We were delighted with our choice of Pontchartrain Hotel for our choice of Mardi Gras hotel in New Orleans. It’s been voted the best hotel in New Orleans in the Conde Nast travellers’ choice awards and one of the best new hotels by Travel & Leisure, we had high expectations. Moreover, a hotel for Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an expensive proposition so we wanted to make sure we got it right. With the best breakfast in New Orleans included in the hotel rates though, as well access to the famed Bayou Bar, we believe the Pontchartrain Hotel is the best hotel for Mardi Gras combining luxury and family-friendliness.
I was immediately comfortable at the Pontchartrain Hotel because it reminded me of an apartment building in New York City.
Located in the beautiful Garden District of New Orleans, Pontchartrain Hotel is a boutique luxury hotel with a glamorous history. With 14 stories, the hotel opened first in 1927. Through its door have passed Hollywood legends like Rita Hayworth, musicians like Frank Sinatra and former Presidents like George H. Bush.
In 2016, Ponthartrain Hotel went through a massive renovation updating the 106 room hotel. It’s now historic yet cool and trendy. Ironically, we were propping up the bar at the Omni Homestead Bar in Virginia when we discovered the man we were chatting with was with the management company for the Pontchartrain. Small world!
It’s hard to get granny chic right because it requires a light touch before you lose the irony and move straight into just ‘dated’. Pontchartrain Hotel does it just right. For example, the bathroom has cult beauty products from Le Labo and the bathroom decor is a medicine cabinet – a medicine cabinet displaying vintage bottles of medicines and remedies.
There are flashes of the dark green color throughout the hotel as a reminder that the green St Charles tram runs right outside the hotel. The bedside table had a full skirt which I would normally have hated for its fussiness. Yet, as the only fussy part of the room decor, it worked with the rest of the room.
The Pontchartrain Hotel Restaurants
Mardi Gras was such an intense experience that we spent a lot of time recuperating between parades at the Pontchartrain Hotel!
Best Breakfast in New Orleans
Breakfast at the Silver Whistle Cafe was included in the price of the stay and totally worth it! I would rate it as the best breakfast in New Orleans. The little diner/cafe was at the front of the hotel facing onto St. Charles Street. The coffered ceiling, the diner tables and the cool artwork made it seem very hipster – totally not like the usual sedate hotel breakfast buffet.
You are given a choice of different breakfasts, hot or cold. Since we stayed 5 days at Pontchartrain Hotel we had a chance to try them all! They ranged from the breakfast parfait (my favourite) to the hearty Breakfast Po’Boy (with eggs, cheese and sausage). Breakfast at the Silver Whistle Cafe set us up well for the day.
Bayou Bar New Orleans
Across from the Silver Whistle Cafe, the Bayou Bar New Orleans’ own historied tavern. The Bayou Bar has seen many a drinker – from Frank Sinatra to Tennessee Williams. In 1966, the Bayou Bar celebrated the birth of the new New Orleans Saints NFL team.
Like the Silver Whistle Cafe, the Bayou Bar faces onto St. Charles’ Street. The Bayou Bar is also one of the main reasons we think Pontchartrain Hotel is the best place to stay during Mardi Gras.
In between Mardi Gras parades between the various Mardi Gras Krewes, we would hang out at the Bayou Bar. You could hear (and see) the buildup of excitement when the next parade was visible which gave you plenty of time to make your way outside to catch the next procession.
The food was excellent and occasionally in the evening on the weekends there was a piano player. On a couple of nights we were so tired, we retreated to our room and ordered food from the Blue Bayou. You have to go down and pick up your food (unlike traditional room service) but it’s pretty easy. You have easy kid-friendly choices on the Blue Bayou menu as well like burgers alongside more sophisticated choices like gumbo and steak.
Hot Tin Bar New Orleans
Before the recent hotel renovation, the Hot Tin Bar New Orleans used to be the Pontchartrain Hotel’s penthouse. Decorated like an artist’s loft, you’ve got amazing views of the city from the rooftop space. The name is a nod to Tennessee Williams who wrote A Streetcar Named Desire while resident at the Pontchartrain Hotel.
Only one of the elevators goes to the Hot Tin Bar and access is strictly 21+ affair. To ensure compliance, the elevator access is controlled by its own lobby elevator man.
Jack Rose New Orleans
I initially thought Jack Rose New Orleans was in honour of the doomed couple from The Titanic movie, but it’s actually another nod to Tennessee Williams. In his 1951 play, The Rose Tattoo, there’s also a Jack and Rose love story.
The Jack Rose New Orleans restaurant is actually four spaces in one. There is the Living Room (with the famous portrait of rapper Lil Wayne), as well as the Mile High Pie Club and the Jack Room and the Rose Room. It serves food and drink in a very eclectic atmosphere and is another buzzing hotspot in the city. In its previous incarnation as the Caribbean Room it was a grande dame of the New Orleans restaurant scene similar to The Commander’s Palace.
An Exclusive Hotel For Mardi Gras
We did a lot of research before I committed to a Mardi Gras hotel. We had heard stories of how crazy Mardi Gras can be but with kids in tow, we wanted a more sedate Mardi Gras experience. We’ve taken the kids to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival and Carnevale in Venice so we know the children were fine with crowds and a festive atmosphere. We just wanted to bypass drunken hedonism, exhibitionism etc even inadvertently.
The New Orleans tourism authority helpfully suggested Pontchartrain Hotel when we presented our requirements – a boutique hotel with a good location in a family-friendly environment. Needless, to say they were totally right about Pontchartrain Hotel’s suitability as the best hotel for Mardi Gras combining luxury and family-friendliness.
Despite its location, as soon as you entered Pontchartrain Hotel the noise and commotion of Mardi Gras in New Orleans was left behind. In the rooms themselves, the noise on the street was hardly audible.
People who stay at the Pontchartrain receive a wristband to identify them as hotel guests but the doormen got to know us very quickly. During Mardi Gras, the only people allowed inside the Pontchartrain were hotel guests. It really was an oasis of calm when you needed a break from the liveliness of Mardi Gras but with a full capacity hotel , it never felt dead.
The rooftop Hot Tin Bar New Orleans was a buzzing nightspot with its own elevator access. Luckily our children were old enough to leave for an hour in the hotel room while we enjoyed a nightcap.
If you were too tired to even visit the bar, rather helpfully the hotel room’s mini bar had mixers ready including for the ever-popular New Orleans’ drink, The Hurricane.
The Best Hotel for Mardi Gras For Families
What makes the Pontchartrain Hotel the best place to stay for Mardi Gras for families in our opinion? You are in the heart of the action but also able to get away from it if you wish.
Location on St Charles Avenue
The location on St Charles Avenue is unbeatable. When our kids were tired, we took them back to our room at the hotel for a break. We could nip out right before the parades started. There was always space in front of the hotel so that we had curb-side viewing of the Mardi Gras floats.
Amusingly, we made friends with the older couple who always stood next to us when the parades were going by. Then, we discovered they were in the room next to us at the Pontchartrain Hotel too!
The Family Rooms at the Pontchartrain Hotel
The family rooms a the Pontchartrain Hotel are a good size. We had two connecting bedrooms each with their own television and a shared bathroom. One of the bedrooms had a queen bed and the other bedroom had two twin beds which was a perfect solution for us. There was a large walk-in closet where we could store our Mardi Gras memorabilia and suitcases out of the way.
Food and Beverage Options
We really appreciated the food and beverage options available at the Pontchartrain Hotel. We always had breakfast at the hotel and we ate at the hotel for lunch or dinner often too. Who knew partaking in a lively street party could be so much fun?
We hadn’t quite appreciated how much gridlock there were would be be in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Taxis are hard to come by and Ubers are super busy. There are a lot of streets closed to traffic. Obviously the St Charles tram doesn’t run during the parades. The best way to get anywhere is to walk. After a busy day collecting freebies from parade floats my children were too tired to go too far.
Practicalities for The Pontchartrain Hotel
The Pontchartrain Hotel is super popular and you need to book as soon as possible for Mardi Gras. Prices also skyrocket for the week of Mardi Gras itself. It is located at 20131 St Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. If you have a car at the hotel, there is valet parking at an additional cost.
Check out the excellentTripAdvisor reviews for Pontchartrain Hotel!
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