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The Best New Orleans Festivals


by Jermaine Infante



Welcome to the vibrant and culturally rich state of Louisiana, where festivities and celebrations are an integral part of the local culture. Louisiana, specifically the city of New Orleans, is renowned for its world-class festivals that attract millions of visitors from around the globe. From lively parades to soulful music performances, these festivals showcase the vibrant spirit and diversity of this unique region.


New Orleans, in particular, is considered the festival capital of the United States, with an array of events that cater to all interests. Whether you’re a fan of vibrant music, delectable cuisine, or the rich history and traditions of Louisiana, there’s a festival for everyone.


These festivals provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, experience the lively atmosphere, and create unforgettable memories. From the famous Mardi Gras to the Jazz & Heritage Festival, each event offers a distinct flavor that captures the essence of Louisiana. So, get ready to indulge in the rhythms of jazz, savor mouthwatering Cajun and Creole dishes, and dance the night away in the streets of the Big Easy.


In this article, we will take you on a journey through the best festivals that New Orleans has to offer. From the iconic Mardi Gras to the lesser-known gems, we will explore the unique features of each event and highlight why they are a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.


So, pack your bags and get ready to experience the magic of the New Orleans festivals. Let the music, food, and culture of Louisiana engulf your senses and leave you with a lasting impression. Prepare to be captivated by the infectious energy and charm of these festivals as we dive into the top celebrations that will make your trip to Louisiana an unforgettable adventure.


Mardi Gras Festival

The Mardi Gras Festival is perhaps the most famous and iconic event in New Orleans, attracting visitors from all over the world. Rooted in centuries-old traditions, this grand celebration takes place annually, culminating on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.


The festival kicks off with elaborate parades featuring vibrant floats, costumed performers, and marching bands. Spectators are treated to a visual spectacle as they catch beads, doubloons, and other trinkets thrown from the floats. The streets are teeming with excitement, as locals and tourists alike come together to revel in the festivities.


One of the highlights of Mardi Gras is the tradition of “krewe” parades. Krewes are organized groups that plan and execute the parades, each with their own unique themes and elaborate floats. From the Krewe of Rex, with its regal displays, to the Krewe of Zulu, known for its vibrant costumes and coconuts as throws, there’s a parade for every taste.


In addition to the parades, Mardi Gras is synonymous with indulging in delicious King Cake. This scrumptious pastry, decked in vibrant colors and often filled with cinnamon or cream cheese, is a treat for both the eyes and taste buds. It is customary to hide a small plastic baby figurine within the cake, and the person who finds it is said to have good luck and is responsible for hosting the next year’s Mardi Gras party.


Another integral aspect of Mardi Gras is the masked balls, where attendees dress in elaborate costumes and masks for an evening of music, dancing, and revelry. These events harken back to the origins of Mardi Gras as a private celebration of the upper-class society, but now they are open to all who wish to experience the elegance and allure of this traditional affair.


With its vibrant colors, lively music, and exuberant celebrations, Mardi Gras truly captures the spirit of New Orleans. It is an event that showcases the unique blend of culture, history, and traditions that make this city a must-visit destination. So, join the festivities, immerse yourself in the joyous atmosphere, and revel in the magic of Mardi Gras.


Jazz & Heritage Festival

The Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as Jazz Fest, is an annual celebration of music, culture, and heritage that takes place in New Orleans. Held over the course of two weekends, this festival showcases a diverse lineup of musicians, ranging from jazz and blues to gospel, R&B, and rock.


What sets the Jazz & Heritage Festival apart is its commitment to celebrating the rich musical traditions of the region. The festival boasts multiple stages, where attendees can immerse themselves in a wide array of performances by both local legends and international artists. From established acts to rising stars, there’s always something for every music lover.


While jazz takes center stage at this festival, the lineup also features artists from various genres, reflecting the multicultural heritage of New Orleans. Whether you’re grooving to the sounds of a brass band in the Jazz Tent or dancing to the beat of a soulful blues vocalist, the Jazz & Heritage Festival offers a unique blend of musical experiences.


It’s not just about the music, though. The Jazz & Heritage Festival also showcases the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans through its food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and cultural exhibits. Attendees can indulge in mouthwatering Creole and Cajun dishes, explore the works of local artisans, and learn about the city’s diverse history and traditions.


One of the festival’s popular attractions is the Heritage Square, where cultural demonstrations and exhibits highlight the unique traditions of Louisiana. From Mardi Gras Indians showcasing their stunning hand-sewn suits to traditional craftsmen demonstrating their skills, Heritage Square is a treasure trove of local culture.


Another highlight of the Jazz & Heritage Festival is the Congo Square African Marketplace. Inspired by the historic gathering place for African and Creole musicians, this marketplace features vendors selling handmade crafts, traditional clothing, and African and Caribbean-inspired art.


Whether you’re a music aficionado, a food lover, or a cultural enthusiast, the Jazz & Heritage Festival offers a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s a celebration that brings people together, celebrating the unique history and traditions of New Orleans while highlighting the incredible talent that the city and its surroundings have to offer.


Essence Festival

The Essence Festival is a dynamic celebration of music, art, culture, and empowerment that takes place in New Orleans annually. Created in 1995, the festival has grown into a renowned event that attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.


Originating as an extension of Essence magazine, the Essence Festival has become a powerful platform for black culture and entertainment. The festival showcases a diverse lineup of musical performances, featuring prominent artists spanning various genres such as R&B, hip-hop, soul, and gospel.


However, the Essence Festival goes beyond music. It is a multidimensional experience that encompasses seminars, panel discussions, and workshops focused on empowering and inspiring individuals. Renowned speakers and thought leaders come together to address important topics such as personal growth, entrepreneurship, wellness, and social justice.


The Essence Festival is also committed to promoting African-American businesses, with a marketplace known as the Essence Marketplace. Here, vendors offer a wide range of goods, from fashion and accessories to beauty products and artwork. It’s a fantastic opportunity to support small businesses and explore unique, culturally significant offerings.


In addition to the daytime activities, the Essence Festival comes alive at night with its renowned concert series. The Superdome, a world-class indoor stadium, serves as the venue for these epic performances. From passionate ballads to energetic dance routines, the concerts create an electrifying atmosphere that brings people together in celebration.


Beyond the entertainment aspect, the Essence Festival holds great significance in the African-American community. It serves as a platform for connecting, uplifting, and celebrating achievements, while also addressing important social issues. The festival offers a space for dialogue and reflection, fostering a sense of unity, empowerment, and cultural pride.


Attending the Essence Festival provides an incredible opportunity to experience the vitality of African-American culture, enjoy world-class entertainment, and be a part of a transformative event. It is a celebration of resilience, creativity, and the power of community, making it a truly remarkable experience.


French Quarter Festival

The French Quarter Festival is a lively celebration of music, food, and culture that takes place in the heart of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. Established in 1984, this festival has become one of the largest free music events in the South, attracting both locals and tourists alike.


Unlike many other festivals that focus on a specific genre, the French Quarter Festival embraces a wide range of musical styles, including jazz, blues, rock, funk, and more. With over 20 stages scattered throughout the historic district, attendees can delight in a diverse lineup of performances by local musicians and national acts.


What sets the French Quarter Festival apart is its commitment to showcasing the local talent of New Orleans. From well-known jazz artists to hidden gems waiting to be discovered, the festival provides a platform for both established and up-and-coming musicians to showcase their skills and entertain the crowds.


While music is undoubtedly the main attraction, the French Quarter Festival also celebrates the city’s rich culinary heritage. The festival features more than 60 food and beverage booths offering a wide variety of mouthwatering dishes, from classic Creole and Cajun favorites to international flavors and contemporary cuisine.


Exploring the French Quarter during the festival is a sensory experience like no other. As you stroll through the historic streets, you’ll be serenaded by the sounds of live music and tantalized by the aromas of delicious food wafting through the air. The vibrant energy and festive atmosphere are truly infectious.


In addition to the music and food, the French Quarter Festival also includes a range of other activities and events. Attendees can participate in dance lessons, catch street performers, browse local art exhibits, and even take part in competitions such as the “World’s Largest Jazz Brunch” or the “Salsa Dance Contest.”


The French Quarter Festival is a celebration of the vibrant spirit and culture of New Orleans. It offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the essence of the city, experiencing the joy of live music, savoring delectable cuisine, and embracing the lively atmosphere of the historic French Quarter. Whether you’re a music lover, a food enthusiast, or simply someone looking to soak up the authentic New Orleans ambiance, the French Quarter Festival is an event not to be missed.


Voodoo Music + Arts Experience

The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience is a unique and eclectic festival that combines music, art, and New Orleans’ rich cultural heritage. Held annually in the fall, this multi-day event showcases an impressive lineup of musicians from various genres, making it a must-visit festival for music enthusiasts.


Originally established in 1999, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience takes place in City Park, allowing attendees to enjoy the beautiful surroundings while immersing themselves in the vibrant atmosphere. With multiple stages spread across the park, attendees can explore different genres and discover new artists, from rock and alternative to hip-hop and electronic music.


Beyond the musical performances, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience prides itself on incorporating visual arts and interactive installations into the festival. Attendees can engage with unique sculptures, art installations, and interactive exhibits that enhance the overall experience and create a visually captivating environment.


As its name suggests, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience also embraces the mystical and spiritual aspects of New Orleans culture. With the city’s rich history of voodoo practices, the festival pays homage to this tradition through various themed areas, performances, and visual representations.


In addition to the music and art, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience features a range of local culinary offerings. From food trucks and pop-up eateries to craft beer selections and cocktail lounges, attendees can indulge their taste buds in a variety of flavors and dishes that showcase the city’s diverse culinary scene.


What sets the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience apart is its commitment to sustainability and community engagement. The festival incorporates eco-friendly initiatives, promotes local organizations, and provides a platform for nonprofit groups to educate and raise awareness about important social and environmental issues.


Attending the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience is not just about the music; it’s about immersing yourself in the vibrant spirit of New Orleans, embracing the diversity of musical genres, and exploring the intersection of art and culture. It’s an experience that stimulates the senses, unleashes creativity, and leaves attendees with a deeper appreciation for the arts and the city’s unique cultural heritage.


Southern Decadence Festival

The Southern Decadence Festival is a vibrant celebration of LGBTQ+ culture and community that takes place annually in New Orleans. Established in 1972, this festival has grown into one of the largest pride events in the South, attracting people from all walks of life to celebrate love, diversity, and acceptance.


Southern Decadence is held over the Labor Day weekend and features a variety of events, including parades, parties, dances, and drag shows. It is a time when the city’s French Quarter comes alive with an explosion of color, flamboyant costumes, and a contagious sense of joy and liberation.


The highlight of the festival is the vibrant parade that winds its way through the streets of the French Quarter. Revelers don outrageous costumes and adorn themselves with glitter and feathers, creating a spectacle that showcases the creativity and spirit of the LGBTQ+ community. This parade is not only a celebration of identity and pride but also an opportunity to promote inclusivity and equality.


In addition to the parade, Southern Decadence offers a wide range of entertainment options, including live music performances, comedy shows, and dance parties. It’s a time to let loose, dance freely, and immerse yourself in the positive energy and solidarity of the LGBTQ+ community.


The festival also provides a platform for local LGBTQ+-owned businesses, bars, and restaurants to thrive and showcase their offerings. From trendy cocktail lounges to vibrant drag brunches, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy delicious food and drinks while supporting the local community.


Southern Decadence has become more than just a festival; it has become a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride, resilience, and love. It creates a safe space for self-expression, encourages unity, and fosters a sense of belonging.


Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or are an ally, the Southern Decadence Festival welcomes everyone with open arms. It’s an opportunity to celebrate diversity, challenge stereotypes, and embrace the beautiful tapestry of human identities and experiences.


Attending the Southern Decadence Festival is an experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the LGBTQ+ community, a renewed sense of acceptance, and memories that will last a lifetime.


Satchmo SummerFest

The Satchmo SummerFest is an annual celebration of the legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong, affectionately known as “Satchmo.” Held in the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, this festival pays homage to Armstrong’s legacy and showcases the vibrant jazz culture of the city.


During the Satchmo SummerFest, music lovers from all over gather to immerse themselves in the sounds of jazz, swing, and brass bands. With stages set up in the historic French Quarter, attendees can enjoy a wide range of performances by both local and national jazz artists. From traditional jazz ensembles to contemporary interpretations, the festival offers a rich and diverse musical experience.


In addition to the captivating music, the Satchmo SummerFest features panel discussions, workshops, and seminars that delve into the history and influence of Louis Armstrong. These sessions provide valuable insights into Armstrong’s life, his impact on the jazz genre, and his enduring legacy.


One of the festival’s highlights is the “Trumpet Tribute” event, where renowned trumpet players gather to pay homage to the master himself, Louis Armstrong. This emotional and soul-stirring tribute brings together musicians who have been inspired by Armstrong’s unique style and contributions to the world of jazz.


The Satchmo SummerFest also celebrates New Orleans’ rich culinary traditions. Attendees can savor delicious Creole and Cajun dishes, indulge in local delicacies, and participate in cooking demonstrations led by renowned chefs. From gumbo and jambalaya to po’boys and beignets, the festival offers a feast for the senses.


Beyond the music and food, the Satchmo SummerFest embraces the vibrant culture and traditions of New Orleans. Attendees can explore art exhibits, participate in second line parades, and even learn how to dance the energetic and infectious steps of the “second line” – a traditional New Orleans dance.


By celebrating the life and music of Louis Armstrong, the Satchmo SummerFest embodies the spirit of New Orleans and its rich jazz heritage. It’s a festival that brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to honor a true musical icon and revel in the timeless art form of jazz.


Immerse yourself in the rhythm, let the melodies transport you, and experience the magic of the Satchmo SummerFest. It’s an event that celebrates the enduring power of jazz, brings people together through music, and keeps the spirit of Louis Armstrong alive and thriving.


New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) is a culinary extravaganza that showcases the rich gastronomic heritage of New Orleans. Held annually in the spring, this festival brings together renowned chefs, sommeliers, and winemakers from around the world to create a tantalizing experience for food and wine enthusiasts.


During NOWFE, attendees have the opportunity to indulge in a wide array of delectable dishes prepared by some of the city’s finest chefs. From traditional Creole and Cajun cuisine to innovative culinary creations, the festival offers a feast for the taste buds. Pairing these culinary delights with a selection of exquisite wines adds another layer of sensory pleasure.


The festival features numerous events and activities that cater to food and wine aficionados. Wine tastings, led by experts, allow attendees to explore and appreciate the diverse flavors, aromas, and characteristics of different wines. In addition, interactive seminars and cooking demonstrations provide valuable insights into the art of pairing food and wine.


Beyond the tastings and seminars, NOWFE offers a unique opportunity to meet and learn from acclaimed chefs and vintners. Visitors can engage in conversations, ask questions, and gain knowledge directly from the experts themselves. It’s a chance to deepen your understanding of the culinary world and enhance your own culinary skills.


One of the highlights of NOWFE is the Grand Tasting, where attendees can sample a wide variety of wines, spirits, and gourmet dishes from renowned restaurants in New Orleans. This grand showcase of flavors immerses visitors in the culinary wonders of the city, encapsulating the essence of New Orleans’ vibrant food and wine culture.


The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience not only celebrates the gastronomic delights of the city but also benefits the local community. NOWFE is a nonprofit organization that supports charitable initiatives in the culinary industry, including scholarships and grants for aspiring chefs and wine professionals.


Attending NOWFE is a treat for the senses, an opportunity to savor the finest culinary creations, and a chance to explore the world of wine in the heart of New Orleans. It’s a celebration of food, wine, and the art of gastronomy that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the flavors and traditions of this exceptional city.


Greek Festival

The Greek Festival in New Orleans is a vibrant celebration of Greek culture, traditions, and of course, mouthwatering cuisine. Held annually, this festival brings the flavors and spirit of Greece to the heart of the Crescent City, offering visitors a delightful immersion into the rich Hellenic heritage.


During the Greek Festival, attendees have the opportunity to indulge in an array of authentic Greek dishes, prepared with love and attention to detail. From classic favorites like moussaka and souvlaki to spanakopita and baklava, the festival’s food offerings are a feast for the senses. As you savor each bite, you’ll experience the unique flavors and ingredients that define Greek cuisine.


In addition to the culinary delights, the Greek Festival showcases the rich traditions and customs of Greece. Traditional music and dance performances take center stage, with lively Greek folk dances captivating audiences of all ages. The colorful costumes, energetic movements, and infectious music create a joyful atmosphere, inviting attendees to join in the festivities.


The festival also offers a glimpse into Greek art and crafts through various exhibits and demonstrations. From intricate pottery to beautiful icons and jewelry, attendees have the opportunity to appreciate the talent and craftsmanship of Greek artisans.


The Greek Festival is not just about food and entertainment; it’s also about community and hospitality. Greeks are known for their warm and welcoming nature, and this festival exemplifies that spirit. Whether you’re a long-time fan of Greek culture or someone experiencing it for the first time, you’ll be embraced as part of the community.


The festival’s Greek Marketplace provides a unique shopping experience, featuring booths filled with imported goods and artifacts from Greece. From olive oil and feta cheese to traditional clothing and souvenirs, there’s something for everyone looking to take a piece of Greece home with them.


The Greek Festival is a true celebration of the vibrant Greek culture and its contributions to the fabric of New Orleans. It brings people together through food, music, dance, and a warm sense of community. Whether you have Greek roots or simply a love for the culture, this festival will transport you to Greece and leave you with a deeper appreciation for its traditions and flavors.


Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival

The Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival is an annual event that brings the soulful sounds of Louisiana to the banks of the historic Bayou St. John in New Orleans. This festival celebrates the unique blend of music, art, and the vibrant spirit of the city’s neighborhoods.


As the name suggests, the Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival is a celebration of music, with a focus on Louisiana’s iconic genres such as blues, zydeco, jazz, and funk. Local musicians take to the stage to perform their soulful tunes, captivating the audience and setting the mood for a lively and electric atmosphere.


What sets the festival apart is its beautiful location along the Bayou St. John, providing a stunning backdrop for the performances and enhancing the overall experience. Attendees can relax on the grassy banks, dip their feet in the water, and enjoy the music as it flows through the air.


In addition to the live music, the Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival celebrates the vibrant art and culture of New Orleans. Local artisans showcase their creations, offering a diverse range of handmade crafts, artwork, and unique treasures. From colorful paintings to handcrafted jewelry, there’s something for every art lover to appreciate.


The festival also embraces the culinary traditions of Louisiana, with food vendors serving up a variety of delicious dishes. Whether you’re in the mood for spicy po’boys, fresh seafood, or traditional Creole specialties, you’ll find a mouthwatering array of options to satisfy your cravings.


One of the highlights of the Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival is the sense of community and togetherness that permeates the event. It brings neighbors, friends, and families together, fostering a sense of unity and celebrating the vibrant and diverse cultural fabric of New Orleans.


Attendees can participate in various activities and immerse themselves in the festival’s lively atmosphere. From dancing to the rhythmic beats of the music to browsing the art displays and enjoying the sights and sounds of the bayou, the festival offers an immersive experience for all the senses.


The Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival encompasses the essence of New Orleans, embracing the city’s rich musical heritage, cultural diversity, and the unifying power of community. With its beautiful setting, soul-stirring music, and vibrant atmosphere, it’s an event that will leave you with a lasting connection to the spirit and soul of Louisiana.



New Orleans is a city that knows how to celebrate life, and its festivals are a testament to the vibrant culture and rich heritage of this unique destination. From the world-famous Mardi Gras to the lesser-known gems like the Greek Festival and the Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival, there is a festival for every interest and every visitor.


These festivals are a celebration of music, food, art, and community. They provide an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture, experience the lively atmosphere, and create unforgettable memories. Whether you’re dancing in the streets during Mardi Gras, tasting the delectable dishes at the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, or enjoying the soulful melodies at the Satchmo SummerFest, each festival offers a unique experience that captures the essence of Louisiana.


The festivals of New Orleans are not only about entertainment; they also reflect the city’s commitment to preserving its rich traditions and promoting inclusivity. From honoring the legacy of Louis Armstrong at the Satchmo SummerFest to celebrating LGBTQ+ pride at the Southern Decadence Festival, these events showcase the diverse and welcoming spirit of the city.


Attending these festivals is not just about being a spectator; it’s about immersing yourself in the festivities, engaging with the local community, and creating lasting connections with the culture and people of New Orleans. From the lively parades and music performances to the tantalizing culinary offerings and vibrant art displays, each festival offers a multi-sensory experience that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for this enchanting destination.


So, pack your bags and get ready to experience the magic of the New Orleans festivals. Allow the infectious energy, lively music, and mouthwatering cuisine to engulf your senses as you embrace the rich history, diverse culture, and warm hospitality of Louisiana. Whether you’re a local or a first-time visitor, these festivals will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep longing to return to the festival capital of the United States.