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!