The Presbytère was planned as housing for clergy but was never used for that purpose. It's part of the Louisiana State Museum, which has turned the entire building into a smashing Mardi Gras museum, one that puts all other efforts in town to shame. (Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World in Algiers Point is also a cool experience, and it wouldn't be overkill to do both if you're interested. At Mardi Gras World, you'll see floats being made, but the tour experience could be a bit better, and it's out-of-the-way.) The Prersbytère only lost a window or two, but thanks to staffing issues, is currently operating with severely limited hours, though those should have expanded by the time you read this.
Five major themes (History, Masking, Parades, Balls, and the Courir du Mardi Gras) trace the history of this high-profile but frankly little-understood (outside of New Orleans) annual event. It does an excellent job of summing up to outsiders the complex history of the city's major holiday, which is so much more than just rowdy college kids displaying nekkid body parts. The exhibits are stunning and the attention to detail is startling, with everything from elaborate Mardi Gras Indian costumes to Rex Queen jewelry from the turn of the 20th century. A re-creation of a float allows you to pretend you are throwing beads to a crowd on a screen in front of you. Heck, even some of the restrooms masquerade (appropriately) as the ubiquitous Fat Tuesday port-a-potties! There is almost too much to see (and if you are sincerely interested, you will want to read most of the detailed graphics), so allow a couple of hours to take it all in properly.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010