of the oldest and most revered groups in New Orleans and this festival allows people to see their costumes up close.

It features their infamous characters including Mr. Big Stuff, Mayor, Witch Doctor and Mr. Big Shot, and of course the King and Queen of Zulu for 2016. The free event also features musical performances by Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters, Amanda Shaw & The Cute Guys, Rebirth Brass Band and more.

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Lundi Gras Festival is from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter.

Last-minute travel deals are often available through online sites like Priceline and Orbitz. So don’t rule out a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year.



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