This is Part Two in our Series of Jazz Fest Tips.
As we mentioned in our previous post, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, AKA Jazz Fest, is one of the biggest events in New Orleans. It is well known and respected in the music industry by both music fans and entertainers alike. Landing a spot on the Jazz Fest line up is a big deal and Jazz Fest aficionados pay close attention to the announcements in the beginning of each year in order to learn which of their favorite musicians are gracing the stages. This year is no exception with live acts such as Lizzo, The Lumineers, Santana, Dead & Co. and Jon Batiste, just to name a few. The next big announcement is scheduled to arrive this Tuesday – “the cubes” will be announced on that day, which provides scheduling detail for each day.
Jazz Fest takes place over 2 consecutive weekends and many music fans make an entire week of it by coming for both weekends. There are a myriad of entertainment options during those in between days – and it gives fans of the city the opportunity to enjoy all the various parts of New Orleans.
Below are our recommendations to get the most out of your visit.
Go Early in the Day:
Our personal preference is to arrive at Jazz Fest right around when the gates open each day. The crowd is a bit lighter so you can find a good spot to set yourself up. We typically bring a couple of camping chairs (we call them Jazz Fest chairs); and we park them at a particular stage. Our favorite spot is toward the back of the Gentilly Stage. There’s a tree there – if you’re lucky, you can grab a spot under the tree to enjoy some coveted shade. There’s also a beer tent and a large bank of portolets that aren’t *too* bad. There are so many food options at the Fairgrounds, you can definitely eat well throughout the course of the day.
2. Explore the Fairgrounds:
Another amazing feature at Jazz Fest are all the various merchant booths. It’s a stiff competition for a booth at Jazz Fest – and they actually switch them up from weekend one to weekend two. These are true artisans – anything from jewelry to textiles to gorgeous pieces of art. We love picking up a piece from every Jazz Fest we attend as a memento of that year. It means so much more to us than a Jazz Fest t-shirt.
3. Explore the City:
I’m sure there are many first timers who don’t realize that Jazz Fest is not in downtown New Orleans. It’s not far, but it’s probably about 15-20 minutes with traffic. If you spend all day at the Fairgrounds during the weekend, it’s hard to explore. As much as you might think you will be out and about, that sun can be a killer. If you are able to extend your trip and spend some time in the city on days when Jazz Fest isn’t taking place, that’s when you can dedicated a day to the French Quarter or the Lower Garden District.
4. Don’t Miss the Live Music Off Property:
Jazz Fest has been around for so long now, there are plenty of businesses and entertainers who really know how to max out the Jazz Fest crowd. Most live music venues are stacked with late night shows and weekday shows of all shapes, sizes, flavors, and sounds. Make sure you spend some time reviewing what the full line up is throughout the city. Check out the Jazz Fest Grid, which does a pretty awesome job covering it all.
5. Things to Bring:
There is a convenience store at Jazz Fest, but everything costs a small fortune. Here’s a short list of essentials you should have with you: sunscreen, a hat, wet wipes, a reusable water bottle, a folding chair (if you have a small dettachable umbrella, those can come in pretty handy when it’s a really oppressively hot day), CASH. You can definitely get away with just a card, but the Beer Tents really appreciate it when you “Tip, Tip, Hooray” – so you can slide them a tip and get a nice big chunk of ice to keep your beers cold or just to help you cool off. And, if you prefer booze over beer – pack yourself a flask. And while you’re thinking of things to pack, you’ll definitely want to have a rain jacket of some sort and potentially rain boots. We’ve picked up shrimp boots for clients before and they were key. A rainy day at Jazz Fest can really be a blast because it’s not as crowded. As long as you’re ok slopping in the mud.
This concludes our second set of tips for a successful Jazz Fest. Our next post will get into a bit more detail regarding venues, music & food/restaurants – Give us a shout if you’d like us to plan your perfect Jazz Fest experience..