It’s no secret that New Orleans knows how to party and its residents love to show off their heritage. When you think of festivals in the city, you might think of the Essence Festival of Culture and Mardi Gras, but did you know that Crescent City hosts more than 100 festivals every year? From food and wine to art, film, comedy, history and multicultural events, there is something to appeal to everyone all year round. Here are some parties that should be on your radar:
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
I’ve attended countless music festivals and I can honestly say that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is definitely one of my favorites. While the festival’s title says jazz, numerous stages over two weekends present the best local and national talent in every music genre (jazz, pop, hip-hop, gospel, bluegrass, rock, etc.). The 2024 dates are April 25-28 and May 2-5, with Big Freedia, Juvenile, Queen Latifah, Fantasia, The Anointed Jackson Sisters, The Robert Clay Band and many more on the talent list.
Food is the best part of any festival. Local restaurants and food trucks are on site with every Creole and Cajun dish imaginable. You’ll have the chance to shop from local vendors and artisans and attend street performances. The cultural tents are parties in themselves. Last year in Puerto Rico, the tent had dance classes, music performances and an exhibit of things native to the area. If you can’t attend another festival in NOLA, this is the one that should be at the top of your list.
The Congo Square Rhythms Festival
The New Orleans spirit we love comes from the Treme neighborhood, the birthplace of jazz and the oldest neighborhood of free Africans in the United States. Congo Square is the area where enslaved Africans (and free people of color) were allowed to gather on Sundays. Here they embraced each other and their African traditions. The Congo Square Rhythms Festival honors these customs and traditions through dance, music, art, African drumming and food. There will be plenty of gumbo! It is a free and family-friendly event from March 23 to 24, 2024.
The New Orleans Food and Wine Experience
Named the 10th Best General Food Festival and 4th Best Wine Festival by USA Today, the New Orleans Food And Wine Experience is an excellent way to unite food and wine lovers while giving back to the local community. It’s been an event in the city for 32 years, bringing together the best of New Orleans’ culinary scene for appetizers while winemakers and sommeliers guide attendees through tastings and educational experiences. One of the highlights is the Tournament of Rosés. Hosted in a cocktail garden, participants will spend the afternoon tasting rosés from notable wine destinations such as Spain, France and Italy. This year’s event will take place from June 2 to 5, 2024. The money raised will be donated to local non-profit organizations.
New Orleans Horror Film Festival
As “morbid” as it may sound, cemetery tours and ghost walks are top attractions in NOLA. It makes sense to embrace the gore with the New Orleans Horror Film Festival. Filmmakers and horror film enthusiasts alike can enjoy presentations of short films and full-length features at the Prytania Theater. For eleven years in a row, the film categories have included science fiction, fantasy, dark comedy and more. Keep an eye on the city’s festival grounds for the 2024 date. There are several film and literary festivals, such as the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, the New Orleans Film Festival, and the French Film Festival. You can view the listing here.
Many cultures have called New Orleans home. Every October, the Hispanic American Musicians and Artists Cultural Association takes over downtown to host Carnaval Latino. It is the most magical event that combines beloved traditions with authentic food, dancing, music, performances and art. Festival-goers are always in for a treat when the Krewe of Quetzal kicks off the festival with Desfile de Las Americas, their version of a New Orleans-style parade dressed in traditional costumes.
The Bayou Bacchanal is the ultimate celebration of Caribbean culture and the original Caribbean Carnival held in New Orleans. Organized annually in November by Friends of Culture, you travel to the Caribbean islands in colorful and feather-filled masquerade costumes, delicious cuisine, dance and music. Highlights of the weekend include a parade and kick-off party. This year’s celebration will be held on the historic Congo Square and will take place from November 1 to 2, 2024.
- Read more about other popular multicultural festivals here, such as Oktoberfest, Bastille de Fete and Greek Fest.
- Pro tip: As you travel the city streets, the colorful influence of African, Caribbean, European, Latin American and Native American cultures is everywhere. One of the best ways to learn more about New Orleans’ multicultural heritage is with a Garden District Tour of historic neighborhoods.
The Beignet Fest and more
Beignets, gumbo, boudin, crawfish and po-boys have become indispensable in New Orleans. So it’s no surprise that they all have a festival. The Beignet Fest is a crowd favorite. Normally the fried dough dessert is covered with powdered sugar. It can also be served alongside café au lait, if you follow French tradition. Food vendors from across the city come together to put their spin on a classic. You can enjoy fritters with pralines, filled with sweet potatoes or packed with seafood, such as crawfish. This year’s event will take place on November 16, 2024 at the New Orleans City Park Festival Grounds. There are more food festivals to choose from, such as The Fried Chicken Festival and Emeril Lagasse’s Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer event.
When you’re in New Orleans, use the city guide for a list of Black-owned restaurants, bars, attractions, service providers, shops and more.