This year’s New Orleans Voodoo Music + Arts Experience is going to be like no other, with a new home in City Park’s brand new Festival Grounds – there’s more room to spread out and explore the convergence of neighborhoods, geography and culture of Mid-City, Faubourg Saint John, City Park and beyond. Consider this your personal guide to the best New Orleans has to offer while you’re in town rocking out at Voodoo Fest.
Locals like me (I’m a native and Faubourg St. John homeowner, welcome to Mid-City!) have long held dear the village-like enclave of neighborhoods surrounding Bayou St. John, the defining water feature of the area and the border of City Park — and this year’s Voodoo. It’s a sportsman’s paradise year-round, with kayaks and paddleboards available for rent, grassy banks perfect to jog or saunter on, and concrete nooks along the water begging you to watch the lazy bayou with friends.
Where to Eat and Drink
Terrific Ethnic Eats: Lola’s on Esplanade has slow-cooked Spanish paellas and Andalusian ajoblanco almond soup. On Carrollton Avenue, try Taqueria Guerrero for no-frills tacos and agua frescas and simple, authentic Mexican cuisine, or Angelo Brocato’s for traditional local gelato, cookies, espresso and pastries. There’s nearby Cafe Minh on Canal Street for modern Vietnamese and Little Tokyo for sushi and other Japanese fare.
Neighborhood Favorites: Café Degas is known for traditional French brasserie food like onion soup and hanger steaks with pomme frites and its cool atmosphere. Toups’ Meatery brings contemporary Cajun food to Mid-City with boudin balls, house charcuterie and adventurous locavore dishes like lamb neck with mint chow chow, a massive pork chop, and a pork & beef burger (at lunch) worth writing home about. Parkway Bakery and Tavern is famous for Poor Boys – I love the roast beef and fried shrimp ones.
Liuzza’s By the Track, located on the outskirts of the New Orleans Fair Grounds, dishes out a decadent BBQ shrimp po-boy and a tasty shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo. McHardy’s Chicken & Fixin’ on Broad Street has the lock on the best fried chicken to-go in the neighborhood, Katie’s has brunch favorites and crowd-pleasing neighborhood restaurant food like cochon de lait pizza and large pasta plates, while the tiny Rue 127 on Carrollton is all about New American cuisine like diver scallops with fried egg and white beans, and duck breast with dirty rice and grilled kale.
Where the locals drink: The Mid-City outpost of Felipe’s Taqueria in the new Mid-City Market on Carrollton boasts skilled mixologists, a pisco-centric cocktail list and a full bar (and proximity to ubiquitous Pinkberry, Five Guys and Pei Wei, too).
Pal’s Lounge offers a true neighborhood bar experience with air hockey and lots of local color, Roll-a-Day and good cocktails. Twelve Mile Limit is known for craft cocktails at Service Industry Night prices, good food and a living-room like atmosphere. Chickie Wah Wah is the best live music venue in Mid-City (also good sandwiches). Bayou Beer Garden boasts a huge outdoor deck and is the neighborhood’s de facto sports bar (wings or disco fries, anyone?), and for something dive-ier, the Seahorse Saloon on Gentilly Blvd. will fit the bill and leave money in your pocket for the jukebox.
Start your day off right: Wakin’ Bakin’ does breakfast and lunch in a tiny Banks Street kitchen and dining room, Gracious Bakery has superb pastries, breads and sandwiches and Seventh Ward fave The Buttermilk Drop Bakery is the spot for donuts. Get caffeine at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse–they use fair trade coffee.
The Essentials: Terranova’s traditional mom & pop grocery store has a great butcher counter and early risers on Saturdays (only) can snag their overstuffed Muffaletta. Canseco’s is a larger neighborhood market across the street on Esplanade, Rouse’s on Carrollton is the largest local supermarket, and Morning Call in City Park will fix those beignet and cafe au lait cravings 24/7. Swirl is a charming boutique wine store off Esplanade with wines by the glass and cheese/charcuterie available, as well as a knowledgeable friendly staff. Lagniappe: Norma’s Sweets Bakery for ceviche, sweets and savory Latin American foods to go.
What To Do Near The Festival Grounds
The New Orleans Museum of Art is adjacent to Voodoo Fest, and its Besthoff Sculpture Garden boasts free admission year-round. Rent kayaks from Bayou Kayaks or stand up and paddle board smoothly down the bayou with NOLA PaddleBoards. There are 36 holes of mini golf at City Putt and other activities and attractions daily in City Park. St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 is one of NOLA’s most interesting and well maintained cemeteries just a block from the entrance to the Museum.
What To Do After-Hours in New Orleans
Can’t get enough music and want to continue the party after Voodoo Music + Arts Experience turns in for the night to get its beauty rest for another fun-filled day? There is an abundance of options for music and dancing after-hours in New Orleans.
Friday, November 1 – Revolution II: A Prince Dance Party with DJ Soul Sister and the DMSR Dancers at One Eyed Jacks on Toulouse in the French Quarter will be a total blast. Day of the Dead party with Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes plus The New Orleans Suspects at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street is sure to be an only-in-NOLA kind of experience.
Saturday, November 2 – If you’re in the mood to see one of the most quintessential and talented New Orleans musicians perform, don’t miss Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave. at Tipitina’s. For a more intimate vibe, catch the Davis Rogan Band at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street.
Sunday, November 3 – To get your New Orleans brass band fill, mark your calendars for To Be Continued Brass Band at Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street and Hot 8 Brass Band at Howlin’ Wolf in the Warehouse District.
All photos by Paul Broussard