With so much do and explore in New Orleans, it is really easy to forget that there is a whole bunch of really great stuff just a short drive away — no overnight stay required. Nothing brings this into focus more than the startup of Louisiana’s fall festival season when every city, town, locale, and civic group rolls out a festival to celebrate what makes them special, from the Cochon de Lait Festival in Mansura to the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City and everything in between. To help you get in on all this action (but have you back in your own bed that night), here are seven festivals coming up in the next few weeks just outside of city limits. And like all Louisiana festivals, there’s no need to pack a lunch, but you’ll definitely want to pack your appetite.
Louisiana Sugar Cane Festival — New Iberia, LA; about 2 hours and 15 minutes outside New Orleans
There is no better view into what makes a small Louisiana town tick than to check out the glory and splendor of their local festival. The Sugar Cane Festival is no exception, when all of New Iberia rolls out the red carpet to celebrate one of Louisiana’s most important crops: sugar cane. Music, carnival rides, cookoffs, and parades are just the start of the Sugar Cane Festival’s celebrations. And while in New Iberia, you’ve got to try a New Iberia chili dog.
During Louisiana’s fall festival season, every city, town, locale, and civic group rolls out a festival to celebrate what makes them special.
Algiers Fall Festival — Algiers, LA; about 15 minutes outside New Orleans
The first annual Algiers Fall Festival is set to kick off on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Celebrating our nation’s military and the community of Algiers, this free festival promises arts and crafts, food, music, and plenty for the children to do. A fleet of food trucks, including the always tasty La Cocinita and NOLA Girl Food, keeps you full while a full musical lineup including the Marine Corps Band, the Young PinStripe Brass Band, and the Buck Town All-Stars will have you dancing all day long.
Best of the Bayou — Houma, LA; about 1 hour outside New Orleans
Best of the Bayou is a free festival in Houma that runs both Saturday and Sunday. What makes Best of the Bayou a pick for me (outside of the awesome kicking musical lineup with two stages and more than 20 acts), are the unique events. You’ve got the alligator races (toy alligators, to be clear!), with top prize taking $2,000 in cash, a car show hosted by the Cajun Corvette Club, an amazing “Kids Korner”— with inflatables, a petting zoo, and children’s workshop—and the Cajun Reebox 5k run/walk. For the uninitiated Cajun, “reebox” is another term for the ubiquitous white shrimp boots found all across Cajun country. After the race, enter your best decorated Cajun reebox for a chance to win great prizes.
Gretna Heritage Festival — Gretna, LA; about 15 minutes outside New Orleans
While most festivals in the area typically attract a few locally or regionally known artists, Gretna Fest routinely brings in musical acts that everyone knows. This is year is no different, as Kid Rock, Hank Williams, Jr., Bret Michaels, Cowboy Mouth, and more have all signed on to play during the three-day festival. In addition to the massive musical line-up, Gretna Fest is best known for its celebration of the local Italian and German heritage with an Italian Village and a German Beer Garden.
Festivals Acadiens et Creoles — Lafayette, LA; about 2 hours and 15 minutes outside New Orleans
Held in Lafayette, this year’s Festivals Acadiens et Creoles is celebrating a very special milestone: the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Acadians in South Louisiana. To honor this great event, the Festivals has a number of special performances which help tell the story of the Acadians and the Cajun people spread throughout the week and weekend. As expected, Festivals showcases the best of Cajun and Zydeco music all weekend long, with five separate stages running from the early morning until the evening. One new feature this year at Festivals is “Culture Sur La Table,” which are nine different cooking demonstrations to give you all the information you’ll need to whip up some Cajun treats in your own kitchen. (Or dine with Mosquito Supper Club when you get back to New Orleans…)
Andouille Festival — Laplace, LA; about 35 minutes outside New Orleans
Andouille sausage is a key ingredient to many local dishes. Its spice and flavor are something so unique to the area that faithfully replicating many South Louisiana dishes away from home are a near impossibility. While the musical lineup, food and crafts are worth the trip to LaPlace alone, nothing can be more important than the festival big three — the andouille cookoff, the andouille eating competition and the Andouille Pageants. In many places across this great state, there is no greater honor than winning one of these competitions. In fact, I’ve seen past winners treated with the respect and awe that one usually reserves for Drew Brees.
French Food Festival — Larose, LA; about an hour and 15 minutes outside New Orleans
The French Food Festival in Larose rounds out the festival fun over the next six weeks. Although it focuses on the French-inspired Cajun food of South Louisiana, French Food Festival goes well beyond just food. Thursday night kicks the party off with a five-hour rock concert, French Food Fest Rocks. Friday through Sunday, you can enjoy carnival rides, music, auction art show, a petting zoo, and contests. Unlike any of these other festivals, you can also check out some professional bull riders during the Mid-South Pro Tour Bull Riding finals. If you’re a little tired from six weeks of day tripping, French Food Fest allows overnight camping with advanced reservations.