There was not a whole lot of parking near the start of the race, so if you are driving make sure to get there early. The shuttles from the finish to the start were smooth. The course started through a fairly industrial area and the footing was not great (old streets were apparently cobblestone, which was paved over, but in some areas the paving had crumbled away leaving tough footing of pits of brick and pockets of pavement). Despite the streets this is a pretty flat and fast course. Not a lot of crowd support though.
Highlights: Around mile 5 the marathon joins the half marathon (marathoners are on mile 12 or so by this point) so if you are running ~1:50 pace you will likely run side-by-side with the elite marathoners for at least a few steps. There is a small median between half marathon and full marathon runners, but it was a thrill to run with the lead pack, even if it was only for 40 feet.
Tips: Keep your eyes open for Jackson Square and the french market around mile 8.5 (on your left). Jackson Square was absolutely beautiful as we passed it in the early morning. The gel provided by the race was very late (~ mile 9.5 to 10.0), so it would be worthwhile to bring a gel in your pocket in case you need it before the '5k to go' mark. The final 1.5 miles of the race is around a lake and pretty fast, skip the last water station (fairly close to the finish) if you can and it will save you a decent amount of time.
Day 1 (Saturday):
Mardi Gras World is located right near the Ernest Morial Convention Center (packet pick-up location) and is a fun look inside what it takes to get the mardi gras floats built and maintained. You will learn a lot about how the parade works, how the characters and floats are designed and built, and you'll even get a chance to try on some mardi gras outfits. A good stop, especially for some fun photos.
Tip: If you are intereted in seeing Mardi Gras World, plan to pick up your race packet first as the convention center is located right next to Mardi Gras World (i.e. pay for parking once).
Audubon Zoo we ended up at the zoo about an hour before closing time and it was perfect. All of the animals were out and about (likely because it was feeding time) and we were able to walk the entire zoo in about an hour (walking not strolling). One of the biggest pleasant suprises of the trip, the zoo was really fun and is highly recommended. I have never seen that many active animals at a zoo ever!
Mandina's is a short drive outside the city and was absolutely packed (not a suprise as italian restaurants tend to be fairly crowded the night before a race). After a 30 minute wait by the bar we were seated and enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing to special about the meal (a little bland in fact) but if you go make sure to look for the support beam in the middle of the main dining area which marks the peak of the Hurricane Katrina flood water.
Day 2 (Sunday - Race Day):
Stanley Restaurant right in the heart of New Orleans (on Jackson Square) served as our post-race lunch and it was great. Hand dipped milkshakes and fantastic reuben sandwiches. The line was a bit long for a table so we sat at the old soda fountain bar and it was nice. Service was a bit slow (it was really busy) but it was worth the wait.
Green Goddess was a bit tricky to find but once inside this restaurant offered traditional New Orleans cuisine with a seriously unique flare. I couldn't really describe everything we ate - and it wouldn't really matter as the menu changes almost daily, but everything was good. The food is all made to order so be prepared to wait, but your wait is worth your time. The waiters are very knowledgable about beer and how they pair with food combinations, but don't come here looking for a miller lite (only craft beers are available). The Green Goddess has limited seating and a small staff but aside from the fact that our jackets smelled like the restaurant for a month after our visit (seriously an entire month) this is a true gem in New Orleans.
Pat O'Brien's is the place to go for a hurricane. Very expensive, very strong, very sugary. Way too many people for our liking, but I guess if you are going to try a hurricane in New Orleans this is the place to go. There was a dueling piano bar setup but the crowd was way too large to find a seat.
Day 3 (Monday):
Cafe Du Monde serves up some of the best beignets (french pastry like a doughnut) and chicory coffee. This is a must try for any tourist, but be aware the line gets longer later in the morning (open 24/7, except certain holidays). It is well worth the wait to sit outside and enjoy your very reasonably priced breakfast at this cafe. We liked the experience and food so much that we even bought a coffee mug to remind us of our trip!
Napoleon House Bar and Restaurant offered up some traditional New Orleans style lunch; red beans and rice for Kristin and jambalya for Mike. Good lunch stop, but not as filling as I would have imagined. Make sure to ask about some local beers to pair with your traditional fare(only in bottles not on tap, but good nonetheless).
Bacchanal Wine Bar is a bit outside the city and right across from the US Naval Base, but if you have a car this is definately a local favorite. You will not see many (if any) tourists here, but the wine is decent and local beers (bottle only) were good. A nice outdoor seating area to sit back and relax with a cocktail in hand.
Louisiana Half Marathon Medals
February 28, 2010: Rock n' Roll Mardi Gras Half Marathon
Check out the ribbon - its Mardi Gras beads!