Behind the colorful beads and the excitement on Bourbon Street, there lies great Mardi Gras history and tradition. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”—that is, the final day before the penitential season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. While Mardi Gras has no official status in the Catholic Church, it is a custom in many Catholic countries to mark the day with parties and feasting. Since French Catholics settled New Orleans, Mardi Gras is a historically remarkable celebration filled with music, brass bands, krewes and opulent parades. Everyone is wearing purple, green, and gold, and adorned with long beads caught from the beautiful floats.

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Part of my whirlwind trip entailed fun-filled celebrations like the Ball of Mystick Krewe of ComusThe Krewe of Proteus and Rex King Carnival. Young women became queens of their courts, we danced all night and there was enough champagne to last all year. And since this is one of the biggest parties in the world, how could I not be curious about what goes into all the Mardi Gras decorating and planning? It is utterly amazing the planning and work that goes into making the floats for the extravagant parades and they start planning as soon as the Mardi Gras celebration ends. I was given a secret tour of the giant storage facilities that housed decorations for the dozens of parades. My oh my…..no wonder New Orleanians call it “The Greatest Free Show on Earth!” If you’ve experience the Big Easy during this festive holiday, you know it’s nothing shy of a boring time. From delectable cuisines to King Cakes and places to stay, here is my round up of the best there is to offer in this historical and fascinating city.

To Dine:

1. Chochon Restaurant

2. Gautreau’s

3. Dominique’s on Magazine

4. Arnaud’s

5. Irene’s Cuisine

6. Café du Monde

To Stay:

1. Windsor Court

2. The Ritz Carlton

3. Soniat House

4. Hampton Inn Garden District

5. Hotel Intercontinental

For a Po Boy:

1. The Grocery

2. Domilese’s

3. Tracey’s

For a King Cake:

1. Sucre

2. Dong Phoung Bakery

3. Gambino’s Bakery – Best Doberge Cake!