All eyes will be on New Orleans this weekend, as Mardi Gras parades roll through and parties commence leading up to Fat Tuesday on February 12.
SHM Traveler caught up with Mark Wyant, owner of The Saint Hotel
(166-room, 8 story property in the historic landmark Audubon Building, located on Canal Street at Burgundy Street) to briefly chat about Mardi Gras and the city
Dallas-based Wyant, a retired American Airlines pilot, says he has "always been a fan of the beautiful city of New Orleans and its rich history. That combined with the unmatched opportunity of the Audubon building's restoration brought me here."
When it comes to Mardi Gras
, he has attended many parades and admitted the pageantry and artwork of the floats blew him away.
"Mardi Gras in New Orleans is unlike any celebration in this country. It’s an entire season of decadent parades, balls and of course, king cake parties. During Mardi Gras, anything goes. It is a time when the city is over-flowing with color and celebrating culture, and a time when extreme creativity is encouraged."
He adds many visiting for the first time during the season head straight to Bourbon Street and the rest of the French Quarter might be missing out.
"All the major parades start in Uptown and Mid-City Districts, and follow routes along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street. I recommend grabbing a spot along one of these routes to catch the real pageantry and beauty of New Orleans. My family’s favorite is the Krewe of Endymion, particularly since it passes directly in front of The Saint on Canal Street."
As for New Orleans itself, Wyant says it's hard for him to name a certain area as his favorite.
"New Orleans has something incredible to offer around every
corner," he says. "However, I would have to say one of my favorite parts of the city is the Garden District with its beautiful historic homes. My family and I love to take the St. Charles Streetcar through the Garden District. There is so much incredible architecture throughout the ride that we always discover a new favorite building."
For visitors to the city looking for a full New Orleans experience, he suggests:
1. Appreciate the beauty of the city: "Take the St. Charles streetcar through the Garden District. Stop at one of the restaurants there for a terrific meal, or take the Canal Street streetcar to the historic cemeteries at the end of the line."
2. Pirate’s Alley
: Wyant believes visiting Pirate’s Alley is an absolute must when in the city. "They have the best souvenirs by far, like handmade, elaborate Mardi Gras masks."
3. Brunch at Café Amelie
: "If you are strolling down Royal Street, head into this charming courtyard restaurant. Have the Cochon au Lait sandwich and gumbo."
4. Museums: He points out that New Orleans has several museums that one must make time to visit. He recommends The National World War II Museum
: "This is a wonderful place to bring the whole family and learn a few things while on vacation," and NOMA
(New Orleans Museum of Art ): "My family and I always try to visit the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
when we are here. With over 60 sculptures from around the world, it is a five-acre oasis in the middle of the city."
5. Take a riverboat tour: Wyant says some of the best views of New Orleans are from the water. "Taking a riverboat tour or cruise is a must for any visitor – whether it’s your first time or fiftieth."
6. Historic Jackson Square
: "One of the most famous sights in New Orleans, my family and I love to visit Jackson Square," he says. "With St. Louis Cathedral in the background, have a local artist paint your portrait, or walk around the square and explore the open gallery spaces of local New Orleans artists."
7. Live music: "One thing I always take advantage of when I’m in New Orleans is the city’s incredible live music scene." A few of his favorite places are d.b.a.
on Frenchman Street and the Burgundy Bar
at The Saint Hotel.
photos courtesy of New Orleans CVB, Pat Garin, Chris Granger