GETTING THERE: Delta, US Airways and United, among other major carriers, offer connecting service from all three D.C. area airports to Mobile, Ala. Round-trip fares begin at $198.

WHERE TO STAY: The Malaga Inn (359 Church St., 800-235-1586, www.malagainn.com), originally two town houses built in 1862, is well situated in the historic district and along the Mardi Gras parade route. The 39-room hotel features a charming gas-lit courtyard. Rates go up to $115 to $180 during the Mardi Gras season, which runs from mid-February to early March. (This year's Mardi Gras started on Feb. 14 and runs till March 4.) The waiting list for reservations during the peak days leading up to Fat Tuesday starts one year in advance.

The three-star Radisson Admiral Semmes Hotel (251 Government St., 800-333-3333, www.radisson.com /mobileal) is a renovated historic hotel with 170 rooms, also located on the parade route. Mardi Gras rates begin at $159 for two people, with a $10 charge for each additional person. Olsson's Motel (4137 Government Blvd., 800-332-1004) is an affordable alternative about a 10-minute drive from downtown. The spacious, comfortable rooms range from $40 to $46 .

WHERE TO EAT: Wintzell's Oyster House (605 Dauphin St.) is famous for its down-home atmosphere and fresh oysters served "fried, stewed or nude." Open for lunch and dinner, the seafood entrees range from $10 to $20 and the po'boy sandwiches and salads start at $7.

One of Mobile's most elegant restaurants, Justine's at the Pillars (1757 Government St.) serves dinner and a Sunday jazz brunch in a restored mansion. Signature dishes on the continental menu include Caribbean red snapper and whiskey smoked shrimp. Dinner entrees range from $18 to $30.

INFORMATION: Mobile Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-5-MOBILE, www.mobile.org.

-- Carol Clark