Chances are that if you tell a local you spent your entire Mardi Gras weekend drinking on Bourbon Street and easting on Esplanade Avenue, they'll look at you with pity. Hit Frenchman Street at night for incredible live music from local talents playing everything from jazz to quirky fiddle solos—often for no cover charge. Mimi's in the Marginary on Royal Street is perfect for a little Saturday night dancing with DJ Soul Sister spinning funk upstairs and plenty of pool sharks to face off against downstairs. Lundi Gras is a big music night in general with famed funk and jazz jam band Galactic playing at Tipitina's late at night. In terms of daytime exploring, see if you can get into Casamento's on Magazine Street for their famous Italian-inspired oyster sandwiches or head to Domilise's, about a 15-minute walk away, for their fried shrimp po' boys. On Sunday, get down to the Garden District early before Bacchus rolls through to "ooh" and "aww" over the gorgeous mansions before they're completely covered in beads and red cups.
Leave the French Quarter