One of the best things to do for enjoyment is to participate in and experience festivals around the globe.
Apart from religious festivals, there are also cultural, social, and national festivals being celebrated by people. The United States has a rich legacy of cultural festivals that you must visit once in your lifetime.
New Orleans has got a particular charm when it comes to hosting and celebrating various festivals. Festivals in New Orleans often tend to be vibrant and incredible.
About The City: New Orleans
New Orleans is a city situated along the banks of the Mississippi River. This city is in Louisiana, in the southeast of America. The city is among the vastly inhabited cities in the state and region.
New Orleans is also well-known for the financial and commercial actions of the province.
The proximity of the city along the Gulf of Mexico only increases its commercial significance.
Another reason that contributes to the importance of the city is that it was the capital of French Louisiana before purchasing by the United States of America.
New Orleans was previously called ‘Bulbancha’ before being renamed after the Duke of Orleans. The metropolis is also understood by the titles of NOLA, the Big Easy, and the Crescent City.
Festivals in New Orleans are at a confluence of various cultures. Prominent cultures prominent to its growth story are the French, Indigenous, African, and European cultures. Also, you can enjoy famous festivals in Texas, a prominent nearby state.
New Orleans combines the best of every world and this confluence can be seen in the resultant vibrant culture of the city.
New Orleans Festivals
Music festivals are central to what has made the city famous. New Orleans is renowned for hoisting some or the other musical festival all year long. However, the city is not limited to just music fests.
Apart from music fests, the city also hosts festivals relating to other aspects of art and culture.
These festivals are about delicious food, vibrant art, amazing dance, insightful literature, and booze. The many festivals in New Orleans to celebrate and enjoy are:
1. Mardi Gras – Soul of New Orleans Festivals
Mardi Gras is the soul of the city’s festivals. It is also referred to as the King of festivals, granddaddy, and star attractions being the few other adjectives used to describe the city.
While the city is best known for Mardi Gras, that was not always the case. This carnival traces its advents around to the religious activities of medieval Europe.
However, the festival still retains its religious timeline as it is held around the period of lent.
Usually, Mardi Gras takes place forty-seven days before Easter. This heritage festival starts two weeks in advance of Fat Tuesday and continues till the day before Ash Wednesday.
The festival starts with the Masquerade Ball and Joan of Arc parade on the sixth of January or the Twelfth Night.
This practice dates back to the founding of the city when its rich people used to throw Balls to mark the day. As Fat Tuesday approaches, cultural extravaganzas are organized.
Extensive parades and funny and lively characters line up the streets in the accompaniment of live music.
There are over a hundred Balls thrown by different organizers in the city. However, most of them have restricted entry.
You also get to witness many krewes on the city street. A star attraction to look out for is the Phunny Phorty Phellows Krewe.
Some other Krewes are Mistick Krewe of Combus and Rex. You can watch these Krewe parades down the St. Charles Streetcar Road.
You can also taste various Cajun dishes. People usually wear colorful and lavish costumes, paint their faces, and also use masks.
Jazz fest and local musicians perform alongside motorcycle squadrons and dance troupes.
This majestic extravaganza has been a state holiday since the nineteenth century. The colors purple, Green, along with bright yellow is regarded as festival colors. Mardi Gras is certainly the king of the festivals of New Orleans.
2. New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival
New Orleans is considered the home of Jazz in the world. As stated earlier, the city hosts a confluence of various cultures.
In this case, the confluence of African American culture has given birth to the Jazz form of music.
The city is credited with the birth of the music form in the late nineteenth century. To commemorate this heritage music style, New Orleanians celebrate the festival with great pomp and joy.
New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival had recently marked the golden jubilee celebrations. The festival is usually celebrated by spanning over two weeks in spring.
Usually, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage is held from the final week of April to the first week of May.
The carnival is kept up at the Fair Grounds Race Course. The festival features over a hundred artists. These artists play dozens of music forms across different music stages.
Local food vendors, particularly bars and musicians, are also participative in this fest. They invite local musicians to play folk, Latin, and country music besides traditional Jazz.
The music festival is among the best festivals in New Orleans. Along with great music, you also get to taste food and cuisine which are a part of New Orleans culture. There are Po’ boys, and Crawfish among others that offer the best of the city.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is organized once the Mardi Gras carnival is completed.
Hence, one might expect a repeat of carnival food at this festival also. However, this annual music festival has a strict ‘no-carnival food’ policy which implies you won’t be having a repeat of popular carnival dishes.
Festival goers can also indulge in local arts and crafts. Many vendors across the city park and street sell their crafts to make a living. This Orleans festival presents a great chance to purchase local crafts first-hand.
3. French Quarter Festival
The French Quarter is also an annual music festival that celebrates the musical landscape of Louisiana and the country.
It is one of the world’s biggest music festivals drawing close to a million people in the four-day event. The festival is celebrated before the Jazz and Heritage festival on the second weekend of April.
The French Quarter festival started in 1984. The city’s mayor, Ernest Nathan Morial, observed that many people of the French Quarter area had left the city because of the high cost of living in the area and employment opportunities. The mayor wanted to bring them back to the city.
This resulted in the addition of the French Quarter festival to the New Orleans calendar. This Orleans music festival was intended at bringing back those people. It was supposed to rekindle the passion for that particular neighborhood.
This New Orleans festival earlier supposed to be a one-time thing. However, the popularity of the fest grew by leaps and bounds.
As a result, the festival continues after nearly four decades and we have one of the best festivals in New Orleans.
The French Quarter Festival features free admission to entrants. It celebrates music forms including hip-hop, funk, zydeco, and blues besides Jazz.
The festival celebrates the best of New Orleans music and culture along with its rich cuisine.
New Orleans food vendors serve you a host of local and regional classics. Over four dozen of vendors serve New Orleans cocktails like ‘Hurricane’. Jazz brunch at Jackson square is a must-have when in the city.
4. Essence Festival
Essence Festival celebrates the wonderful contributions of the African American community in the US to the music industry.
It is one of the unique celebrations in New Orleans known as a party with a cause. It serves the great cause of commemorating the awesome achievements of African American culture.
The Essence festival was started way back in 1995. The festival is hosted by the magazine centered around African American women, which goes by the same name as the fest. The festival was initially thought to be a one-time event.
This particular time was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Essence magazine. The festival is usually celebrated around American independence weekend.
However, the popularity of the fest grew and it has been an annual event for the past 25 years.
The central theme of the Essence festival is without a doubt, music. However, the itinerary of events differs from day and night.
During the day, there are debates, workshops, and panels on music. These day events are held at the Ernest Morial Convention Center.
However, the events at night are much more interesting and engaging. These events are carried out at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. The Superdome has two stages for two types of performances from 6 pm onwards.
The main stage hosts famous and acclaimed singers. Essence boasts to have got Beyonce, Usher, and Prince to perform here.
However, music lovers sometimes also get a chance to hear famous personalities like Barack Obama as keynote speakers.
The second stage at the Superdome features evolving artists and new-age influencers. This stage can help you take a look at the new rockstar.
It also serves as an important platform for the New Orleans Musicians to grow their audience and popularity.
Apart from music, the festival features lifestyle, sports, fashion, and other issues of relevance to youth.
It is among one of the best New Orleans Festivals can go to the festival free of charge, except for certain events where it may be needed. However, you might still need to register online for entry to the venue.
5. Voodoo Music & Arts Festival
The voodoo music and arts festival is an annual festival celebrating the voodoo music and history of the city.
The event is held at the city park in New Orleans where it attracts hundreds of thousands of people. Voodoo music & arts festival is one of the unique festivals in New Orleans.
The practice of Voodoo arrived on the coasts of America from the slaves brought from western Africa.
These slaves brought their thoughts and beliefs with them and integrated them into the art, music, and culture of the city.
As time progressed, these voodoo practices were found in tandem with the Halloween culture of America.
Hence, since 1999, the list of festivals in New Orleans grew with the inclusion of Voodoo music and art fest held around the Halloween weekend.
A combination of voodoo with Halloween presents one of the most spooky festivals in New Orleans.
This festival is held on the weekend preceding Halloween. It is a three-day event held among the lush walking trails in the city park in October. It hosts a variety of art and music performances besides rich cuisines.
Wearing colorful and weird costumes, besides outlandish face makeup is a key fun thing to do in New Orleans.
People dressed in those weird dresses coupled with the frenzy and euphoria of the upcoming Halloween increase the fun quotient of the fest.
Music festivals in New Orleans are incomplete without the participation of celebrities. The Voodoo music festival also hosts more than fifty bands along with several top-notch artists.
In the past, tourists have got a chance to attend the live show of Duran Duran, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem.
Voodoo music & arts festival is certainly one of the amazing festivals in New Orleans with its unique theme of voodoo.
Apart from music fests, it also hosts an artisan marketplace for the local people to sell their arts and crafts.
6. Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival
Among the various awesome festivals in New Orleans, a particularly amazing festival is the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival.
The festival features spectacular events which are a celebration of music and barbeque. Blues and R&B are the special highlights of the festival.
The festival was started in 2006 in the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina. This hurricane caused immense damage to New Orleans and many jobs and livelihoods were lost besides loss of property. This fest was intended to bring back smiles and happiness to gloomy faces.
The festival was started by New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation. It hoped to bring back tourists to the city while providing jobs to locals.
While like many other festivals, it was also supposed to be one isolated event, it soon went up to become one of the best festivals in New Orleans.
Crescent City Blues takes place after the Voodoo festival in late October. The festival shows the best of Jazz, from both the local and outside world from the best Jazz artists, besides also offering an opportunity to budding artists. You will certainly get to groove to many versatile Jazz musicians and rock bands.
Generally, the festival takes place in Lafayette Square Park in the city. This park is located in a very important commercial zone of the city.
The venues are family and disabled-friendly. This implies that you can freely bring your friends and members, including disabled loved ones here.
After lafayette park, you should take a stroll through Jackson Square. This square host’s many food stalls including local snacks, and the star of the festival, Barbeques.
The captivating aromas and delicious sights of food events will make you salivate.
Besides the food vendors, there are hundreds of other vendors selling other merchandise. You are sure to come across great pieces of art and crafts.
The huge arts market in the square offers paintings, wooden furniture, and leatherwork articles besides carpets, jewelry, and ceramics on sale.
7. New Orleans Wine And Food Events
New Orleans has produced fine cuisine as a result of the intermingling of several cultures here.
Hence, it should come as no surprise to anyone that New Orleans has superb eating and drinking culture.
Although many festivals in New Orleans involve food and wine, Wine and Food Fest offers the best experience.
The New Orleans Food and Wine Festival is two days short of being a week-long event. The 5-day event is held in late March and the festival recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022. The event is a great opportunity for food and wine lovers in the chilling summer of March.
The festival draws the participation of many big and small local food vendors alike. There are more than hundreds of local food bistros that offer local treats and peek into the food culture of the city. These restaurants also present their amazing new food innovations to guests.
Moreover, the participation of well-acclaimed global and national chefs in the fest is not known.
These chefs partner with local restaurants or set up their outlets to share their tasty creations.
The participation of these top chefs also adds to the unusual culinary experience of the city.
There are also multiple dozen of breweries in New Orleans that offer the great taste f wines of the city.
Many restaurants pair different wines with food to give you the best combo. This would certainly give the best culinary experience as per the chef’s skills.
In addition to food and wine tastings, there are also classes and seminars on topics of food history and how to cook and present food as the world’s best chefs would do it. This is a must-attend food festival among the festivals in New Orleans.
A particular benefit of participating in the New Orleans Wine and Food Festival is that produces a feel-good effect on you.
This is because the event contributes widely to many charity organizations and non-profit organizations working for a noble cause.
According to some estimates, the event has raised close to a million dollars for these noble pursuits.
8. White Linen Night And Dirty Linen Night
Among all the festivals in New Orleans, the concept of White Linen night and Dirty Linen night are the most unique ones.
To people who are unaware of these festivals, their name certainly creates interest to them and intrigues them.
The concept of these festivals is burrowed in the time when simple white linen was everyone’s favorite to skip the scorching heat of the summer.
However, with the popularity of AC and cars, people did not need to experience heat so much. Hence, this showed the seeds of these festivals.
As a remembrance of those old days, traders from the Warehouse quarter of the city started this festival.
These traders introduced White Linen night in 1994 and since then it proceeded to come up every year.
The White Linen Night takes place on the first Saturday in August. The festival has a simple idea. People are expected to wear crisp white clothes.
If the cloth is of linen, then well and good, otherwise if you are wearing some other fabric, it is also fine.
You should ideally stroll down the lanes at Julia street in the city. This street features many art galleries and you get an amazing opportunity to view those pieces of art.
A great thing about these strolls is that you stand a chance to win hand fans to liberate yourself from the summer heat!
On Dirty Linen Night, you are expected to wear the same clothes as you did on White Linen night.
It is called ‘dirty linen night’ as people wear unwashed clothes from the white night. This night is the Saturday next to White Linen night.
Both White Linen Night and Dirty Linen Night Festivals are celebrated at the famous French Quarter of the city.
On the first night of the festival, white wine is the drink of the night, while, the other hand, the dirty martini is the preferred drink on the second night of the fest.
The Final Note
There are many festivals in New Orleans that you can indulge in. Most of these festivals revolve around the broad theme of multiculturalism in the United States.
We can see these in the Mardi Gras festival which traces its roots to Europe while the Voodoo music and arts festival is related to people from West Africa.
There are festivals like Food and Wine Festival and Jazz and Heritage Festival which celebrates the local culture and cuisine.
Festivals like Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival also celebrate the music and cuisine of the amazing city.
Essence Festival and White Linen Night and Dirty Linen Night also add to the popularity of the festivals of the city.