The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, AKA Jazz Fest, is one of the biggest events in the city, and one of the top music festivals in the world. Traditionally, the festival occurs over the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May. Fans come from far and wide to enjoy all that Jazz Fest and New Orleans has to offer. With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming for first-time attendees but don’t you worry – we’ve got you covered. Below are a few of our top suggestions for a successful Jazz Fest.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a massive event with multiple stages, food vendors, and activities. The event itself is hosted at the New Orleans Fairgrounds Race Course, where, you will typically find horse racing throughout the year. It’s important to note that the Fairgrounds is NOT located downtown – you will need to either Uber or cab, take a Jazz Fest Shuttle, walk or bike to get there. The line to leave Jazz Fest via Uber or cab can get pretty long – if you’re staying at a hotel downtown, the shuttle is pretty clutch because it picks you up inside the Fairgrounds. Check the shuttle schedule and map to find the shuttle pick up spot that’s closest to your location.
2. Plan Ahead, but:
As we mentioned, Jazz Fest is pretty big and it’s got a ton to offer. It’s essential to plan ahead, so you don’t miss out on your favorite acts or miss out on trying some of New Orleans’ finest foods. The festival website has a schedule of performances along with a map of the Fairgrounds, and you can create your custom schedule to make sure you don’t miss a beat. Local entertainment rag, The Gambit, puts out it’s yearly Jazz Fest publication, which includes a handy music grid (locals call it The Cubes), along with a handy festival map that you can put in your pocket. Our recommendation is that you plot out your must sees but make sure you have plenty of time to wander – some of our most favorite Jazz Fest experiences have been impromptu pit stops. We love to swing by the Gospel Tent to cool off from the Louisiana sun and soak in the beautiful sounds of a gospel choir.
3. Dress Comfortably:
Jazz Fest takes place during the spring in New Orleans, and the weather can be unpredictable. Be sure to check the forecast and dress accordingly. Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking around a lot. Also, be sure to plan for inclement weather — diehards go to Jazz Fest no matter whether it’s raining or not. It can get REALLY muddy out there, but a sneaky pro tip is that you can pick up a cheap pair of shrimp boots to wear to the Fairgrounds and slop around on a rainy day. Another important thing to note is that there is very little shade at the Fairgrounds. There are a couple of trees and there are tents as well, so remember to use them wisely. It’s also a great idea to bring a hat and sunscreen for protection from the sun and remember that New Orleans can be ridiculously humid, which takes us to our next point.
4. Stay Hydrated:
With all the excitement and activities, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated. New Orleans is known for its hot and humid weather, and Jazz Fest can be exhausting, so be sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. We can’t count how many times we’ve seen an overzealous Fest goer who over indulges on overpriced Miller Lite’s and ends up face planting by mid day. You can buy water at the festival, but it’s expensive, so bringing a water bottle is the best option. And PRO TIP: You can ask the beer tent for ice which is clutch when it’s really hot out. We are also really fond of the Orange Rose Mint Iced Tea – you can get yourself a huge serving with or without sugar and it’s delicious with a bit of your favorite liquor. Wink wink.
5. Try the Food:
New Orleans is known for its delicious food, and Jazz Fest is no exception. Jazz Fest has a robust process for selecting food offerings every vendor has to submit their food ahead of time to ‘try out’ for the year. The festival has an extensive selection of food vendors, and it’s an excellent opportunity to try traditional Louisiana cuisine. If you’re at all adventurous, make sure you try some stuff that you’re unfamiliar with. There are so many options to explore. Some of our favorites are the Cochon de Lait po-boy (I get it in a bowl to avoid the carbs); Crawfish Monica; Crawfish Bread – although they just pulled out, which is insane, but I bet they find an alternative vendor b/c that is one of the most popular items. Pro tip: you can tell which items are the most popular based on the vendors window size. Crawfish Bread typically has 8 windows – that’s a LOT of windows to service and they still end up with a line.
These are our top 5 tips for a successful Jazz Fest. We’ll have plenty more recommendations leading up to the festival so keep an eye out. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that we do offer customized Jazz Fest experiences – if you’d like assistance planning the perfect Jazz Fest based on your needs, don’t hesitate to reach out.