New Orleans Summer Festivals

 

Photo courtesy of Satchmo SummerFest on Facebook

Despite the soaring temps, New Orleans’ summer party schedule is packed with excellent festivals and other fun events. So, if you plan to visit anytime this summer, here’s a slew of festivals to choose from. Officially summer 2024 is defined as June 20 – September 22, 2024, but we included some events that fall outside these dates, just because we think you should know about them!

Kick off the summer fest season with the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE), held on Wednesday through Sunday, June 5-9, 2024. In its 32nd year in 2024, NOWFE is a smorgasbord of food and wine tastingstoursmaster classes, and the annual champagne-soaked burlesque brunch. Each year, hundreds of wineries and restaurants participate, offering menus featuring local flavors and innovative new creations inspired by diverse cuisines.

Top chefs from around the city create unique culinary experiences, so much so that the event regularly makes a few national “best of” festival lists. The organization behind this popular event is a nonprofit that donates 100% of its proceeds to beneficiaries ranging from food banks to culinary schools. You can see all the events and get tickets online.

Launched in 2011, New Orleans Pride (Friday-Sunday, June 7-9, 2024) is a celebration taking place in the French Quarter to celebrate and honor LGBTQI+ communities and their allies in New Orleans and surrounding areas. It is the only official Pride Festival in New Orleans, the largest in Louisiana, and one of the fastest-growing Pride celebrations in the nation.

Special events include the Pride Gala, the PrideFest block party at the Phoenix bar, and the annual parade. The parade is held on Saturday, June 8, 2024, starting at 6 p.m. in the Marigny and rolling through the French Quarter.

Up next, is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival which honors the arrival of the beloved Creole tomato. Celebrating its 38th anniversary in 2024, the free festival will again feature live music stages, cooking demos, kid’s activities, farm stands, food vendors, and more. The 2024 dates are Saturday-Sunday, June 8-9.

Restaurant Week New Orleans, held on Monday through Sunday, June 17-23, 2024, features multi-course, special menus and dining deals in numerous participating restaurants, from upscale Creole eateries to neighborhood bistros. Keep up with this year’s list of participating restaurants and their menus, and don’t miss a chance to try a new spot or revisit your favorite.

The last of June festivals, the New Orleans Juneteenth Festival is happening on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Come to Congo Square in Armstrong Park to commemorate this remarkable date with this free festival, held from noon to 7 p.m.

The annual Independence Day weekend is shaping up to be spectacular as usual, filled with special events, fireworks, and — this being New Orleans — great food and music. Kick off the festivities with Go 4th on the River celebration, a free Dueling Barges fireworks show over the Mississippi River at the Riverfront.

Gear up for the best in R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and blues with the ESSENCE Festival of Culture (Thursday-Sunday, July 4-7, 2024), held at the Caesars Superdome and the Convention Center. Beyond the concerts held each night of the fest at the Superdome, the free daytime activities at the Convention Center include motivational seminars, beauty and style presentations, celebrity interviews, cooking demos, and lots more.

Running of the Bulls brings Encierro to New Orleans on Friday-Sunday, July 12-14, 2024, except the bulls are the Big Easy RollergirlsSan Fermin in Nueva Orleans pays annual homage to the world-famous Encierro of Pamplona, Spain, running through the streets of New Orleans starting at Gallier Hall on Saturday, July 13. The annual opening and closing parties happening that weekend are also great fun (check out the schedule on the event’s website).

A city renowned for its world-famous partying, New Orleans knows how to have a good time, and wants you to grab some friends and join in. After all, some of the world’s most famous cocktails were invented in this city, and New Orleans loves to celebrate its drinking culture.

If you and your friends are interested in cocktails and drink-mixing, you may want to check out Tales of the Cocktail (Sunday-Friday, July 21-26, 2024), a six-day festival packed with tastings, seminars, and special events that are all centered around exchanging ideas and techniques in the cocktail world. This lively festival is perfect for passionate mixologists, professionals and enthusiasts alike. The festival’s signature annual blowout is the “best of” Spirited Awards, followed by the always-popular after-party.

Satchmo SummerFest (Saturday and Sunday, August 3-4, 2024) started as a tribute to Louis Armstrong over a decade ago, on his 100th birthday. The two-day festival is held at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint at the foot of Esplanade Avenue., and will have music all weekend on its outdoor, tented stages. Other events will include a Sunday morning Jazz Mass at the historic St. Augustine Church in Tremé, seminars and film screenings, kid’s activities, and a second-line parade.

The White Linen Night (Saturday, August 3, 2024) is a free block party and an open house for galleries on the 300-600 blocks of Julia Street in the Warehouse District, with several stages for live music and dozens of food and drink stands. Participants are invited to wear white (hence the name). About 20 galleries on and around Julia St. will be open to the public.

White Linen’s “cousin,” the Dirty Linen Night (Saturday, August 10, 2024), is similar in format, though looser in structure and spanning more territory. It actually wasn’t created to compete with the Warehouse District event but to promote the many galleries and shops of Royal Street. The multi-block party takes over the 300-1100 blocks of Royal Street and some cross streets and adjoining areas in the French Quarter, including Jackson Square and Dutch Alley.

You and your friends may also have to buy a silly (or glamorous) red dress for this next New Orleans summer festival. The Red Dress Run (Saturday, August 10, 2024) also doubles as a fundraiser, donating to a number of local charities. Both women and men are required to wear red dresses while partaking in a pub crawl-like run. The run traditionally starts at Crescent Park, though the route will not be publicized until the day of the run.

The always fabulous Southern Decadence festival (Thursday-Monday, August 29 – September 2, 2024) is traditionally held on Labor Day weekend. This massive four-day festival celebrates LGBTQI+ culture and attracts participants from all over the world. Just like every year, most activities will be centered in and around the French Quarter, with lots of block parties and dance parties at bars and clubs on Bourbon Street, plus two parades.

There’s no better time to try out an award-winning restaurant or revisit the old favorite than August, thanks to the annual COOLinary program. COOLinary was conceived as a promotion to lure diners to local restaurants in the slower summer months, during which restaurants all over the city offer discounted dining deals.

The deals follow the same format every year: Two-course lunch menus for $25 or less; two- or three-course dinner and brunch menus for $50 or less. Over a hundred restaurants typically participate. Please note that this year, COOLinary extends beyond August, until September 15, 2024.

Coming to New Orleans this summer?

We’d love for you to stay with us! And if you do, consider booking a guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to experience the hauntingly beautiful past of New Orleans.

For easy, informative sightseeing, we recommend the City Sightseeing New Orleans city tour on the open-top, double-decker bus. It runs every 30 minutes through the Garden District, French Quarter, and CBD. You can hop on and off anytime, and your kids won’t have to do all this walking.

Take advantage of The Brakeman Hotel specials, group rates, and best-rate guarantee for greater savings to spend on New Orleans’ famous cuisine and enjoy everything this magnificent city has to offer. Reserve your room today!

Happy summer!

Jazz Fest 2024: What You Need to Know

Image courtesy of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2024 on Facebook

There are many jazz festivals the whole world over, yet there is only one of the genre in the city that birthed it: the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which has been around for over five decades and still takes over the city during the last weekend in April, the first weekend in May, and pretty much all days in between (Thursday, April 25 – Sunday, May 5, 2024).

It is fair to say Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are the two keystone entries of the New Orleans events calendar. Where Mardi Gras is a celebration with deep Catholic and pagan roots that is indelibly branded by the city of New Orleans, Jazz Fest is rather a celebration of New Orleans itself.

That’s the backstory on the “& Heritage” part of the description in the official Jazz Fest title: The event has become less about showcasing jazz per se, and more about showing off the city that gave us jazz.

Because New Orleans is so central to pop music, almost any act and genre you can imagine has strutted across the Jazz Fest’s on 14 stages — and yes, there are that many stages popping off at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots (1751 Gentilly Blvd.) during the 2024 Jazz Fest. As a result of this sheer scope and size, in many ways, Jazz Fest feels like too overwhelming of an event to properly tackle, especially for those who are attending for the first time.

Regarding the festival’s musical acts, there are plenty of commentators who think festival organizers have unfairly stretched the definition of what music falls under the jazz and heritage rubric. We’re not here to debate that topic, but rather point out that there is undoubtedly a wide variety of genre presence at Jazz Fest, which only adds to the looming sense of choice overload.

With all of that in mind, there are some sound tactics for making Jazz Fest more manageable. Here are some of our time-tested strategies.

Ride a Bike

While this choice isn’t going to work for everyone — some visitors simply don’t have urban cycling experience or are scared of the prospect — we can’t stress just how much biking can improve the Jazz Fest experience. Even the most diehard Jazz Fest boosters will admit parking can be a nightmare during the festival. Parking enforcement officers are on high alert — we’ve never seen the impound lot on Claiborne Avenue get quite so busy as it does during Jazz Fest.

Of course, you can pay for parking. Folks who live near the Fairgrounds will turn even the smallest plot of the backyard into an impromptu parking lot (rates vary, but around $30 per day seemed to be the going rate in the past).

There are other ways of outflanking the parking issue, including the official Jazz Fest shuttle, taxis (both cars and bicycle rickshaws), rideshare, and the streetcar. Note that if you take the streetcar, you’ll still have to walk about a half mile to the festival entrance. (Take the number 48 line that runs on Canal Street and get off at the final stop at City Park/Art Museum.)

But we really love getting to Jazz Fest on two non-motorized wheels. Bike lane infrastructure can now bring riders to the gates of Jazz Fest. If you’re staying in the French Quarter, the bike ride to the Fairgrounds covers a 10-15 minute straight shot up Esplanade Avenue.

Plus, there is extensive bicycle “parking” (overlooked by security staff) on site. While we can’t guarantee what the weather will be like during Jazz Fest weekends, in general, late April and early May form a lovely climate window in New Orleans.

In addition, being on a bicycle gives visitors a better sense of the city. You can see New Orleans at the street level without the loss of time walking might engender. There’s an intimacy to biking in the city that’s tough to replicate from a car.

Shaping Your Cube

The Jazz Fest lineup is famously scheduled into “cubes” for attendees. Devising a schedule for seeing all of your favorite acts can be a fun logistical challenge, but don’t forget that the stages of Jazz Fest are spread out over a decently large area. If you’re in the middle of the crowd at one of the main stages, it can take about 10 or 15 minutes just to extricate yourself from the center of mass.

Note that Sundays and Thursdays always feel a little bit less crowded at the racetrack, although that “little bit less” is admittedly a relative number — there are no real “light” days at Jazz Fest.

The way you assemble your cube is up to you, but here are some pointers we’ve picked up on over the years:

  • Stick to your cube, but don’t do so religiously. Part of the fun of Jazz Fest is simply letting the music take you wherever it wants to go.
  • Don’t ignore smaller stages. We found one of our great unexpected Jazz Fest shows at the Kids Tent. We also always find the Fais Do-Do stage to be a consistently good break in our routine — basically, you can never go wrong dancing to Cajun or zydeco music.
  • Visit the Gospel Tent at least once. We’ve consistently found that even those who know next to nothing about gospel music have their spirits lifted and their musical boundaries expanded in this venue.

Cool Off

It can get hot in Jazz Fest. A few good means of beating the heat include:

  • Enjoying the air conditioning in the Grandstands
  • Hitting the mist tents by the Gentilly Stage and #2 food vendor area
  • Sitting down and relaxing in the vicinity of the Louisiana Folklife Village
  • Getting strawberry lemonade and Mango Freeze! (And of course, hydrating with water)
  • Staying out of the scrum for bigger headliners

Priorities, Priorities

While the price of Jazz Fest tickets continues to climb, the fact of the matter is you can still see some grade-A headliners for a bargain rate compared to similar (or even smaller) festivals. Many locals treat Jazz Fest as a chance to see big acts on the relative cheap. On the flip side, if you live in or near the city, you can see the New Orleans musicians throughout the year at local venues, which means there’s less pressure to see them on the Fairgrounds.

If you’re coming in from out of town, you may have the opposite scenario prioritized — you can see big-name acts anywhere, but this is your best chance of seeing Louisiana music on its native soil. In addition, smaller local acts often occupy stages that are less crowded, and everyone enjoys a break from the seething masses.

With all of that said, don’t forget that during the “off days” in between the two festival weekends, many smaller and mid-sized acts will be playing gigs around town. If you miss them at the Fest, you may well catch them on Frenchmen Street.

With that said, there’s something about seeing local acts at Jazz Fest. The big-name headliners are used to huge audiences. A local Louisiana act would be playing to wow the world, and some of those sets end up being nothing short of legendary.

What to Know About the 2024 Jazz Fest

  • Jazz Fest expanded to eight days this year, adding the opening day of Thursday, April 25, to the schedule.
  • Jazz Fest went cashless last year, and remains so. Ticket, food, beverage, craft, and merchandise booths no longer accept cash payments. If you come to the event with only cash, the Festival will offer two cash exchange booths near key vending locations so you can get a prepaid card for your cash.
  • This year, Jazz Fest features over 5,000 musicians across 14 stages.
  • The festival will be the largest one in its 53-year history. Eight is the most number of days for the event, and this year there will be the most food vendors and food items ever. And there also will be 260 art and craft vendors, the highest number ever.
  • Single-day tickets are $95 through April 24 and $105 at the gate. Tickets for children ages 2-10 are $5 at the gate.
  • “Locals Thursday” will be April 25 this year, with tickets at $50 for Louisiana residents.
  • This year Jazz Fest is introducing a 4-day GA+ weekend pass with access to an exclusive GA+ lounge with private restrooms, a full-service bar, and a shaded area to relax.
  • Tickets for Thursday, May 2, the day topped by The Rolling Stones, are sold out, including multiple-day passes.
  • The Rolling Stones headline Thursday, May 2, at 5 p.m. That day of the festival will operate normally until about 3:30 p.m. Then, when the Stones go on at 5 p.m., they’ll be the only band playing on the Fair Grounds.
  • Besides The Rolling Stones, the lineup includes Foo Fighters, Queen Latifah, Heart, The Beach Boys, Jon Batiste, Neil Young Crazy Horse, The Killers, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Bonnie Raitt, Earth, Wind & Fire, and hundreds more.
  • This year, Jazz Fest will celebrate Colombia’s musical and cultural diversity at the Expedia Cultural Exchange Pavilion. During the festival, 17 bands and a wide variety of artisans from throughout Colombia will present their sounds and traditions.
  • The Jazz & Heritage Gala kicks off Jazz Fest with the celebration of Louisiana music and cuisine on April 24 at Generations Hall (310 Andrew Higgins Blvd.).

Coming to Jazz Fest This Year?

We’d love for you to stay with us! And if you do, consider booking a guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to experience the hauntingly beautiful past of New Orleans.

For easy, informative sightseeing, we recommend the City Sightseeing New Orleans city tour on the open-top, double-decker bus. It runs every 30 minutes through the Garden District, French Quarter, and CBD. You can hop on and off anytime, and your kids won’t have to do all this walking.

Take advantage of The Brakeman Hotel specials, group rates, and best-rate guarantee for greater savings to spend on New Orleans’ famous cuisine and enjoy everything this magnificent city has to offer. Reserve your room today!

What You Need to Know About the French Quarter Fest

Photo by Zack Smith Photography. Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals, Inc.

French Quarter Fest is back, and it’s its 41st anniversary, no less, with a focus on celebrating  Louisiana’s Living Legends. For four days (Thursday, April 11 through Sunday, April 14, 2024), a big chunk of the French Quarter — also known as the Vieux Carré, French for the “old square” (or “old quarter”) — will be transformed into a series of festival stages, each showcasing a different brand of music either rooted in or heavily influenced by, the sounds of Louisiana. Here’s a quick look at what you need to know about French Quarter Fest 2024.

The Stages

Since 2023 welcomed more than 875,000 fans over four days, this year the festival organizers are providing more space with the addition of programming in Spanish Plaza. There are also two new stages this year, the DJ Stage and the Culinary Stage, bringing the total of stages to 22 with over 300 performances scheduled this year.

Woldenberg Riverfront Park

Most of the FQ Fest’s main stages are concentrated along the waterfront of the Mississippi River in the French Quarter. In 2019, the festival also added a stage, the Pan-American Life Insurance Group Stage, on the Riverfront’s Moonwalk, right across from Jackson Square.

The French Market & The U.S. Mint

The other side of Jackson Square is also a nexus of music stages and, importantly, food! The New Orleans Jazz Museum, located in the Old U.S. Mint building on the corner of Decatur Street and Esplanade Avenue (400 Esplanade Ave.), will host a number of acts and vendors as in previous years. It’s also a good spot for cooling off should the days get too hot. The French Market features two stages, the Traditional Jazz Stage and the Dutch Alley Stage.

Royal Street

Usually, Royal Street is an unbroken string of cute antique shops and art galleries. During French Quarter Fest, expect that scene to get livened up by several smaller music stages.

Decatur Street

Notable for the Bienville Statue, Decatur Street is where you’ll find the House of Blue Voodoo Garden Stage.

Jackson Square

The “town square” of New Orleans, as it were, Jackson Square is a geographic lynchpin for the entirety of the French Quarter, so expect it to be filled with food vendor booths for the duration of the fest, and as vibrant as ever. It will also be the location of many of the French Quarter Festival’s special events, including the opening-day second line.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street has a reputation as a hard-partying locus of bachelor parties and wild weekend trippers, but during French Quarter Fest it showcases a few smaller musical stages, including the lovely Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta.

Music Lineup

The who-is-who of the local music scene is returning or joining this year. Expect beyond excellence when it comes to the French Quarter Fest music lineup. That includes Irma Thomas, Ivan Neville, Little Freddie King, George Porter Jr., Charmaine Neville, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., Kermit Ruffins, The Soul Rebels, Big Freedia, and many more who will be performing on stages stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue. Check out the full music schedule on the fest’s website.

Food Vendors

As in the previous year, expect a mouthwatering melting pot of traditional New Orleans dishes such as fried shrimp or catfish, stuffed crabs, locally brewed beers, meat pies, crawfish macaroni and cheese, and hot sausage po-boys. Beyond that, there will be plenty of global flavors.

Our favorite vendors that are returning include Jacques-Imo’s Cafe, Tujague’s Restaurant, Plum Street Snoballs, 14 Parishes Jamaican Restaurant, Pat O-Brien’s, Miss Linda the Yakamein Lady, Desire Oyster Bar, Couvant, Morrow’s, Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, Addis NOLA, Cochon King BBQ, and many more.

This year, Bao Mi and Paco’s Tacos will have their culinary debut at the festival along with Miss River and Fritai Nola.

Also, if you see an orange “Eat Fit” sticker next to the food item, it means that it’s part of a special menu that focuses on lighter fare like lean proteins, vegetables, plant-based fats, and whole grains, with no white carbs and minimal added sugar. Fourteen vendors are participating in this program this year. Examples include crab, artichoke and citrus salad from Jacques-Imo’s Cafe, and sugar-free raspberry and sugar-free pink lemonade from Plum Street Snoballs.

Special Events

Every year, the festival features special events. Here are the 2024 highlights.

The French Quarter Festival Kickoff Parade and Opening Day Ceremony

The annual parade is held this year on Thursday, April 11, at 10 a.m. The parade departs from the 200 block of Bourbon Street down to St. Ann Street, where it turns and makes its way to Jackson Square for the Annual Opening Day Ceremony.

Dance Classes

The French Market Traditional Jazz Stage and the Chevron Cajun-Zydeco Showcase will feature dancing and classes in traditional Jazz, 1920s Charleston, swing, Cajun jitterbug, and zydeco. Classes are taught by professional dancers and are free and open to the public. Check out the lesson schedule on the festival’s website.

Children’s STEM Zone

On Saturday and Sunday, families are invited to take a journey of discovery at the STEM Exscavaganza: A Louisiana Scavenger Hunt.

French Quarter Fest After Dark

The festival offers nighttime programming at various local venues from 9 p.m. till midnight to keep the good times rolling after the last festival stage closes at 8 p.m.

… And more

On top of all this, the festival features installations, a choir concert at St. Louis Cathedral, the 2024 French Quarter Fest Official Poster signing, interviews, and more.

Getting Around

Getting around the Fest should be fairly easy if you’re walking or biking. Parking will be limited, so arrive early and try these lots: French Market, 500 Decatur Street, 300 North Peters Street, 211 Conti Street, The Garage at Canal Place, plus street parking within walking distance.

We do suggest that instead of driving, you use RTA buses, streetcars, rideshare services bikes, cabs, or the ferry to get to the festival. In addition to increased traffic, some streets will be closed for the duration of the festival beginning at approximately noon until 8:30 p.m. (Those who live in the area will need to have access passes from the NOPD Eighth District Station.) The streets that will be closing are Iberville, N. Rampart, Dumaine, and Decatur.

A Few Facts About French Quarter Fest and What’s New in 2024

Here are a few facts about the fest and what to expect this year:

  • The Fest celebrates local music and represents every genre from traditional and contemporary jazz to R&B, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, classical, cabaret, and international. It’s a medley, and a great way to sample the local music scene.
  • It debuted in 1984 as a way to bring residents back to the Quarter following the World’s Fair and extensive sidewalk repairs in the French Quarter.
  • The Fest employs more than 1,800 local musicians, with over 60 local restaurants participating as culinary vendors.
  • The food and beverage vendors are set up in several locations throughout the French Quarter: Jackson Square, the Jazz Museum at the MintJAX Brewery, and Woldenberg Riverfront Park.
  • You can buy the official 2024 poster at one of the four merch booths at the festival, and then online starting on April 22.
  • To streamline your music experience and navigation, you can download an app on the fest’s website (either for IOS or Android).
  • The live-music hours every day of the festival are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • No coolers and ice chests, please. Help keep the festival free by purchasing food and beverages at the festival.
  • And yes, the fest is free unless you opt to buy a pass for a VIP experience.

Planning a Visit to New Orleans?

We’d love for you to stay with us! And if you do, consider booking a guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to experience the hauntingly beautiful past of New Orleans.

For easy, informative sightseeing, we recommend the City Sightseeing New Orleans city tour on the open-top, double-decker bus. It runs every 30 minutes through the Garden District, French Quarter, and CBD. You can hop on and off anytime, and your kids won’t have to do all this walking.

Take advantage of The Brakeman Hotel specials, group rates, and best-rate guarantee for greater savings to spend on New Orleans’ famous cuisine and enjoy everything this magnificent city has to offer. Reserve your room today!