Mardi Gras 2015: Carnival Digs
Where to laissez lay those bones during Mardi Gras season
By Kate X Messer,
10:00AM, Fri. Jan. 23, 2015
Heading out on the Mardi Gras trail? First things, first: If you don't have a place to crash in a Mardi Gras town or have not yet booked a room, planning can be intimidating. Here are some websites and some hints to help you see what's out there.
LAFAYETTE/CAJUN COUNTRYAwwwwwwww, cher! While it's a little trek, a Cajun Country Mardi Gras is probably the most affordable and most likely to book this late in the game.
The Tourist Commission of St. Landry Parish/South Central Louisiana's Mardi Gras page and the Mardi Gras Lafayette page take care of all your basics: Full event itineraries, history of the Courir de Mardi Gras, and portals to available accommodations like the charming Cajun Cabin Guest Cottage and L'Acadie Inn & RV Park which both still have reasonably priced accommodations in the season.
LAKE CHARLESThe Mardi Gras that happens closest to the Texas-Louisana border is equal parts Cajun Country Mardi Gras and big city New Orleans-style glitz all wrapped up in that unmistakable friendliness that makes all folks and families feel welcome.
The best bet for newbies is the fun and informative Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Visitors page for access to info to get your trip rolling. Lake Charles has a slew of comfy and clean chain motels due to its I-10 proximity, and it is also casino heaven. Even if you don't gamble, a stay at L'Augerge du Lac Casino Resort or one of the other fine higher-end hotels in Lake Charles is just what you need after all that bead begging.
P.S.: Our next post is all about LC and a lovely little ditty penned by a lovely Austinite about her hometown. So stay tuned!
As we reported in our first Mardi Gras series post, nicer and mid-range hotels in New Orleans are pretty much booked up; even usually reasonably priced places are charging arms, legs, and ya mama's glass eye. But if you've the means, by all means, see what's available. The New Orleans CVB site is your best bet. And while we've also had luck in the past using Craigslist or other online home stay portals, we would not recommend that route for newcomers – there are too many unknowns and variables.
There is room at one of our faves: If you want to leave quite an impression, look into the Degas House (named for the artist himself, who stayed there in the 1870s). Amazingly, the lovely B&B has some romantic rooms available even for some of the peak Mardi Gras dates, but there are some minimum-night restrictions. It's peaceful, on the gorgeous tree-lined Esplanade, and breakfast there alone is worth the visit. (Please tell Miss Sharon we say hello and miss her cooking!)
Mardi Gras! Galveston is the closest Mardi Gras to Austin with deep tradition and multiple weeks of events. The good news is that there are still places available for singles, couples, and groups. Make your plans now for the two prime weekends: Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14.
Galveston's accommodations inventory is unique in the Mardi Gras realm because of one distinguishing factor: The beach. No other Mardi Gras of this caliber nestles so close to so many miles and miles of gorgeous beachfront opportunities.
Condos like Casa del Mar are situated close to the Mardi Gras action and with great views of the gulf. GM Theresa Elliot says their property is offering Mardi Gras tickets and transportation with rentals. "We anticipate selling out both weekends."
A little further west, but with much more elbow room and sweeping vistas, Galveston's West End offers a deep stock of gorgeous beach houses. "The majority of our rentals during Mardi Gras are adult groups: Girls' weekend, couples' weekend, guys' weekend, just a chance to get together with your friends and celebrate," says Tuesday Sloan of Sand 'N Sea Galveston Beach House Rentals, which specializes in free-standing homes, condos, high-rises, and other properties on the island's quieter side.
Staying further west on the island is like staying in South Austin or deeper East Austin during SXSW – it's just a 10-15 minute car ride (and in Galveston – even during Mardi Gras – a lot less traffic).
"Mardi Gras is a great time to come down with a group of friends," says Sloan, "Rent a beach house, enjoy each other's company under the same roof, make meals together, get into town when you want to, and retreat when you've had your fill of excitement with parades and catching beads."
In town and close to the festivities, the island's grand marquee hotels are sold out (or close to it) for at least one of the two prime Mardi Gras weekends (Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14):
Hotel Galvez (1st weekend sold out), the Moody Gardens Hotel Spa & Convention Center (2nd weekend sold out), the Tremont House (1st weekend sold out), San Luis Resort (booking up fast, and fewer options available 2nd weekend), and the Harbor House Hotel & Marina (2nd weekend sold out).
Some mid-range, locally owned hotels still have some reasonably priced slots available for both weekends, like our pals at Commodore on the Beach (with some restrictions on arrival dates, and first-floor poolside rooms are sold out for first weekend) as well as their next door neighbor, Gaido's, but for the most part, hotel rooms are tough to come by and at peak prices.
In the case of scoring a hotel room, here are some great
QUESTIONS TO ASK
• Do they offer any additional amenities with the price: breakfast, shuttles, etc.?
• Is the hotel closer to the Seawall or to the Strand? Both parts of town have parades and parties.
• It the hotel on a parade route? This not only will put you at the front door of all the fun, it will also give you the heads-up to coordinate your schedule around the crowds. Just like in NOLA, there are day- and nighttime parades.
• Does the hotel offer Mardi Gras Packages? Some include passes to the Strand District (laid out like our Dirty Sixth, but a lot more laid-back), which is where many parades and strolling processions roll, as well as the site of the live music at Saengerfest Park and all the crazy balcony parties.
• Are any special or ticketed events happening at this hotel? (For example, the Tremont House is hosting a ticketed, open-to-the-public A&M Mardi Gras Parade Viewing Party on Saturday, Feb. 14 – which is good to know if you are allergic to maroon… j/k Aggies!)
• Are they running any 3-for-2 specials? This is not unheard of, even in packed seasons. Some places are offering a third night. Friday and Saturday nights are the most booked for both weekends, but the city and all the properties enjoy the benefit of your cash flow for that extra day.
And if you can't get a room there, but still want to check a place out, ask:
• Is the hotel hosting any events open to the public? Tremont's most excellent Toujouse Bar and Rooftop Bar (weather permitting) will be open to all to come and enjoy some real Mardi Gras joie de vie with the locals.
Stay tuned as our Mardi Gras 2015 series continues! Check out more in the series, and dig through posts from previous years at austinchronicle.com/daily.