These tips will help you enjoy Mardi Gras for less and learn some local insider information. Surrounding Cities With Parades If anyone does want to experience Mardi Gras without visiting the city itself and spending the crazy prices the downtown hotels will charge, parades also take place in the cities surrounding New Orleans, such as Metairie, Kenner, Slidell, Mandeville, and Covington (the MSY airport is located in Kenner). Hotels downtown average $300/night and up at the moment. Metairie and Kenner hotels are less but running around $200. In the past I have seen the prices surge closer to the actual holiday to ridiculous amounts. Another option is to stay across Lake Pontchartrain if you don't mind driving across a bridge and have a car. Cities to search include Slidell, Mandeville, Madisonville, Abita Springs, and Covington. Slidell's bridge (Interstate 10 Twin Span) doesn't have a toll and connects to New Orleans with a length of 5.4 miles. The Causeway Bridge has a toll when leaving Mandeville to connect to Metairie (website here to review tolls, location, traffic cams, average toll is $3 for a 4-door car). The length is 23.87 miles long. If you want to stay in Mandeville/Madisonville/Covington/Abita Springs but don't want to pay the tolls, Interstate 12 is located just a few miles from the Causeway Bridge on the north side and connects to Slidell (about a 15-minute drive). Parades Start Way Before Mardi Gras Day If you're not worried about being there during Mardi Gras day but still want to bring the family to parades, consider traveling a few weeks before the big day for bigger savings. Parades start in January, although you'll find more in February. Here is a comprehensive list of all parades with dates, times, and locations. If you will be here during Mardi Gras (Monday, March 3 or Tuesday, March 4), be aware most businesses shut down. So if you have plans to visit something specific, call and make sure they will be open. Parades can be fun for kids and adults. Remember to bring chairs, sunscreen, an umbrella, a bag to hold all of your goodies caught from the floats, and snacks. If you're staying on the north side of the lake, there are breweries and a vineyard you can visit while waiting for the next parade. King Cakes You can buy king cakes almost anywhere in the SE part of the state. If you're traveling through the airport, they will sell them at shops closer to Mardi Gras but not after. Bakeries will be expensive. Local grocery stores, on the other hand, sell a small king cake for as little as just over $5 but also carry medium and large at higher prices. They also come with a variety of fillings, such as fruit, pecan praline, bavarian cream, and countless more. For the inexpensive ones, look for stores named Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or any large grocery store. Traveling after Mardi Gras and the king cakes are all gone? Stop by or call the bakery department of a local grocery store. They'll make one to order for pickup within 24-48 hours, sometimes much faster. YMMV, but I know Rouses does this all year long. Laissez les bons temps rouler!