As a historically Catholic city, New Orleans takes Lent seriously. New Orleans also loves a good parade. Naturally, breaking the 40-plus days of fasting and the arrival of spring are great reasons to catch a parade, show off your bonnet, and feast on some Gulf seafood.
If you’re lucky enough to be staying in the French Quarter for Easter weekend, you can celebrate the end of Lent with three parades, Catholic masses, special Easter brunches, and an Easter Bonnet contest. Here’s a quick rundown of the things you can do on Easter Sunday, April 16, in the French Quarter.
Three groups parade annually through the French Quarter and downtown on Easter Sunday. The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade leaves from Antoine’s Restaurant at 9:45 a.m. and proceeds to St. Louis Cathedral for 11 a.m. Mass. The riders, clad in their best Easter attire, ride in convertibles and carriages, handing out stuffed Easter bunnies, candy and other theme-appropriate throws along the way. After Mass the parade slowly weaves its way back to Antoine’s.
The French Quarter Easter Parade rolls at 1 p.m. from St. Louis and Royal streets. The one and only Chris Owens traditionally helms the parade as the Grand Duchess. Expect colorful floats, marching bands, whimsical bonnets, and plenty of throws.
The annual Gay Easter Parade celebrates the city’s LGBTQ community and benefits the Food for Friends charity. It starts at 4:30 p.m. on N. Rampart St. by the Armstrong Park arch and continues to St. Ann, Bourbon, and Esplanade. With stops at some bars along the way, the parade makes it back to N. Rampart for the after-party at GrandPre’s.
The Easter Bonnet Contest at Good Friends Bar at the corner of Dauphine and St. Ann streets is open to all participants, and spectators decide on the winners. A tall order every year, as the entries are often fabulous and wildly creative.
What’s better than marking the end of Lent with a multi-course Cajun/Creole brunch? Many French Quarter restaurants offer a special Easter menu buffet-style or as a sit-down prix fixe option.
Since it’s a family tradition for many, reservations are highly recommended. (You can check the list of participating restaurants and make a reservation here.)
Here are our five top recommendations.
The Bombay Club (830 Conti St.; 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; a la carte menu)
Start your Easter Sunday right with a cocktail and Eggs Sardou in this elegant restaurant located at the back of the Prince Conti Hotel. The extensive Easter brunch menu runs the gamut from lighter fare like roasted beets and strawberry salad to the more substantial steak and eggs, and lamb grillades. Other options are traditional New Orleans: BBQ shrimp, shrimp and grits, pain perdu, and Croque Madame. Or try the “Heavenly” Hash: crispy boudin cake with poached egg.
Antoine’s (713 St. Louis St.; 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.; $51 prix fixe)
Antoine’s holiday brunch menu will render you speechless with its baked oysters, Gulf shrimp with chef’s special Regua sauce, duck a l’Orange, and broiled Louisiana drum stuffed with crabmeat. Top it off with either pecan bread pudding or strawberry mousse. Brunch includes one complimentary Mimosa.
This four-course feast offers smoked duck, andouille and oyster gumbo for starters, and roasted leg of lamb among its three entree choices. Appetizer offerings include the signature Shrimp Arnaud: Gulf shrimp marinated in Creole remoulade. And how about Creole cream cheese peanut butter pie for dessert?
Red Fish Grill (115 Bourbon St.; 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; prix fixe buffet: adults $59, children 12 and under $19, 6 and under free)
You’ll find a family-style Easter buffet with alligator sausage and seafood gumbo, crawfish etouffee, Creole potato salad, BBQ shrimp, oysters, pickled crawfish, and a carving station (just to name a few options). The kids’ buffet offers child-friendly versions of the above and a sundae bar.
Steamboat Natchez Easter Jazz Brunch Cruise (Toulouse St./boardwalk; 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.; adults $44, children 6-12 $22, children 2-5 $9)
The two-hour Mississippi River cruise with live music by The Steamboat Stompers includes a buffet and reserved seating. Kids can meet the Easter Bunny aboard the steamboat!
Church services on Easter Sunday start early and continue throughout the day. You can see this year’s schedule for the city here. For a truly unique experience, consider a stroll to Jackson Square to hear the bells of St. Louis Cathedral and to mingle with the revelers in their Easter finery.
St. Louis Cathedral has mass that day at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and remains open between services. The majestic Our Lady of Guadalupe (411 N. Rampart St.) also offers Easter mass at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. (in Spanish), and 6 p.m.