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New Orleans Spring Festivals: Don’t Miss a Beat

Jazz Fest gets the glory (and rightfully so), but check out our list of other top spring festivals in New Orleans.

French Quarter Festival
French Quarter Fest is one of the city's many free and fantastic spring festivals (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

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

Top Taco

March 14

Joining the newer ranks of the festival echelon, Top Taco celebrates its namesake with proceeds benefiting Foster NOLA, which serves foster children in the New Orleans area. Admission includes unlimited sampling of tacos and signature cocktails from participating restaurants like Cochon Butcher, Rum House, La Cocinita, Johnny Sanchez, and more. The event begins at 7 p.m. in Woldenberg Park. Tickets start at $55. *Editor’s Note: Top Taco has been postponed to Thursday, May 16 due to inclement weather.

St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans (Photo: Paul Broussard)

St. Patrick’s Day Parades

March 14-16

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. 

The Golden Blades Mardi Gras Indians. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Super Sunday

March 17

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 costumes and march across town. The most popular of these parades begins at A.L. Davis Park and winds through the Central City neighborhood. Free.

New Orleans Bourbon Festival

March 20-23

This year marks the third year of the New Orleans Bourbon Festival. The four-day festival includes a Bourbon seminar series, grand tastings, dinners, and more. Ticket prices vary.

Wednesday at the Square (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Wednesday at the Square

March 20-May 22

Each spring, the Young Leadership Council presents a free, weekly concert series featuring favorite local musicians. On Wednesdays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 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. 

BUKU Music + Art Project

March 22-23

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 Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky, Ella Mai, and Louis the Child, as well as art installations and pop-up street artist performances. Tickets start at $115.

Fête Française

March 23
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 the fest March 23 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. this spring. Free.

The Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Tennessee Williams Literary Festival

March 27-31

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.

A festive atmosphere at Hogs for the Cause. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
A festive atmosphere at Hogs for the Cause. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Hogs for the Cause

March 29-30

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 the Grammy Award-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers, Boyfriend, Trampled by Turtles, and more. Proceeds from the festival benefit research for pediatric brain cancer. Tickets from $30.

Saints and Sinners Literary Festival

March 29-31
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 16th annual festival this year. Tickets start at $25.

African dancers at Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival

March 30-31

This family-friendly, two-day festival at the epicenter of Jazz music’s origins celebrates the African diaspora culture of New Orleans. The 12th annual Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival features beats and dance from Africa, the Caribbean, and the American Gulf South. This year’s performers include the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band, the Original Pinettes Brass Band, and more. The festival is held in Armstrong Park. Free.

New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

April 3-7

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.

Gasa Gasa on Freret Street. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
Gasa Gasa on Freret Street. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Freret Street Festival 

April 6

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.

French Quarter Fest (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

French Quarter Fest

April 11-14

Celebrating its 35th year, 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 French Quarter streets. This year’s lineup includes the Lost Bayou Ramblers, Irma Thomas, the Soul Rebels, Galactic, Mia Borders, Amanda Shaw, and much, much more. Free. 

Easter Parades

April 21

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.

The one, the only: Jazz Fest. (Photo via New Orleans Tourism & Marketing)
The one, the only: Jazz Fest. (Photo via New Orleans Tourism & Marketing)

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

April 25-May 5

Celebrating its 50th year, Jazz Fest is arguably the most anticipated event in New Orleans, after Mardi Gras. Taking place at the Fairgrounds across two weekend and on numerous stages, festival-goers show up in huge numbers for both the music and the food. Jazz Fest 2019 features internationally recognized musicians such as Katy Perry, Earth, Wind & Fire, Dave Matthews Band, Jimmy Buffett, Diana Ross, Pitbull, and others. Also taking the stage this year are local favorites Tank and the Bangas, Irma Thomas, 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.

NOLA Crawfish Festival

April 29-May 1
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 Soul Brass Band, Anders Osborne, and more. Stop in at NOLA Crawfish Fest April 29-May 1 from 3-10 p.m. nightly. Tickets start at $35.

Explore the latest at galleries like Le Mieux Gallery during Jammin’ on Julia (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Jammin’ on Julia

May 4
Head downtown to Julia Street for this block party on May 4. From 5:30-11 p.m., enjoy live music, drinks, and access to the latest exhibitions from participating galleries along the block. Free.

Crawfish Mambo

May 11
Sample crawfish all day long at Crawfish Mambo, the event where dozens of competing teams go head-to-head for the ultimate crawfish bragging rights. Keep your appetite up by dancing to live music and browsing the Mambo Arts Village. The 8th annual Crawfish Mambo is from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the University of New Orleans. Advance tickets are $25 here.

Bayou Boogaloo

May 17-19
Come on down to Bayou St. John for Bayou Boogaloo, taking place from May 17-19, 2019. Food from over 25 food and drink vendors from Mid-City restaurants will be available for purchase at this festival. All day long at the festival, catch back-to-back live music performances while relaxing near the bayou. Admission is $10 per day or $20 for all three days.

Greek Fest (Photo: Paul Broussard)

New Orleans Greek Festival

May 24-26
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 From April 12-14, this festival (held in Ponchatoula, about 50 minutes outside the city) celebrates the famous Pontchatoula strawberries. 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 3-5, 2019. 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.

Jambalaya Festival Head to Gonzales (about an hour outside New Orleans) for Jambalaya Fest happening May 24-26. The traditional Louisiana dish – spicy and savory – is the star, but other events include a cooking contest, pageant, and live entertainment. Free.

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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