The Ultimate New Orleans Festival Guide

By: Jyl Benson

June 26, 2014

With its world famous cuisine, diverse population and rich musical heritage, New Orleanians have plenty to celebrate. The New Orleans social calendar is fit-to-bursting with arts, food, LGBT, literary, film, multicultural, music, and theatre events, that keep the city entertained all year-round. Take a look at our ultimate New Orleans festival guide for the top dates to ink into your diary.

These exciting celebrations range from one-day community affairs like the Po-Boy Festival in the city’s Carrollton neighbourhood to massive multi-million dollar productions like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which attracts over half a million visitors and musical performers from all over the world.

Here are a few favourites from our New Orleans festival guide:


Tales of the Cocktail Festival

Sample an array of tasty cocktails at America’s premier cocktail festival in July © Dan Silvers/Flickr

Essence Festival (first weekend)

A showcase for African American musical talent, this event also features speakers on empowerment and the cultural experience. This year’s 20th anniversary festival will feature Prince, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie and more.

Tales of the Cocktail (mid July)

A five-day celebration, this is America’s premier cocktail festival, with top minds in bar culture offering seminars, mixing competitions, and “spirited” luncheons and dinners in and around the French Quarter. Liquor brands showcase their products in tasting rooms.


Satchmo Summerfest

Follow the melodic parades celebrating New Orlean’s legendary musical hero Louis Armstrong © Derek Bridges/Flickr

Satchmo SummerFest (early August)

Three days of outdoor concerts, music history seminars, jazz exhibitions, a jazz Mass, a second-line parade, and local food, this American Jazz Festival is dedicated to the life, legacy, and music of New Orleans’ native son, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.


Southern Decadence

Enjoy the flamboyance and fun that the Southern Decadence brings © Michael Nyika/Flickr

Southern Decadence (last weekend)

New Orleans’ premier gay pride event, Southern Decadence is held annually and welcomes over 125,000 people from all over the world to “strut their stuff” in elaborate costumes and high fashion””or pretty much nothing at all. There are drag shows, contests, DJs, music, and events, including a Gay Walking Tour.


Crawfish Boil | New Orleans Festival Guide

Enjoy an array of seafood dishes like this at the Louisiana Seafood Festival © ALDodson/iStock/Thinkstock

Ponderosa Stomp (mid month)

This American roots music festival recognises the creators of rock-n-roll, blues, jazz, country, swamp pop, reggae and soul in music venues and clubs across the city.

Louisiana Seafood Festival (mid month)

This free, three-day celebration of seafood from the nearby Gulf of Mexico is held on the riverfront with an extensive roster of bands, celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, local arts, and

Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (mid month)

A free weekend festival, held in the city’s business district, presents many top blues and roots performers from southern Louisiana and Mississippi, plus loads of BBQ and works of art from local craftspeople.

New Orleans Film Festival (mid month)

New and established filmmakers premiere their latest full-length features, shorts, animation and music videos in theatres around town.

Voodoo Music Experience (last weekend)

A three-day rock and alternative music, craft, and culture festival takes place among the centuries-old oak trees in City Park with numerous stages, an amusement park, local food and beverages and art. Each day begins with local bands and closes late with big-name headliners. Camping options are available.


The Soul Rebels Perform at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival

The free Treme Creole Gumbo Festival is a popular day out for locals each year © Eric Simon/New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation

Words and Music Festival (mid month)

Emerging and established authors come together around the former home of William Faulkner for a chance to showcase their latest works in a city that has inspired countless authors.

Treme Creole Gumbo Festival (second weekend)

Held in Congo Square, this free festival celebrates the long heritage of the oldest neighbourhood of free African Americans with food, music and crafts. In addition to many different styles of gumbo (Louisiana’s signature stew) the focus here is on traditional jazz and brass band music.

Fringe Festival (mid month)

Featuring the works of unproduced playwrights as well as nurturing budding writers, this festival bills itself as “the festival of the wild, weird, fresh, and original”. Around 100 stage productions in drama, comedy, dance, improvisation, pantomime, musical theatre, puppetry, and storytelling are staged in small neighbourhood theatres and in local bars.

Oak Street Po-Boy Fest (mid month)

Oak Street Po-Boy Fest celebrates the city’s signature sandwich on historic Oak Street in the Carrollton neighbourhood. Expect live music, arts, and booths offering many different types of po-boys.


Christmas in New Orleans Square

Pretty Christmas decorations are hung through the streets of New Orleans © Anna Fox/Flickr

Christmas New Orleans Style! (all month )

A celebration of uniquely New Orleans Christmas activities, including concerts, restaurants, and hotel specials throughout the city.


Tennessee Williams Literary Festival (mid month)

The famed playwright called the city his “spiritual home” and this popular gathering focuses on the literary contributions of Southern writers through seminars, panel discussions and workshops over the course of several days.


Accordion Player Enlivens the Crowd at the French Quarter Festival

An accordion player keeps the crowds entertained at French Quarter Festival, Louisiana’s largest free music festival © Jay Combe

French Quarter Festival (mid April)

The United States’ largest free music festival, with over 21 stages, rocks the French Quarter and the riverfront throughout the four-day weekend with traditional and contemporary jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, Cajun and Zydeco, New Orleans funk, classical, swing, rock, and international sounds. A firm favourite amoung festivalgoers is sampling the food on offer, which is fondly referred to as the “world’s largest jazz brunch.”

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (last weekend in April and the first in May)

With the exception of Mardi Gras, this is New Orleans’ biggest visitor attraction. Held at the historic Fair Grounds racetrack, this is the celebration of the unique culture and heritage of New Orleans and Louisiana. With 12 stages of music””jazz, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk, and much more””this festival also offers heaps of local and regional delicacies, one-of-a-kind handmade arts and crafts, second line parades and more.


Bayou Boogaloo

The three-day festival has an array of entertainment and attractions that cover the creative worlds of food, music and arts © Mark Gstohl/Flickr

Bayou Boogaloo (mid May)

Held a little off the main tourist trail in one of the most scenic sections of New Orleans, the banks of Bayou St. John is the site for this free, three-day festival featuring music, food, arts and handicrafts and other sensory delights in celebration of the city’s centrally located waterway.

New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (end of May)

Thousands gather for this festival, highlighting the city’s legendary restaurants along with the world’s best wines. Hundreds of wineries are represented and over 800 vintages poured at a series of indoor and outdoor events.


Bloody Mary and the Tomato Queen Meet Up at the French Market Creole Tomato Festival

Bloody Mary and the Tomato Queen Meet Up at the French Market Creole Tomato Festival ©  Stephen Binns/ SoFAB Institute

Cajun Zydeco Festival (mid month)

A free two-day festival in Armstrong Park celebrates two of Louisiana’s signature sounds with swingin’ Cajun and Zydeco music, fabulous food and colourful crafts.

Creole Tomato Festival (early June)

A celebration of New Orleans’ favourite summer food in the historic French Market, the oldest urban outdoors market in the U.S.

Header image: Mardi Gras Indians at the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival © Eric Simon/New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation

Visiting New Orleans has never been easier with our partnership with Delta with daily flights across the Atlantic.

Have you visited any of the events in our New Orleans festival guide? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Jyl Benson


Jyl Benson

A native of New Orleans, Jyl Benson has over two decades of experience as a journalist, editor, and writer, with a concentration in southern American culture, cuisine, and heritage.

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