Springtime in New Orleans means one thing: it’s festival season, baby. Once March hits, the festivals are nonstop through the summertime and fall, sometimes with multiple festivals on the same weekend. With the right planning, you can conquer the New Orleans Spring Festival lineup like a local. Clear your schedules (and your bellies) and plot out your festival plans with our list of the most-anticipated NOLA springtime festivals.
Spring Festivals in New Orleans
Food, music, and all: catch these spring festivals in New Orleans
March 11-May 13
Each spring, the Young Leadership Council presents a free, weekly concert series featuring favorite local musicians. On Wednesdays from 5-8 p.m., Lafayette Square in downtown New Orleans fills up with locals leaving work and tourists fresh from a day of sightseeing. Unwind with an Abita beer in hand while dancing to New Orleans’ best artists. Food, drink, and craft vendors also participate. Free.
This year marks the fourth year of the New Orleans Bourbon Festival. The four-day festival includes a Bourbon seminar series, grand tastings, dinners, and more. Ticket prices vary.
Despite the end of Carnival season and the onset of Lent, revelry in New Orleans sees no end. St. Patrick’s Day festivities span an entire weekend of March and include block parties at Parasol’s and Tracy’s in the Irish Channel as well as parades: catch throws like cabbage and Irish Spring soap at the Irish Channel parade, or sip a frozen Irish coffee during the Molly’s at the Market & Jim Monaghan’s Parade. Free.
One of the most unique New Orleans neighborhood traditions, Super Sunday is perhaps the most visible day of the year for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras Indians. Each year come springtime, Mardi Gras Indian tribes dress in their elaborate, hand-beaded and feathered suits and march across town. The most popular of these parades begins at A.L. Davis Park and winds through the Central City neighborhood. Free.
The New Orleans Food & Wine Experience is an annual food and wine festival that has grown to attract more than 7,000 participants. The event features wine and food tastings, a Royal Street Stroll second line, wine dinners, educational seminars, and more. Ticket prices vary.
Joining the newer ranks of the festival echelon, Top Taco celebrates its namesake with proceeds benefiting a different nonprofit every year. This year’s recipient is The PLEASE Foundation, which provides mentoring, leadership training, and scholarships to at-risk students in New Orleans. Admission includes unlimited sampling of tacos and signature cocktails from participating restaurants like Barracuda, Nacho Mama’s, Justine, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar, Otra Vez, and more. General admission entry is 7 p.m. at Woldenberg Park. Tickets start at $60.
BUKU Music + Art Project is a two-day alternative music festival that highlights EDM, hip-hop, and indie rock. This year, the festival will feature big-name artists including Tyler the Creator, Flume, and Illenium, as well as art installations and pop-up street artist performances. Tickets start at $110.
Celebrate all things French with this outdoor festival hosted annually by Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle-Orléans. As a fundraiser for the school, the festival keeps New Orleans’ French heritage alive with food, live entertainment, and children’s activities. Stop by 821 General Pershing St. on March 21 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free.
Founded in 1986, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, named for the famous playwright, unites literature lovers from far and wide for a week of unique events. Take part in master classes for aspiring writers, panels, live theater, literary celebrations, and educational walking tours. Ticket prices vary.
Hogs for the Cause is a pork-centric festival and contest featuring 90 barbecue chefs competing in multiple categories, including whole hog, ribs, and Porkpourri. Music acts include Yola, Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Sweet Crude, and more. Proceeds from the festival benefit families with children fighting pediatric brain cancer. Tickets from $30.
Founded as a way to reach the community with information about HIV/AIDS, this three-day festival features panel discussions, master classes, a fiction contest, and other literary events focused on LGBT literature. LGBT publishers, writers, authors, and readers will gather for the 17th annual festival this year. Tickets start at $25.
Acadiana comes to the city when The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation hosts the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival in Armstrong Park. This two-day, free fest will make you want to hop out of your seat and get down with the best of them. Work on your Cajun two-step – and lest we forget all of the Acadiana food staples: boudin, alligator, and, of course, fresh Louisiana seafood. This year’s festival features performances by BeauSoleil, Sean Ardoin, Corey Ledet, Lil’ Nathan, Jeffrey Broussard and more. Free.
When the neighborhood began its resurgence, a festival sprang up around it in the 1990s. Now, with over 150 local vendors, live music stages, and food and drink vendors, the Freret Street Festival is one of the premier neighborhood festivals in the city. Free.
Easter Sunday in New Orleans is celebrated with — you guessed it — parades. Three parades roll through the French Quarter on Easter day beginning with the Historic French Quarter Easter Parade (9:45 a.m.), which parades to mass at St. Louis Cathedral, followed by the Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade (1:00 p.m.), culminating with the Gay Easter Parade (4:30 p.m.). All extravagant, and all free.
French Quarter Fest is one of the country’s largest free festivals, featuring lots of great local music, food, and drinks. The festival reroutes traffic so that locals and visitors alike can dance in the streets. This year’s lineup includes the Nayo Jones Experience, Amanda Shaw, Deltaphonic, Robin Barnes & The Fiyabirds, Soul Rebels, Tremé Brass Band, and much, much more. Free.
April 23-May 3
Celebrating its 51st year, Jazz Fest is arguably the most anticipated event in New Orleans, after Mardi Gras. Taking place at the Fairgrounds across two weekends and on numerous stages, festival-goers show up in huge numbers for both the music and the food. Jazz Fest 2020 features internationally recognized musicians such as The Who, Dead & Company, Foo Fighters, Stevie Nicks, Lizzo, Lionel Richie, The Black Crowes, and others. Also taking the stage this year are local favorites Big Freedia, Tank and the Bangas, Trombone Shorty, and the Rebirth Brass Band. Though the music really is the highlight of the festival, make plans to try the food (think Cochon de lait po-boys, Mango Freeze, and Crawfish Monica). Ticket prices vary.
Held at Central City BBQ, NOLA Crawfish Festival combines an all-star lineup of local musicians with the tastiest, most flavorful crawfish for three nights of good eating and good times. On the music lineup, you’ll find Anders Osborne, Iceman Special, Ivan Neville & Friends, and more. Stop in at NOLA Crawfish Fest from 3-10 p.m. nightly. Tickets start at $35.
Head downtown to Julia Street for this block party, traditionally held on the first weekend in May. From 5:30-11 p.m., enjoy live music, drinks, and access to the latest exhibitions from participating galleries along the block. Free.
Come on down to Bayou St. John for Bayou Boogaloo from May 15-17, 2020. Over 25 food and drink vendors from Mid-City restaurants will be available for purchase at this festival. All day long, catch back-to-back live music performances while relaxing near the beautiful bayou. Admission is $10 per day or $20 for all three days.
The festival, held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on 1200 Robert E. Lee Blvd., includes traditional Greek cuisine, Hellenic dancing, cathedral tours, cooking demonstrations, a marketplace, live entertainment, and much more. Head on over to Bayou St. John and spend the weekend enjoying the best of Greek Fest. Tickets are $8; wear a tasteful toga on Sunday and attend the festival for free.
Lagniappe: Festivals Outside of New Orleans
Make it a day trip: these festivals add another layer of fun to your outside-the-city adventure
Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival — This festival held in Ponchatoula, about 50 minutes outside the city, celebrates the famous Pontchatoula strawberries April 3 -5. Carnival rides, games, entertainment, music, crafts, and food (featuring strawberries, of course) are all a part of this event. Don’t forget to stop by strawberry bake-off while enjoying some of the more adventurous strawberry treats. Free.
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival — The two-and-a-half hour drive to Breaux Bridge is well worth it for their annual Crawfish Festival on May 1-3. Before heading to the “crawfish capital of the world,” brush up on your eating technique and crawfish knowledge with our infographic. Tickets range from $5 to $15.
May 22 – 24
Jambalaya Festival — Head to Gonzales (about an hour outside New Orleans) for Jambalaya Fest happening May 22-24. The traditional Louisiana dish – spicy and savory – is the star, but other events include a cooking contest, pageant, and live entertainment. Free.