Wait! Don’t stash your spirit of revelry in the attic just yet. March brings an end to the Mardi Gras festivities but also marks the start of spring festival season. From St. Patrick’s Day parades to the BUKU Music + Art Project to Super Sunday, March in New Orleans is anything but dull. Below is our roundup of just some of the many local happenings and things to do that are sure to leave you filled with memorable times with family, friends, significant others, or even good, solo time with yourself.
1. Cheer on some Weenies at the Fair Grounds
If you were expecting just horse racing at the track, you’re in for a treat. The seventh annual Wiener Dog Racing competition takes place on March 7, 2020 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. Each year, a collection of 40+ purebred dachshunds compete for cash prizes. Dogs are divided into four semi-final heats with twelve dogs each. The first, second, and third place wieners of each heat will then compete for the championship in the final race. Ever seen a bunch of wiener dogs run? It is sure to warm your heart. General admission is $6.50, with clubhouse admission at $11.50. Children twelve and younger are free.
2. Dine outdoors with an extra hour of sunlight
Daylights Savings Time is March 8, 2020, marking the unofficial start to spring and end of winter. Temperatures are glorious during March in New Orleans, so why not use that extra hour of sunlight to dine outdoors? Indulge in a happy hour or two, or seek out a balcony dining spot at one of the city’s best restaurants. Bring your planners and start scheduling how you’re gonna spend this jam-packed NOLA spring.
3. Slurp up a snowball
With spring right around the corner, seasonal snowball shops around town reopen their doors (or windows) after a hibernation lasting from November through February. Even though you can still find snowballs during the off-season, traditionalists enjoy saving these special treats for the warmer months. Locals are quite loyal to their favorite snowball stands, most of them part of the neighborhood fabric (like Hansen’s and Plum Street Snowballs). Bring some cash to your favorite snowball stand and order one of the dozens of flavors. Popular flavors include strawberry and bubble gum, but more complex flavors are emerging (my current favorite is Pandora’s praline cream with condensed milk).
4. Fill up on tacos at Top Taco
Top Taco returns for its fourth year celebrating its namesake, the taco. The festival takes place March 19, 2020 at Woldenberg Park, and admission includes unlimited sampling of tacos and signature cocktails from participating restaurants such as Araña, Baru, Central City BBQ, El Pavo Real, La Casita, and more. Top Taco will benefit The PLEASE Foundation, which provides mentoring, leadership training, and scholarships to at-risk New Orleans students.
5. Wear green for St. Patrick’s Day
Just when you thought you would have to wait another year to revel at a parade, St. Patrick’s Day festivities roll onto the scene. In New Orleans, the biggest celebrations are the weekend of March 13-15 and include block parties at Parasol’s and Tracy’s in the Irish Channel (March 14), as well as parades: catch throws like cabbage and Irish Spring soap at the Irish Channel parade (March 14 at 1 p.m.), or sip a frozen Irish coffee during the Molly’s at the Market Irish Parade (March 13 at 6 p.m.). The Downtown Irish Club, a marching club, works its way from Markey’s and Bud Rip’s in the Bywater to the French Quarter starting at 6 p.m. on Tues., March 17.
6. Sip a good drink at the Bourbon Festival
If you can appreciate a fine bourbon and are searching for a sophisticated evening out, the fourth annual New Orleans Bourbon Festival from March 11-14, 2020 is just up your alley. In addition to tastings in an environment reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy, the festival offers a seminar component, with sessions on topics like Bourbon History, grand tastings, bourbon pairing dinners, a Trixie Minx burlesque show, and more.
7. Lose yourself at BUKU Music + Art Project
Better known as BUKU, the BUKU Music + Art Project is a music festival with an underground/house party vibe. Dozens of musicians, particularly within the EDM, hip-hop, and indie rock genres, take to the stages on March 20 and 21 at Mardi Gras World. This year’s lineup includes Tyler the Creator, Flume, Illenium, Glass Animals, Megan Thee Stallion, Charli XCX, and more. In addition to the music, the festival will host art exhibits and pop-up street performers.
8. Indulge in the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
Every spring, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience brings over 1,000 wines from around the world to one place. Enjoy grand tastings, promenade through the French Quarter, and take part in special dining events throughout the festival. Get schooled by wine professionals on their craft, party in style at the Tournament of Rosés, and enjoy a burlesque show and brunch to close out the fest. NOWFE takes place from March 18-22, 2020 in downtown New Orleans.
9. Celebrate the Super Sunday tradition
Feathered and sequined, “gangs” of Mardi Gras Indians will take to the streets on March 22 for their most important day of the year: Super Sunday. Mardi Gras Indians, a subculture of local Carnival traditions that emerged amidst racial tensions in the 1800s, today are a cherished part of the city’s living heritage. The largest and most popular celebration, put on by the Mardi Gras Indian Council, takes place in Central City, beginning around noon at A.L. Davis Park on the corner of Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street. At Super Sunday, observe the intricate handmade costumes that the Indians spend all year working on and dance to music in the street. As a sign of respect, only take photos of the Indians if they give you permission.
10. Get your fava bean at the St. Joseph’s Day parade
According to legend, in the Middle Ages, Sicily was afflicted by a drought. Desperate, citizens prayed to St. Joseph, their patron saint, for rain. During this difficult time, the people were sustained by the fava bean, and, once the rains came and the drought ended, they promised to give thanks each year on the Feast of St. Joseph. That mythology and tradition traveled to New Orleans with Sicilian immigrants in the mid-1800s. Today’s local celebrations of St. Joseph’s Day come in the form of a parade as well as altars in Catholic churches and homes across the city (many open to the public). The annual parade, put on by the Italian-American St. Joseph’s Society, begins at 6:00 p.m. on March 21, 2020 (though St. Joseph’s Day is actually March 19) at the intersection of Convention Center Boulevard and Girod Street and winds through the French Quarter. Catch a kiss, if you want it, or a lucky fava bean, from a marching man in a tuxedo.
11. Indulge in Seafood during Lent
Ash Wednesday (February 26) is the start of Lent, the solemn period when Catholics divest themselves of excess. As part of Lenten observance, Catholics fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, often opting for seafood. In New Orleans, this may or may not be considered a hardship because our seafood is seasoned to perfection and world-renowned. Either way, take the opportunity during March to eat out at one of the many local seafood establishments like Casamento’s, Frankie and Johnny’s, GW Fins, or Pêche. Alternatively, grab a fried shrimp or oyster po-boy at one of the many po-boy shops around town. Or, get real casual and enjoy a platter of crawfish (do as the locals do and suck the heads) at a neighborhood bar like Markey’s or Mid City Yacht Club. The Lenten season continues all throughout March.
12. Celebrate dance in New Orleans
March in New Orleans is prime time for ballet in the city. The New Orleans Ballet Theater returns for the spring season with Spring Collection, an evening of contemporary and Neo-classical works by award-winning local and international choreographers (March 27-28 at Le Petit Theatre). The New Orleans Ballet Association welcomes Houston Ballet, returning to New Orleans for the first time in over a decade, with a performance that spotlights the company’s legacy (March 28 at Mahalia Jackson Theater). Marigny Opera Ballet’s Follies of 1915 returns following a sold-out performance in 2018 (March 27 at Marigny Opera House).
13. Attend the Tennessee Williams Festival
The annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, now in its 34th year, is scheduled for March 25-29, 2020. A celebration of the life and works of playwright Tennessee Williams, best known for his play A Streetcar Named Desire, the 2020 festival will includes writer’s craft sessions, panel discussions, celebrity interviews, theater, food, and music events, walking tours, a book fair, and more.
14. Eat up at Hogs for the Cause
Meat-lovers, look no further than the annual Hogs for the Cause to indulge your cravings. A festival designed to raise money to support families of children with brain cancer, Hogs has quickly become a local favorite. Scheduled for March 27-28, the festival is centered around a friendly competition among barbecue chefs. Each year, 85 local and regional barbecue chefs, professional and not, compete in seven categories: Whole Hog, Ribs, Pork Butt/Shoulder, Porkpourri, Sauce, Fan Favorite, and Fundraising Champion. The barbecue is complimented by local beer and live music. In the fiscal year of 2019 alone, the Hogs team has been able to distribute grants and made charitable contributions of nearly one million dollars, reaching families from 41 out of 50 states.
15. Awe at local church architecture
Religious or not, Lent is a perfect time to visit some of New Orleans’ historic churches and other religious buildings. Due to its French and Spanish (and then French again) colonial past, New Orleans was and still is a very Catholic city. As neighborhoods around the city developed and expanded, churches were built to serve the Catholic populations of those areas. Many churches, like Immaculate Conception, St. Augustine, and Holy Name of Jesus are still active places of worship. However, as the composition of neighborhoods has changed, some churches have inevitably fallen out of use religiously but have been restored for other purposes. The Marigny Opera House and Felicity Church are two such examples.