The best events in New Orleans run the gamut in flair, style, genre and scope: whether you're looking to celebrate the glory that is the beignet or want to spend an evening sipping suds while chatting with brew masters, the Big Easy's calendar has got you covered.
No matter which one you attend, one thing is certain: these happenings are the beating heart of the city's cultural scene. Peppered by historical attractions, bars that double as must-see cultural destinations and characters that paint the town unique, this is a city that offers it all. And there is no better way to experience it than attending these events. So pack those dancing shoes and ditch the diet: there's no rest for the weary when it comes to New Orleans.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in New Orleans
Best New Orleans events
When: October 30 - November 1, 2020
Imagine a wicked Halloween weekend and kick-ass party with more than 65 bands in the most haunted city in the country. Throw in New Orleans’ finest street food (fried duck quesadillas, anyone?) and interactive art exhibits and you’ve got yourself the Voodoo Festival. Better bring that cell charger, lots of selfies with mystics, madmen, femme fatales, gods and goddesses await.
When: September 17-19, 2020
A perfect affair for New Orleans given its affinity for carnal pleasures, the finest and most talented striptease dancers compete for the Queen of Burlesque award at this yearly event. Lauded as the most glamorous and risqué acts with comic emcees, singers and variety showcases, the happening is presented in the House of Blues and the historic Civic Theater.
When: July 21-26, 2020
Remember: it’s a marathon, people, and not a sprint when at this annual event. During five days of unlimited booze, sample more than fifty nifty brands alongside culinary pairings. Speakers discuss the history of craft cocktails while master bartenders divulge secrets of the trade. Events sizzle morning, noon and night with poolside lounges and bourbon balcony tastings.
Touted as one of the most unique festivals across the city, the Light Up NOLA Arts (LUNA) crew casts a whimsical timeline of the city’s history against the iconic Gallier Hall on St. Charles Avenue. It’s a mesmerizing display of contemporary art with historic architecture, creative sound and motion graphics combined with contemporary light and video mapping technology on display.
Don your most awesome red dress, drink some beer and let loose running through the French Quarter during this annual event. There is a fee to participate but so much beer along the way (and the money goes straight to community nonprofits) that you’ll soon forget all about it.
When: Thursdays, July - November
Relax inside the Pavilion of the Two Sisters amid the fragrant blooms of the Botanical Gardens in City Park. Sip on a mint julep and jive to the music played by the city’s finest musicians under the storied oak trees. Each week, enjoy a changing lineup of icons known across the country for their talents playing jazz, blues, classic soul, Cajun music and more.
When: September 2020
Bring fido, mingle with friends, sip the suds and talk to the brew masters, all in support of the Louisiana SPCA. This festive event, deemed the “largest beer fest in the region,” is popular with locals so expect tickets to go fast as an early kickoff to Oktoberfest. This is a beer lover’s dream come true: over 400 local, national and homebrewed beers are showcased alongside plenty of food, contests and games.
A free, outdoor, three-day festival packed with food, music, cooking demonstrations and a fried chicken-finger eating contest? Count us in. Boogie with your peeps in front of the musical stages or upgrade to a VIP experience in the football fan zone and chicken and champagne lounge. All throughout: fried chicken for everyone!
A quintessential part of New Orleans culinary history, the puffed-up fried pieces of dough actually originally hail from France. This event celebrating the treat features 30 different beignets, of both the sweet and savory kind, some packed with seafood, others with cheese and yet others with some fantastical feat of culinary genius. Don’t miss the kid’s village, artist market and, of course (this is New Orleans, after all!), live music from local acts.