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The best New Orleans festivals

Celebrate unique music, food, culture and only-in-NOLA experiences at these New Orleans festivals

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Jenny Peters

New Orleans is pretty much number one for having a good time. The city is known for its amazing food, music and culture, and it takes every opportunity to celebrate these things that make the city so unique. There’s a festival dedicated to almost everything, from musical styles (jazz, zydeco and blues) and iconic foods (like crawfish, gumbo and beignets) to specific neighborhoods and cultures that define the city. The best festivals in New Orleans feature music, food, dancing, art and a non-stop good time.

While not a traditional festival by definition, Mardi Gras (and the preceding Carnival season) is the best-known celebration in New Orleans. However, there are so many other festivals that, regardless of the time of year, there’s probably a festival happening. Spring and fall, with the great weather they bring, are the most active times for festivals. Here are some of the best festivals in New Orleans that are worth a spot on your bucket list for a chance to experience the city’s food, culture and music all in one spot.

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Best New Orleans festivals

When is it: February 13, 2024 

The Carnival season is a unique celebration of New Orleans culture. The season begins on January 6 (Epiphany) and culminates with Mardi Gras, the last hurrah before Ash Wednesday kicks off the solemn Lenten season. During this time, expect lavish krewe balls, parades, and parties. Costumes are a must on Fat Tuesday, but don't be surprised if you see people wearing them several weeks before, too. The Carnival season is a full-on festival of fun, and it’s appropriate for all ages (depending on how you choose to participate, of course). 

When is it: April 11-14, 2024

This free festival celebrates Louisiana musicians and boasts more than 20 stages that host all sorts of artists –from traditional jazz to blues and funk–throughout the entire French Quarter. The festival's food offerings, prepared by some of the city’s top chefs, is unmatched (and helps keep the festival free). For four days in April, this festival is a chance to enjoy all kinds of music from stages along the Mississippi River to side-streets in the French Quarter.

  • Music
  • Music festivals

When is it: April 25-28 and May 2-5, 2024 

Jazz Fest, the city's biggest annual festival, celebrates the unique music, art, culture, and heritage of New Orleans. With over a dozen stages stages, the lineup often features hundreds of bands that perform a wide range of music, from zydeco and hip-hop to funk, jazz, gospel, and more. And while the music is the reason to go, there’s also an impressive array of Louisiana arts, crafts, and cultural experiences on offer. Plus, Jazz Fest food is iconic; favorites include the cochon de lait poboy, crawfish beignets, and the mango freeze. Held the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May, the Fest is a must for music and food lovers alike.

When is it: May 

The annual Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo takes place on the banks of the Bayou St. John for three days in May. The fest showcases many of NOLA's favorites, from Amanda Shaw and Anders Osborne to Cowboy Mouth and Tab Benoit. With its unique location on the water, fest-goers arrive in kayaks, canoes, rubber rafts, and anything else that floats. A real locals' fest, it also celebrates the neighborhood with art, food, and more.


When is it: May

Family-friendly and chock-full of Hellenic delights, the Greek Festival, held each Memorial Day weekend, celebrates the Greek heritage of New Orleans. The admission fee is small, and it also supports Holy Trinity Cathedral, the oldest existing Orthodox community in the Americas. A 5K run (or walk!) kicks off the weekend’s festivities. Enjoy dancing, crafts, cathedral tours, cooking demos, and of course food. From souvlaki to gyros, you’re guarenteed to get your fill of Greek favorites, not to mention Greek wine and shots of ouzo. Finish with a trip to the pastry shop where you’ll find loads of sweet, homemade pastries.

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When is it: June 5-9, 2024

When New Orleans hosts a food and wine party, the city does not fool around. NOWFE combines the best culinary experiences to be found in the city with wines from all around the world. This is a serious summer extravaganza for food and wine aficionados with seminars, special wine dinners, breakfast events, and grand tasting walk-arounds that roll straight through the weekend. NOWFE is a chance for NOLA novices to get a comprehensive taste of the city and to learn a lot about wine, food, and how the two marry in beautiful ways.


When is it: July

Taking place 4th of July weekend in and around the Superdome, this annual gathering is hosted by Essence magazine and filled with live music and comedy performances in addition to wellness, fashion and beauty exhibits catering to African-American women. There are also conferences, including the Global Black Economic Forum and the Power Conference, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that former First Lady Michelle Obama headlined the 2019 fest, marking its 25th anniversary alongside Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Big Freedia, Maze and Frankie Beverly.

When is it: March

This festival two-fer in Armstrong Park features two stages with brass bands, African drumming, Mardi Gras Indians, an arts market and much more. And of course there’s amazing festival fare, with a focus on gumbo. Try dozens of options, from traditional seafood gumbo to alligator gumbo and even vegan versions. Best of all, this festival of New Orleans culture is free.

  • Bars

When is it: July

Part insider convention, part public party, Tales of the Cocktail is an annual meeting of the minds—bartenders and mixologists from all over the world gather in New Orleans to "educate, advance and support the global hospitality industry." And while the event has been bringing bartenders together since 2002, it also offers cocktail-loving members of the public the chance to join in, too. General public tickets are available for seminars, tasting rooms, cocktail city tours, and 'Spirited Dinners' (events held at restaurants around the city pairing drinks with meals specially created by a guest mixologist and the restaurant's chef).

When is it: July 

This free annual festival in the French Market celebrates the arrival of the sweet local fruit, the Creole tomato, a variety specific to the region. It also honors Louisiana’s farmers, produce, and the unique cuisine. Highlights include a tomato eating contest, a bloody Mary market, cooking demos, and of course tasty treats made from the star of the show (think shrimp salad-stuffed tomatoes, tomato crepes, and tomato gelato.) Performances by local musicians entertain as you enjoy your delectable tomato dishes—just try not to throw any at the performers, okay?


When is it: July/August

In the peak heat and humidity of August, there’s no to get out of the house than to celebrate New Orleans native Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. His influence on the music and culture of the city is undeniable, and August is the perfect time to celebrate hot jazz and the musicians that bring Satchmo’s legacy to life. Based at the New Orleans Jazz Museum in the French Quarter, the three day event (always the first weekend of August to coincide with Armstrong’s birthday on the 4th) also features standout food vendors, informative panel discussions, and an annual jazz mass.

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When is it: August

This block party in the Warehouse District is a celebration of the arts and artists in New Orleans. It’s also an excuse to don your best white linen outfit and stroll all the galleries on Julia Street and the surrounding area. White Linen Night features music, food, drinks, and more out in the street while the galleries showcase their latest works of art. An after-party keeps the festive vibes going until late. Don’t worry about spilling on your clean whites—you can wear them as-is for the French Quarter’s follow up event, Dirty Linen Night.


When is it: September

This three-day fest on Lakeshore Drive celebrates the tastiest fried chicken not only in New Orleans, but from across the country too. Sample dozens of fried chicken dishes all in one spot, then dance it all off with a schedule of top local bands on multiple stages. The fest also features a car show, games, installations, activations and local arts and crafts vendors.

When is it: October

October is a perfect time to visit New Orleans: the rain lets up, the sun shines, and the humidity is totally bearable. It's also when the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation likes to give back to the city by staging the annual Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival in Lafayette Square. Located right in the heart of the CBD, the square boasts two music stages with famed BBQ pros cooking luscious ribs, brisket and pulled pork in between acts. There's an art market, too, and plenty of drinks to be had. 


When is it: November

Dedicated to the most famous sandwich in the city, Po-boy Fest takes over several blocks of Oak Street with dozens of po’boy vendors, two live music stages and artists selling their wares. Try top versions of po-boy favorites like fried shrimp, roast beef and fried oyster, or branch out with some more innovative offerings like escargot, calamari parmesan and barbecue pork jowl po-boys.


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