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  • Writer's pictureGuide Michelle

The Best Time to Visit - Fest Season!

There's a ton of festivals in New Orleans and I'm part of the lucky crew that has worked many of them so I have an inside scoop. The city just wrapped up 2 weekends of Jazz Fest so I thought it was a good time to reflect on Fest Season in NOLA & offer some tips.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is over 50 years old and has a following that could almost be called cult-like. From humble beginnings, it has grown into a major worldwide attraction, drawing loyal attendees who travel every year from across the globe. Shows abound around town as well, with lots of opportunities outside the fest to see bands in local bars- this year The Killers played a surprise show at Tipitina's for a crowd of less than 200. Aside from the music, the food is a major draw, as are the artists who come to sell their craft. It always takes place the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May and the uninitiated should keep a close eye on the website for Early Bird tickets/passes and the annual "dropping of the cube" when the line up is announced so you can plan which weekend (if not both) you want to travel down to attend. It all goes down at the Fairgrounds, so don't plan to stay in or near the French Quarter and be able to get to there easily. Renting a bicycle is your best bet!

But my FAVORITE New Orleans festival is somehow a well-kept secret! French Quarter Festival was first produced in 1984 and now has more than 20 stages throughout the French Quarter that celebrate local music and represent every genre from traditional and contemporary jazz to R&B, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, classical, cabaret, and international. Food booths throughout the fest bring favorites from restaurants and caterers all over Louisiana. And the best part? It is FREE!

Sponsorship and merch and beverage sales pay for this massive production so you can enjoy it all at no cost. Another amazing perk- you can come and go as you please: go see a band in the morning and take a break then return for more music and food at night. It's spread throughout the French Quarter so you can take a mid-day break to shop, return to the hotel for a nap and shower or get some A/C in a bar. It always takes place in April, but the weekend (Thurs. - Sun.) varies- in 2025 it will be April 10-13.

Other festivals to plan your New Orleans visit around: Essence Fest, Hogs for the Cause, New Orleans Film Festival, Oak St Po-Boy Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, Fried Chicken Fest, French Market Creole Tomato Fest, Running of the Bulls, Tales of the Cocktail, Satchmo SummerFest (put on by the French Quarter Fest team), Treme Gumbo Fest and Beignet Fest! Click here to see the calendar

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