When you host a few hundred festivals each year, it’s no easy task to whittle that list down to 10 must-visit Louisiana festivals. It’s like picking your favorite child. For a little help, we asked our Facebook friends. We polled the office. We questioned the waitress delivering our tray of boiled crawfish. And finally, in some cases, we just had to flip a coin.
Without further ado, here’s our list (in no particular order):
Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, Ponchatoula: Each April, the “Strawberry Capital of the World” celebrates the sweet berry with one of the state’s largest free festivals. The family-friendly event offers old-fashioned fun, from strawberry eating contests to sack races. Be sure to sample the many strawberry-flavored treats, including the shortcake. Try the festival's strawberry pie recipe.
Festival International de Louisiane, Lafayette: For five days every April, downtown Lafayette is turned into an international music mecca, complete with six music stages, street musicians, arts and crafts boutiques, a world music store and more. All of the events, including cultural workshops and cooking demonstrations, are free.
French Quarter Festival, New Orleans: Hands down, NOLA knows how to throw a music festival, and we admit it was hard to decide between Jazz Fest and French Quarter Festival. What tipped the scales was the price tag. French Quarter Fest (held in April) boasts 21 stages and 400-plus hours of live entertainment without charging you a dime. But do bring some bucks for purchasing festival foods and taking part in the “World’s Largest Jazz Brunch.”
Christmas Festival of Lights, Natchitoches: How jolly is Natchitoches during the holidays? Santa comes here when he needs to catch the Christmas spirit. From around Thanksgiving through New Year's, the historic, lakefront city decorates with more than 300,000 Christmas lights. Take a romantic carriage ride and enjoy fireworks over Cane River Lake.
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, Breaux Bridge: Eat your weight in mudbugs, shimmy your way to victory in the zydeco dance contest and set your lawn chair in front of the Crawfish or Festival stage to hear incredible local music. We love cheering on the critters during the crawfish races. Held each May. Make your own crawfish étouffée using the recipe from three-time Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival étouffée cook-off champion Mike Huval.
Red River Revel, Shreveport: An October tradition, the Revel is recognized as the largest outdoor arts festival in North Louisiana. Shop beautiful works from more than 140 visual artists and hear live entertainment on three stages. There’s a great children’s area, with art projects, a Ferris wheel and a geological dig site, too.
International Rice Festival, Crowley: It seems Crowley is best known for two things: producing one of the country’s largest rice crops and throwing one of southwest Louisiana’s biggest parties! The October festival has been going on for nearly 80 years and a carnival, frog derby, queen’s pageant, parade and live music are among its many features.
Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival, Bogalusa: Though a new event, the inaugural Bogalusa Blues and Heritage Festival generated a lot of buzz and was named New Event of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals. The September festival pays tribute to Bogalusa’s amazingly rich music history.
French Food Festival, Larose: This October festival celebrates the Cajun way of life, from dancing to boat building, and pays particular attention to foods from Cajun kitchens. Sample traditional Bayou Lafourche dishes, like shrimp boulettes, crawfish fettuccine and tarte a la bouille, a custard pie.
Franklin Parish Catfish Festival, Winnsboro: Some 4,000 pounds of catfish are fried up and served at this Saturday festival each April. Bring your family and enjoy the strolling street performers, a wide range of musical entertainment and much more.
So, what do you think of our list? What's that? We left out Mardi Gras? No, we didn't forget about our most famous festival. We just know that it stands out among the rest! Our weekslong Mardi Gras celebration takes place throughout the state and should definitely be on everyone's Louisiana bucket list.