Big Events in the Big Easy
No matter when you plan your visit to New Orleans, expect to see the streets filled with a party. The boisterous city celebrates its favorite things—holidays, jazz music, pride, art, and food— with passion and entertainment unlike any other city in the world. Experience the infamous Mardi Gras celebration in the spring, a seafood festival in the fall, and music-filled events year-round. A new festival starts in New Orleans every three days, with a total of 130 unique events including a music festival on a bayou, a charity run that swarms the city in red, and more. Here is a guide to some of the most notable parties in NOLA.
New Year’s Eve and the Sugar Bowl
December 31–January 1
Ring in the new year in the historic Jackson Square, where locals and travelers party at the city's biggest NYE bash. Listen to live music from local legends; watch the fleur-de-lis drop and the “Baby New Year” descend from the perch of Jax Brewery; and finish the night with a fireworks show that lights up the Mississippi River.
The next day, follow the parade of football fanatics on their way to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to watch the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Host to the SEC Champion and worthy opponent, cheer on the teams as they play in the second oldest bowl game in the country.
Two weeks before and through Fat Tuesday
The Mardi Gras bash in New Orleans is a legendary festival that encompasses the entire city: nobody goes to work, people feast on king cakes, and the drinks are flowing. The Carnival season starts two weeks before Fat Tuesday, with the last five days being the ultimate party as Carnival krewes toss the colorful plastic beads, toys, and decorative doubloons into the crowds. While most Mardi Gras revelers focus their partying to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, many of the major parades start in the Uptown and Mid-City districts. Doll up in costumes, stake your spot, and take in the festivities.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Last weekend in April & the first weekend in May.
One cannot think of New Orleans without recalling the magical sounds of jazz music, the symbolic sound of the city. Held at the Fairgrounds Race Track, Jazz Fest showcases the best artists in jazz, blue, gospel, R&B, soul, and more on 12 stages. Celebrating music and heritage, the fest is also filled with shop and craft booths, as well as an amazing array of food vendors. Try the most unique flavors of the area, including Cajun shrimp & duck Pasta, boiled crawfish, alligator pie, and every kind of po-boy imaginable.
MidCity Bayou Boogaloo
Second week in May
One of the many free music festivals in New Orleans is MidCity Bayou Boogaloo, but it's the only festival that can be heard on the waters of the Bayou St. John. Rent a canoe, fill a cooler, and enjoy the music. If you go ashore, you will find pop-up crafts and art booths, food vendors, and several music stages at this three-day fest.
Tales of the Cocktail
Third week in July
Legend has it the first “cocktail” was mixed in New Orleans in the 19th century: Since then, famous drinks such as the Hurricane originate from the area. Tales of the Cocktail is a city-wide event, with the headquarters being Hotel Monteleone, that showcases the city's most notable mixoligists and bartenders offering delicious, one-of-a-kind drinks. The festival also features tours of the city's historic bars, “spirited dinners” at New Orleans’ restaurants, live music, and more.
Red Dress Run
Second weekend in August
The Red Dress Run is an event unique to New Orleans hosted by the Hash House Harriers, a club known for their love of life, beer, running, and raising money for a worthy cause. Started in 1988 as a fundraiser for breast cancer research and several local charities, the race is filled with men and women sporting bright red dresses. The three-mile course winds runners through downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter before ending with a big party complete with live music, beer, food, giveaways, and more.
Six days around Labor Day weekend
A prideful, week-long extravaganza brings 100,000 visitors to New Orleans each year, each dressed in elaborate costumes and ready to celebrate. The event kicks off with block parties, a "Gay Walking Tour, Café Karaoke, and festive parades. Each of the bars in the French Quarter hosts contests, music, and drag shows celebrating the LGBT Community.
Louisiana Seafood Festival
Labor Day Weekend
With New Orleans iconic food dishes being po-boys, gumbo, and jambalaya, it’s no surprise that the city is home to the Louisiana Seafood Festival. When you visit, devour delicacies made from shrimp, crawfish, crab, oysters, and more from the area's famous restaurants. Watch live chef demonstrations, see live music performances, and eat until you're stuffed.
Voodoo Music & Arts Experience
The festival’s motto, “Worship the Music,” sets the stage for the entire weekend. The three-day rock festival is held in City Park with over two hundred acts, including the biggest names in rock, rap, and more. Rivaled only by the Jazz Fest, this festival blends the music with Halloween parties. Past musical acts include Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Zac Brown Band, Florence + The Machine, and more.
Teme Creole Gumbo Festival
Second weekend in November
TOne of the most prominent culinary delights in NOLA, Gumbo is a delectable soup that varies by chef, but generally features chicken andouille sausage, shrimp, and other types of seafood. The traditional dish is served with rice and has a kick of spice! The festival celebrates this delicious meal with the areas most decorated chefs in the Armstrong Park”s Congo Square. Locally made crafts, family-friendly activities, live music, and other Big Easy food staples can be found at this free event.