New Orleans during Mardi Gras – Where we Ate

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016

I wanted to cover all our dining experiences in New Orleans during Mardi Gras in a single post. I don’t think there was a single place that disappointed us!  Ken is not into “fancy” dining or seafood or any sort of foods that one cannot pronounce. So the restaurants we went to are relatively inexpensive and are great for folks not looking for anything overly elaborate!  


Address: 833 Conti Street // New Orleans, LA // 70112
Meal: Lunch
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Exterior of Jagerhaus

This place did not accept reservations via OpenTable. When I called a few weeks prior to our trip, they said that they typically accept reservations, but not during Mardi Gras. But, luckily we didn’t have to worry. When we got there for a late lunch, the restaurant was crowded, but there was no wait!

I had a “meal of appetizers” because I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to eat. A pretzel, hot German potato salad, and an order of pierogies.

Pretzel Hot german potato salad Pierogies

And a beer, of course. It is a German restaurant after all!

Beer at Jagerhaus

Ken had a burger:

Burger at Jagerhaus


Address: 901 Louisiana Ave // New Orleans, LA  // 70115
Meal: Breakfast / Brunch
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Exterior of Atchafalaya

This place was pretty far from the French Quarter, which we knew, so we just hopped in an Uber to get there. But I’m glad we ventured out there! The food was fantastic, and we walked around the “Magazine District” neighborhood after lunch! We made reservations for this restaurant, and they even called us the day before to confirm!

I had a Bloody Mary because I couldn’t resist the looks of their Bloody Mary “bar!”

Bloody Mary fixins. Bloody Mary at Atchafalaya Hot sauce on Bloody Mary Bar Horseradishes on Bloody Mary bar

I can’t remember exactly what I had, I think it was the Eggs Treme. And Ken had the Banana Foster french toast, and we split a side of brunch potatoes.

Eggs Treme at Atchafalaya Banana Foster French Toast Brunch Potatoes

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen

Address: 95 French Market Place // New Orleans, LA // 70126
Meal: Lunch
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Exterior of Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Interior of Louisiana Pizza Kitchen

Not to be confused with “California” Pizza Kitchen, we had lunch one afternoon at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. We also had reservations at this restaurant for 2PM, but it was empty when we got there, even during Mardi Gras season! I guess it was an off-time for a meal, in between normal lunch and dinner times.

We started out with a Caesar salad, and then I had a pepperoni pizza and Ken had a cheese pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza Cheese Pizza Caesar salad

We even finished everything off with some dessert!

Dessert at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen

Red Gravy

Address: 125 Camp Street // New Orleans
Meal: Breakfast / Brunch
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Exterior of Red Gravy

I had an “Uptown” omelet, with meatballs, eggs, “red gravy” and a side of potatoes.

Uptown Omelet at Red Gravy

I believe that Ken had the Cannoli Pancakes:

Cannoli Pancakes at Red Gravy

With also split a side of “A Biscuit, A Basket,” which was biscuits with REALLY delicious home preserves.

A Biscuit, A Basket

Dat Dog

Address: 601 Frenchmen Street // New Orleans
Meal: Lunch
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Ken is a HUGE burger connoisseur, so we tried to go to “Port of Call,” a local burger joint with amazing reviews, one afternoon for lunch. However, it was PACKED. Like an hour plus wait. (They did not take reservations). So, we set out to find another restaurant, and we settled on “Dat Dog” just a few blocks away. Well, I shouldn’t say settle, because it was amazing!

Exterior of Dat Dog Menu board inside Dat Dog

I’m pretty sure that I got the Guinness Special dog, with Irish Guinness Sausage, Andouille Sauce, Onions, Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Bacon, & Yellow Mustard.

I’m not sure what Ken got, I think he might have just added a smattering of his own topping selections.

We also split an order of chili fries.

Dat Dog hot dog Dat Dog hot dog Chili fries at Dat Dog

Cafe du Monde

Address: 800 Decatur Street // New Orleans
Meal: Snack
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And of course, no trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde!

Exterior of Cafe du Monde Menu board at Cafe du Monde Inside Cafe du Monde

We had been to Cafe du Monde previously, during our time in New Orleans back in 2008. However, it was a LOT more crowded this time thanks to Mardi Gras! The line was long to get in, but it moved quickly. We had a table in about 15 minutes.

We had an order of beignets and two hot chocolates.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde Beignets at Cafe du Monde Ken and I at Cafe du Monde

That’s about it. We did go to a few other places as well, like one hotel restaurant at the Intercontinental, right by our grandstands on Mardi Gras day. (Very few restaurants are actually open on Mardi Gras day, so the hotel seemed like a good option). We also ate at a place called Pierre Maspero’s. However, the restaurant was so dark that our pictures didn’t come out very good! And of course we had a buffet dinner the one night at the Bourbon Street balcony party.

What places do you recommend to eat in New Orleans?

Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Review | Pools, Lounging, Restaurants, etc.

In Part 1, I covered our one bedroom suite at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa, the lobby, and some of the outdoor seating areas.

But now, let’s get to the REALLY fun parts of the hotel!

The Pools, the “Ramblin River,” and Outdoor Lounging

We spent the vast majority of our time in the pools with our niece and nephew. The pools were huge, relaxing, and had plenty of free inner tubes to lazily float along the ramblin river endlessly.

Pools at Hyatt Hill Country Pools at Hyatt Hill Country Pools at Hyatt Hill Country Pools at Hyatt Hill Country

This “beach” area was especially popular, and allowed for a shallow water area for kids to play and splash.

Beach at Hyatt Hill Country Beach at Hyatt Hill Country Beach at Hyatt Hill Country

There was also a very large hot tub:

Large hot tub

As well as a kiddie pool:

Kiddie pool at Hyatt Hill Country

And an adults only pool, which I’m pretty sure was empty the entire time we were there. (P.S., the pool is Texas-shaped).

Adult pool at hotel

One of the favorites of my three-year-old niece? The waterslide!

Water slide at Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Water slide at Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Water slide at Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa

There were plenty of outdoor lounge chairs, as well as cabanas available for a rental fee.

Lounge chairs near pool Outdoor lounging area at hotel pool Cabana rental option

Evening S’mores and Outdoor Movies

Every night, the hotel hosted free evening s’mores at a huge fire pit. Everything about the s’mores was free (marshmallow, graham cracker, chocolate, etc.). Unlike, for instance, Disney resorts that let you roast the marshmallow for free but charge for the chocolate and graham crackers.

Firepit for s’mores Firepit at hotel S’mores area from a distance S’mores table

The staff on hand even removed the marshmallows from the sticks so that your hands didn’t have to get all sticky. Their technique was pretty amazing! They slide it off by pushing it between two graham crackers.

S’mores night at hotel

Then, on some evenings, there were outdoor movie showings (it appeared that these were mostly on the weekends. We were there in May, so I’m not sure if that changes as the season progresses.)

Outdoor movies at Hyatt Hill Country

Other Miscellaneous Activities and Amenities

There was a good size playground for younger kiddos. My 3 year old niece was a fan of this place!

Playground at Hyatt Hill Country

There were also free bicycles to use, both adult and children’s sizes. There was even a trunk full of helmets to use.

Bicycles to use at hotel Helmets for bicycles at Hyatt Hill Country

Also much appreciated were these free drinking water stations all around the grounds. Perfect for that hot Texas weather.

Water dispensing station at Hyatt Hill Country

There was also a surfing / wave rider type thing, but it’s worth noting that this is an extra charge.

Wave rider

And, if volleyball is your thing, there was a beach volleyball setup on the resort grounds as well:

Beach volleyball court at Hyatt Hill Country

We also found a fun little arcade at the resort as well. Ken and my nephew spent some time playing arcade games and air hockey here!

Arcade at Hyatt Hill Country Arcade at Hyatt Hill Country

I also thought these little “selfie spot” stickers were fun!

Selfie spot mark

Food and Dining at Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa

We ate at the resort for about half of our meals. I found the meals to be relatively reasonbly priced, perhaps a bit over what you’d pay for breakfast at a normal (non hotel, non resort) restaurant. But definitely MUCH MUCH cheaper than, for example, my New York City $34 plate of spaghetti room service debacle, which Ken still never lets me live down. And, for instance, our $30 plate of pancakes at the Park Hyatt Moscow. So, you won’t go broke eating at the Hyatt Hill Country. Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos of the restaurants and meals, but I was pleased with all of them. My family especially like the sports bar, where my dad could watch hockey games and basketball games, my nephew tried his hand at billiards, and the music was loud enough that nobody noticed if my niece was being, ummm, boisterous.

There were also outdoor food (and drink, including alcoholic beverages) options, so you never had to venture far from the pool if you didn’t want to.

Outdoor restaurants at hotel Outdoor restaurants at hotel Outdoor restaurants at hotel

Other Miscellaneous Photos of the Hyatt Hill Country

And finally, here are a few miscellaneous photos from around the Hyatt Hill Country resort and spa that don’t necessarily fit into any of the above headers!

Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa Grounds

Overall, we had a really great time. I’d love to visit it again, or perhaps a similar property, the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. I’ve also read a lot about they Hyatt Regency Lost Pines over at one of my favorite points-and-miles bloggers, Mommy Points!


Have you ever been to the Hyatt Hill Country?  Or what about a resort similar to it?  If so, let me know, I’m dying to try out some other places like it!

Ruby Princess | Cabin Review | Mini Suite and Accessible Staterooms

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

Ken and I had booked a mini suite with a balcony on the Ruby Princess. This was our third cruise together. On our first cruise (a Caribbean cruise), we had a balcony. But on our second cruise (a Mediterranean cruise), we had opted for no balcony to save some money. We really regretted the decision on that cruise. So we decided that for all cruises in the future, we’d book a balcony.

This review will cover our mini suite, as well as a handicapped accessible, obstructed view outside cabin that my dad booked. My sister and her family also booked a mini suite, so no separate review is required there! My sister and I decided to book cabins nearby one another on the same deck, but on opposite sides of the ship (one on port, one on starboard). That way, regardless of the side of the ship with the best scenery, we’d have access to a balcony!

Review of Mini Suite onboard the Ruby Princess

This was the view of the room immediately upon entry. The small doorway on the left leads to the closet and the bathroom door.

View of Mini Suite o the Ruby Princess

And here was the closet. There was a hanging part of the closet, as well as tons of shelving behind the mirrored doors.

Closet in the Ruby Princess Mini Suite Shelves in the mini suite | Ruby Princess review

The bathroom was basic, but had plenty of countertop storage space, as well as some small shelf space too. The mini suite had a shower / tub combo.

Bathroom in mini suite Sink and countertop in mini suite bathroom on Ruby Princess

I wish there was a little more space for shampoo and soap bottles in the shower, but I feel like those tiny shelves are pretty standard in all accommodations these days. Boo.

Shower and tub in the mini suite

The queen size bed was comfortable, and there was a desk area right next to the bed. The desk doubled as the nightstand for the one side of the bed.

Queen bed in Mini Suite Desk in mini suite

The other side of the bed had a small nightstand with two drawers.

nightstand in mini suite

The “seating area” also had plenty of storage, along with a small couch, a sitting chair, and a small coffee table.

Sitting area in mini suite Sitting area in mini suite Sitting area in mini suite

The storage area was great for things like charging our cameras and cell phones, and we kept things like bottled water and sodas on the lower shelves (that we had brought with us onboard the ship).

Storage shelves in seating area

And, of course, the balcony! There were two small chairs and a small table on the balcony.

Balcony on the Ruby Princess mini suite

It’s worth noting that we were on the Emerald deck. Not all ship cabin balconies have fully covered “roofs.” We definitely wanted to be on a deck where our balcony was fully covered, to shield us from the rainy Alaska weather as much as possible. We were really lucky and only had one day of rain, but I’d still recommend the fully covered balconies.

Here are a few other miscellanous photos of the cabin, just from other angles.

Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review

Ruby Princess Accessible Cabin Review (Outside cabin, obstructed view)

My dad was going on this cruise, and since he has some pretty extensive mobility problems these days, we booked him an accessible room. It had large open floor space in between the furniture, a no-threshold shower, and plenty of grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet.

Bed and seating area in cabin Bedroom in accessible cabin | Ruby Princess

There was plenty of room for the motorized scooter that we rented for the duration of the cruise.

Plenty of room for motorized scooter

The storage was low to the ground, with the exception of the safe that was higher up in the closet. Luckily my dad can still stand up and everything just fine, it’s just something to keep in mind if traveling with somebody who can’t stand at all.

Desk area in handicapped accessible cabin

The bathroom was fantastically spacious and easy for my dad to get around in.

Accessible bathroom in Ruby Princess Cabin Accessible bathroom in Ruby Princess Cabin

Like I mentioned, there were plenty of grab bars in the shower, as well as a good size bench for him to sit on. (Which was good for the two fairly rough seas days we encountered).

Bench seat in accessible shower

I also liked that there was a “help” button next to the toilet.

Help button in accessible cabin

Although it’s not the best picture, hopefully this gives an idea of the “obstructed view.” Basically right outside the window is a deck walking area (in other words, the window port hole is not directly on the side of the ship). There was also a lifeboat right outside the railing of the walking area. But, at least you get sunlight in your cabin! It was only a few dollars more than an inside cabin.

Obstructed view port hole on Ruby Princess

The only real complaint about the room was that the door to the room was incredibly heavy, just like all the other cabin doors. That made it really difficult for my dad to open the door, which opened inward toward the room, and maneuver his way out the door on his scooter. It would have been really nice to have a button that would automatically open the door for a few seconds to give him a chance to get out the door without having to try and open it.

One other minor complaint. Like most cruise ships, the cabin/stateroom hallways and corridors are very narrow. And throughout most of the day, cabin stewards keep cleaning carts along the walls of the corridors as they clean the cabins in the morning and do things like turn down the beds in the evening. When these cleaning carts were in the hallway, which was much of the waking hours, my dad had an incredibly difficult time moving around the hallways. Luckily my dad’s room was right by the elevators, but sometimes it was more convenient to use another elevator bank, or if he was coming to our cabin or my sister’s cabin.

Anyway, I don’t think that is specific to Princess cruise lines, and it’s definitely nothing I had noticed on previous cruises, but that was only because I was never traveling with somebody who had mobility problems before.

In the next post in this series, I’ll cover a review of the ship and the ship amenities, like the pools, restaurants, and bars!

36 Hours in Seattle

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

We had less than 36 hours to spend in Seattle before our Alaska cruise boarded. We’ll definitely have to go back in the future to spend more time there, but we tried to squeeze in a few highlights.

Ken and I are huge Dale Chihuly fans. We’ve seen his work in so many places in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and in Pittsburgh (not blogged about). So, when we heard there was an entire Chihuly museum in Seattle, we put that at the top of our to-see list!

Chihuly Garden and Glass

The Chihuly exhibit is located right next to Seattle’s famed Space Needle. After getting acquainted with that area for a bit, we stood in a short line to get our tickets and made our way into the entrance.

Chihuly Garden and Glass sign at entrance

As always, the combination of glass work and accompanying lighting made for really stunning sights!

Artwork on display at Chihuly Museum Blue and yellow glass sculpture floor to ceiling Closeup of the sculpture Closeup of the sculpture

One room had glass work and lights on top of a clear glass ceiling. The walls were white, and the colors of the glass created beautiful designs on the wall!

Glass ceiling exhibit at Chihuly museum in Seattle Glass ceiling exhibit at Chihuly museum in Seattle Glass ceiling exhibit at Chihuly museum in Seattle Glass refractions on white walls Colored glass artwork

The next room was also gorgeous and expansive. It was called the Mille Fiori installation.

Mille Fiori installation at Chihuly Museum Sign describing the room Mille Fiori exhibit Mille Fiori exhibit Mille Fiori exhibit

The rooms were fairly dark allowing for all the focus to be on the glass artwork.

Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits

After the indoor portion of the museum, you exited through the “Glasshouse,” which, according to their website, is “a 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space.”

Wide angle shot of the Chihuly Glasshouse

And here’s how the glasshouse looks from the outside:

Chihuly Glasshouse as viewed from outside

It was really amazing.

Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse

Then, the gardens contained even more glass artwork.

Chihuly Glass Gardens Chihuly Glass Gardens Chihuly Glass Gardens Chihuly Glass Gardens

Pike Place Market

After the Chihuly museum, Ken and I met up with my sister and her family, and my dad (they were also going on the cruise and had traveled separately from us to Seattle).

We set out to Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. Ken, my sister, my niece and nephew, and I all walked to the market from the Grand Hyatt Seattle (about a 20 minute walk, the weather was lovely). My brother-in-law took an Uber with my dad since my dad has a lot of mobility problems these days.

Seattle Public Market Sign Outside of Pike Place Market | Seattle Outside the market

Pike Place Market was a fun (albeit very crowded) place to walk around. Lots of fresh flowers, meats, spices, fish, and bakeries all throughout the market corridors.

Meat sign at Pike Place Market Pike Place Market fish storefront Bakery Hallways at Pike Place Market Hallways at Pike Place Market Crowds inside Pike Place Market

Adjacent to Pike Place Market is the “Original Starbucks.” There were lines out the door. (However, I later learned that the original Starbucks was actually destroyed in a fire, so this isn’t the “original original.”

Original Starbucks in Seattle

The next morning, I even walked back to Pike Place Market to get some breakfast foods for my family (from Piroshky Piroshky. So delish!). It was a lot less crowded early in the morning! However, the shops were still all set up:

Public Market Center sign Vegetables Fish market at Pike Place Market Fish market at Pike Place Market

One thing about walking back TO the hotel from Pike Place Market … those hills. Goodness gracious, the hills. I feel like Seattle gives San Francisco a run for its money!

Steep hills in Seattle

The Pike Place Market area also had lots of picturesque old store fronts and other places to walk around. We also stopped at a nearby Target to get some stuff to take with us on the cruise ship, like some sodas and bottled water. (A lot cheaper to bring it onboard than to pay for it on the ship!)

Buildings near Pike Place Market Buildings near Pike Place Market

After I walked back to the hotel, we all ate our breakfast, and before long it was time to hope in a taxi on our way to the Port of Seattle to board the Ruby Princess for our Alaskan cruise! Although we would’ve loved to have had more time in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll be sure to go back in the future and have the proper time to experience more of what it has to offer.

Bourbon Street Balcony Party during Mardi Gras 2016 (Bourbon Vieux)

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Mardi Gras in New Orleans 2016

Bourbon Street Balcony Party During Mardi Gras

When I first started researching things to do in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, a Bourbon Street balcony experience was near the top of my list. But, strangely, it was difficult to find any consolidated information on the different balcony options during Mardi Gras. I was able to find like two or three options, but that was it.

View of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras

I actually resorted to Google Street View. I’d look at the names of the restaurants and bars along Bourbon Street, see if they had a balcony, and then google the name of the resturant. Then, I’d email the restaurant for information. I must’ve emailed like 15 places. And not a single one ever responded.

One of the balcony options that I had consistently seen all along was Bourbon Vieux. They had pictures of their balcony party, online ticket ordering, and other good information available. It just seemed SO DAMN EXPENSIVE. That is why I wanted to comparison shop a little bit. But, since no other places ever responded to my inquiries, I went ahead and booked Bourbon Vieux.

I was really happy with that decision!

There was plenty of seating available inside. (One of the more common complaints in the online reviews for Bourbon Vieux was that they oversold their balcony parties, leaving people without seats.). I’m pretty lazy, so the idea of having to stand for 5 hours straight at party was not appealing. But, luckily, my worries were unfounded!

Inside the Balcony Party at Bourbon Vieux

Ken and I sat at a small round table inside Bourbon Vieux. The decor was great, and I thought the lighting was really well done and added a lot of Mardi Gras ambiance!

Inside Bourbon Vieux during Mardi Gras Balcony Party Table arrangements

There were quite a few people at the party, but many tables were empty, so I definitely don’t think it was a sellout.

Plenty of seating at round tables

There was a good food spread set up.

Buffet food at Bourbon Vieux’s Bourbon Street Balcony Party Food spread at Mardi Gras Party Buffet foods

There was also a dessert table, which unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of, that included different desserts including New Orleans’ famous King Cake!

The bar was well stocked and luckily there was never a long line. (The Bourbon Vieux balcony party included all food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages).

Bar at Bourbon Vieux

They also had beads for sale at the bar. We had bought some beads from Oriental Trading Company to bring with us to Mardi Gras. We figured that beads in New Orleans during Mardi Gras would be at crazy inflated prices. However, the beads we ordered online were pretty junky and tangled easily. So, we did end up buying some of the nicer beads they had for sale at Bourbon Vieux. (The junky beads we brought with us are on the right).

Beads we purchased at Bourbon Vieux

The Balcony!

Okay, so let’s get to what REALLY matters at a Mardi Gras Bourbon Street balcony party … the BALCONY!

When we arrived at Bourbon Vieux, we were given wristbands. All party guests had one of two colors. Every 45 minutes or so, there would be an announcement that it was time for the Purple wristband group to go outside on the balcony and the other wristband color to come inside. Then it would alternate every 45 minutes or so. That way, the balcony was never overly crowded.

(You could, of course come inside at any time regardless of what color you were wearing. It was just a restriction on who could go outside to the balcony. That was good because, like I mentioned in previous Mardi Gras posts, it was quite cold during our time there! Sometimes 45 minutes outside would be too much! There were space heaters just on one section of the large balcony)

Here’s how the balcony looked:

Balcony at Bourbon Vieux during Mardi Gras

We were generally able to get right up to the balcony railing. But sometimes not, we’d have to squeeze in after somebody abandoned their spot. But it never felt overly crowded or annoying.

We had a great view down Bourbon Street:

View of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras

And we had lots of fun throwing beads to the folks down below.

Throwing beads from Bourbon Street Balcony Throwing beads during Mardi Gras People catching beads thrown from Balcony People catching beads during Mardi Gras Crowds on street below Bourbon Vieux Balcony Me throwing beads from balcony during Mardi Gras Ken throwing beads from Bourbon Vieux balcony Beads closeup

And, as had been the recurring theme of what we saw during Mardi Gras, lots of religious stuff. A bunch of men in red hats carrying a cross down Bourbon Street:

Men carrying cross down Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras Bible sign on Bourbon Street

It was great people-watching.

People on Bourbon Street People on Bourbon Street

Overall, we were really pleased. Although the tickets were expensive at $160 each, the fact that it included food and and all drinks was great. We liked that it wasn’t crazy crowded, and that everyone got plenty of time to spend on the balcony.

Have you gone to a Bourbon Street balcony party during Mardi Gras? Which one did you go to? How did you like it?