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February 2, 2007

The Big Easy: 2.0

The Mardi Gras tradition stands strong.

Even seasoned Cajuns aren’t sure what to expect when Mardi Gras kicks in to high gear on February 10. Still, “the greatest free show on earth” should go some ways in whitewashing last year’s eerie images, when revelers roomed alongside displaced residents at the Intercontinental New Orleans. Now, seventeen months after Hurricane Katrina flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, most of the city’s hotels and restaurants are back in business — including the Ritz-Carlton, which re-opened in December. There’s also an amusing push to attract tourists even though — or precisely because — the city has not fully rebounded. And it appears to be working. After all, Brad and Angelina were confident enough to buy a mansion in the French Quarter, and enroll Maddox in school there.

Is carnival a good place to take the kids? Surprisingly, yes. Family fun can be found on the mansion-lined St. Charles Avenue, while the elite are off attending their annual masked balls. Must-see performances this year include: the Krewe of Barkus, featuring dogs and their owners in costume, and the Mardi Gras Indians (pictured), who mount mock battles, yet often elude spectators as their routes change on impulse. The festivities reach their sweaty end at midnight on Fat Tuesday, February 20. The next morning, locals can be found observing Ash Wednesday at the Louis Cathedral — with their beads on.

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read more: 10. Culture | 11. Family

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