Festival season starts on a high note in New Orleans this weekend: French Quarter Fest (starting Thursday) brings in more than 1,700 musicians plus dance lessons, film screenings, live interviews, and plenty of food. Also outdoors is the annual spring garden show in City Park on Saturday and Sunday, offering blooms for sale, lectures, and kid-friendly activities. Those looking for a more fast-paced event can head to NOLA Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. The other-worldly sculptures of the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are a fitting backdrop for NOMA’s film screening of ET: The Extra Terrestrial on Friday; also in film, the Digital Native Film Festival takes place on Saturday evening.
1. French Quarter Festival – A celebration of the oldest NOLA neighborhood, French Quarter Festival places a hefty emphasis on music and food. With 23 stages scattered across the French Quarter and Woldenberg Park, visitors will have no trouble immersing themselves in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood as they indulge in festival favorites like po-boys, daiquiris, and crawfish.
2. Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana – Continuing a longstanding tradition of sports in New Orleans, the city adds IndyCar racing to its ranks this year in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. A newly designed track at NOLA Motorsports Park pits ultra-fast cars against each other as they navigate twists and turns at a dizzying pace. Tickets are available online from $15.
3. ET: The Extra Terrestrial in Besthoff Sculpture Garden – The latest installment of the blockbuster-themed NOMA Movies in the Garden Series starts at 7:30 p.m. Food trucks like Rue Chow and La Cocinita will be on site starting at 5 p.m.; a gallery talk at 6:30 p.m. precedes the screening. Tickets are $10 for adults, though entrance is free with museum admission and for museum members.
4. Spring Garden Show – The New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park hosts an annual spring garden show with more than 50 horticultural exhibits plus family-friendly activities and lectures. Starting Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., the show continues on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 5-12; children ages 5 and younger are free.
5. Digital Native Film Festival – Artist-run non-profit gallery The Front hosts the Digital Native Film Festival starting at 7 p.m. Exploring concepts and processes of the video-making process, the festival features submissions from Canada, France, Sweden, Taiwan, and other countries.