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12 Things to Do at French Quarter Fest

There’s a whole lot of music going on, but that’s not all. Check out these things to do at French Quarter Fest, from dancing the jitterbug to chowing down.

French Quarter Fest Dancing
There are countless festivals to choose from in New Orleans and beyond. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Every April, the French Quarter neighborhood comes alive with music even more than usual. This year, French Quarter Festival takes place April 11-14, 2019. The festival ushers in 1,700+ local and regional musicians doin’ their thing under historic iron balconies and the iconic architecture of St. Louis Cathedral and across 23 stages at the festival. Music is clearly the star, but we’ve put together a list of this year’s other can’t-miss moments. Behold, the 12 best things to do at French Quarter Fest.

12 Things to Do at French Quarter Fest

1. Kick Off the Fest with a Second Line — Thursday, April 11 is the perfect day to second line, don’t you think? This mini-parade starts on the 100 block of Bourbon Street at 10 a.m. and heads to Jackson Square.

Swing dancing at French Quarter Festival. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
Swing dancing at French Quarter Festival. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

2. Learn to Dance (for a Song!) — The French Market Traditional Jazz Stage and the Chevron Cajun-Zydeco Showcase stages host free dance classes Friday through Sunday to teach you moves like Traditional Jazz, 1920s Charleston, Swing Dance, Cajun Jitterbug, and Zydeco. Local, professional dancers from NOLA Jitterbugs and Dance Quarter lead each class.

3. Eat Crawfish at the Mint — Rouses Supermarket offers hot crawfish with all the fixin’s for just $10. Heck, gather the squad and go in on the crawfish family platter for $40. Chow down at the Old U.S. Mint, located at the corner of Decatur Street and Esplanade Avenue, just across from the French Market.

Eating crawfish at French Quarter Fest is a springtime rite of passage. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)
Eating crawfish at French Quarter Fest is a springtime rite of passage. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

4. Try the Krispy Kreme bread pudding at the Boucherie Stand — Traditional bread pudding gets an upgrade by way of everyone’s favorite donuts (except District Donuts, of course).

5. Cool Down at the Indoor Events — Hot jazz and warm weather? Cool off by stepping into the New Orleans Jazz Museum (formerly the U.S. Mint), which is deliciously air-conditioned and also hosts drop-in programming like Let Them Talk: Conversations on Louisiana Music from noon until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.

6. Check Out a Smaller Stage — Main stages get the glory, but at French Quarter Festival, you’ll benefit from the sounds and sights at smaller stages like Royal St. or Bourbon St. Nestled into the fabric of the neighborhood, these stages truly give you a sense of the history of the French Quarter.

You'll find me near the Esplanade in the Shade or the Barracks Street Brass Band Jam Stages at the Old U.S. Mint a lot -- it's got the Rouses Boiled Crawfish set up among a lot of other delicious food vendors, and two of the funkiest, most fun stages of music in one (shady) spot.
The Esplanade in the Shade stage at French Quarter Festival. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

7. Enjoy a brass band At French Quarter Fest, expect to hear the sounds of brass bands echoing throughout downtown New Orleans. This year, multiple brass bands are on tap to perform, including the Tremé Brass Band, Soul Brass Band, and Rebirth Brass Band, just to name a few.

8. Treat Yo’self to a Plum Street Snowball — Cool and icy with the option to spike. These snowballs are a must.

9. Try Some of This Year’s New Vendors — You can’t go wrong with a classic like Rouse’s crawfish or a Galatoire’s po-boy, but 2019 welcomes several new (and delicious) vendors. See the full food lineup for both new and returning vendors.

A po-boy from Galatoire's is always a French Quarter Fest favorite, alongside new vendors like The Big Cheesy and Rum House. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
A po-boy from Galatoire’s is always a French Quarter Fest favorite. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

10. Browse the local shops — Instead of an arts market or arts village, French Quarter Fest makes it a priority to boost local business by encouraging festival-goers to check out shops located in the French Quarter. Visit art galleries, clothing stores, and shops with locally made crafts and jewelry while at the festival.

11. Get Yo Fiyo — Join the Professor Longhair Symposium at the New Orleans Jazz Museum on Friday, April 12 from 11:30 a.m. – 4p.m. and follow the path of Fess, as he’s fondly known by many locals, from his early life in Bogalusa, Louisiana to his life in New Orleans and his influence on rhythm and blues, Carnival, the Mardi Gras Indians, and the city as a whole.

12. Dance at Dusk –Dance and swing at this festival favorite on Sunday, April 14 with The Tomcats at the 400 block of Royal Street  from 6:00 p.m.-7:15 p.m. Go along a ‘Sentimental Journey’ with the sounds of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Count Basie and other favorites from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

For an inside look at French Quarter Fest, see our GoNOLA video below:

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