I'm wondering what New Orleans, specifically the quarter is like during the weeks and weekends leading up to Mardi Gras. My husband and I have taken many trips to New Orleans but have never been during the Carnival season. We like to party and some craziness but aren't interested in the full intensity of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). When we go we love to enjoy the food, drinks, and general culture of the city. Are restaurants open to full capacity about 3 weeks before Fat Tuesday? I'm considering January 17th - 21st or the following weekend, January 24th to 28th. I notice in looking at the parade schedule for 2013, the first parade, Krewe Du Vieux is on Sat. January 19th. Like I said, we like some craziness but want to enjoy the sites and food also.