New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Top musicians from Louisiana and around the country gather in New Orleans for the world's best music festival.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a rite of spring for hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, throughout the United States and in many other countries. It is, arguably, the biggest and best-attended multi-style music festival in the world. The grand event unfolds across two weekends—always the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. It encompasses full days of performances on a dozen stages strategically arranged around the Fair Grounds Race Course, and brings along with its dozens of nightly performances in New Orleans’ music venues.
While the festival is named for New Orleans’ indigenous music, and top modern jazz performers abound here, it’s hard to think of a musical style that is not well represented at Jazz Fest. You can count on finding many of Louisiana’s best-known performers, representing the best in Cajun, zydeco, blues and Delta blues, rock, rockabilly, gospel, hip-hop, salsa, swamp pop and more. It’s the place to hear and see the great names of Louisiana music, often including, among many others: Harry Connick, Jr., Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Buddy Guy, The Meters, The Preservation Hall Brass Band, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Big Freedia and the famed Mardi Gras Indians.
Check out our Top 5 Jazz Fest Must-Dos:
- Music: While the main stages are always a big draw, a visit to the Cultural Exchange Pavilion is always a good idea. This year, the Cultural Exchange Pavilion will be holding a special showcase on New Orleans Black Masking Indian culture. The showcase will include daily performances on stage, parades strolling through the Pavilion, and an exhibit illustrating how a new generation uses their suit to respond to the contemporary challenges they face. The sound coming from the Pavilion is an eclectic blend of Black Masking Indian rhythms, brass bands, local blues, jazz, gospel and Latin music, peppered with national and international guests. Throughout the eight days, the Pavilion also features amazing bands playing music from around the world such as Bombino of Niger, Congolese electro music band Kizaba, Chicano band Las Cafeteras as well as local Latin favorites Julio Y Cesar and Treces del Sur.
- Food: Local restaurants serve up a whole host of Louisiana dishes but two musts are Crawfish Bread & Crawfish Monica. Crawfish Bread first hit the festival in the 1980s when John Ed Laborde started selling these tasty loaves and they have become one of the most sought-after festival bites. For those unfamiliar, imagine an irresistible combination of cheese, crawfish tails and spices stuffed into a delicious loaf of french bread! Much like macaroni and cheese, Crawfish Monica is a rather simple dish, but when the right ingredients are used, it can truly sing. This creamy, cheesy dish of pasta and crawfish will give you the energy you need for all-day festival activities. Don’t worry, there are plenty of vegetarian options as well. And be sure to wash it all down with a fresh lemonade!
- Locals Day: The first Thursday in May is deemed Locals Day and it’s not to be missed. If you are lucky enough to live in-state and provide an ID proving so, you qualify for a discounted entry ticket and enjoy much lighter crowds.
- Shopping: There are three markets within Jazz Fest boasting mostly Louisiana-made products and art. Congo Square African Marketplace is filled with music, art and energy. Here you will find an array of local, national and international artisans exhibiting ancient crafting techniques. Contemporary Crafts is your destination to find handcrafted clothing, leather goods, paintings, sculptures and jewelry. In the Louisiana Marketplace, you will find traditional and contemporary art inspired by the cultural landscape of the Bayou State. Want your commemorative Jazz Fest poster ahead of time? You can find that here, and be on the lookout for a Congo Square poster as well.
- Pack: While the days are full of fun and spectacular music, they can also be long, so make sure you pack sunscreen, a hat, and a folding chair. You can also bring a small soft-sided cooler filled with sealed bottled water.
- Jazz Fest is a great event for all ages, strollers are allowed (no wagons) and there is a kid’s tent featuring kid-friendly acts each day.
Visit New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for even more details and ticket information.