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Travel News 9 New Orleans Festivals That Aren’t Mardi Gras

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9 New Orleans Festivals That Aren’t Mardi Gras

New Orleans is a magical city that lives and breathes entertainment, arts, and culture. NOLA doesn’t follow the same calendar as other places. Rather, it seems that the year revolves around Mardi Gras–the year hurdles towards, peaks at, then becomes new, all on a Mardi Gras day. Yet, the festival atmosphere of Carnival in New Orleans goes all year long which is prime for travelers.

Festival Season

Mardi Gras, which date changes based on Easter, typically trumpets the start of springtime. A New Orleans springtime is arguably the best weather that you can experience… well, anywhere. However, don’t take this article as the sole authority for it. Instead, take a visit to New Orleans for yourself between the months of March through June for some breezy weather and easy living.

The festivals included in this guide all happen during spring months, giving you the perfect opportunity to catch some moderately warm temps. Read on for the essential festivals to attend this spring that aren’t Mardi Gras!

1. Jazz & Heritage Festival

The Jazz & Heritage Festival is the largest and most popular New Orleans festival after Mardi Gras. Over half a million people attended the 50th Anniversary of Jazz Fest in 2019, and it’s reasonable to expect that enthusiasm to carry into 2020.

Jazz Fest has been headlined by world-class acts, but the smaller stages and tents are the best places to become immersed in New Orleans. Visit the Indigenous Village to learn about Louisiana’s Native Nations, or the Folklife Village to see bits and pieces of the Cajun experience. There are vendors offering every aspect of quintessential New Orleans food around the Fair Grounds.

Go for the music, stay because you’ve had too much Jucifer and crawfish bread. The 51st Jazz Fest happens Wednesday, April 22 through Sunday, May 3, 2020, at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans.


2. French Quarter Festival 

Precluding Jazz Fest is another heavy hitter on the schedule of New Orleans Festivals. French Quarter Fest is one of the largest free festivals in the country, and 2019 was a record year. 1,700 Louisiana Musicians lent their talent to make the Quarter come alive. If you want to dive into the Crescent City’s sounds, visit French Quarter Fest. This year, it runs Thursday, April 2 to Sunday, April 5, 2020.

3. Bayou Booglaoo

There is no New Orleans festival that celebrates the swampy nature of the city quite like Bayou Boogaloo. What started as a neighborhood festival centered around the waterway of Bayou St. John, has now grown steadily over several years, drawing people from all over the city.

Bayou Boogaloo is bona fide show-and-tell of raft making, but nobody’s going to bat an eye at your inflatable flamingo. Just hop on and let your worries float away. Bayou Boogaloo will be held from Friday, May 15 to Sunday, May 17, 2020 at Bayou St. John.

4. New Orleans Wine and Food Experience

If you’re looking for an event that highlights the drinking and dining culture of New Orleans, schedule a trip for the Wine and Food Experience. This festival is one of the best for experiencing the incredible restaurant scene of New Orleans, while also doing some good. In the 28 year span of WFE, over 1.5 million dollars has been raised for food-focused non-profits in New Orleans. There are over 1,000 different wines to try, and producers hail from all over the globe. Wine and Food Experience will happen on March 18-22, 2020. Restaurants are the venues, all-across New Orleans, LA.

5. Buku Music + Art Project

Beaucoup is the French word for “many.” As in merci beaucoup. It took many New Orleans accents to gradually change the pronunciation into something unique to the city.

Buku Project is as it sounds: a festival with so many different experiences. From a three-story live painting wall to the jam-packed lineup of rappers, producers, and music icons (and all the food stalls in between), there are too many things to get into at this event. As New Orleans festivals go, Buku is the hip kid at the party. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes for Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21, 2020. Buku takes place among all the floats at Mardi Gras World, New Orleans.


6. Hogs for the Cause

Eat, drink, dance. Repeat. If you’re noticing a pattern in the subject matter of these events, then you might have a good eye for the pace of life in New Orleans. Hogs for the Cause is another New Orleans festival that puts the two great past-times of eating and dancing together.

Bring a bib, because this fest is all about the BBQ. 90 pit masters enter and compete for several “Best of” category titles, including whole hog, and ribs. Profits for the event go towards the Hogs for the Cause Charity. Have fun, get full, listen to Fogerty as Creedence Clearwater Revival headlines Hogs 2020.

You might not be born on the bayou but you can eat some bacon around it, if it’s your thing. Hogs for the Cause runs Friday, March 27, and Saturday, March 28, 2020 at UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, LA.

7. Greek Fest

If swimming in Bayou St. John doesn’t seem enticing, there are still opportunities to enjoy the lovely urban waterway without getting your feet wet. Greek Fest is into its 47th year of serving up family fun, food, and music. Steeped in the Greek history of the city, attendees can participate in Toga Sunday if they feel like reliving some fond collegiate memories. Greek Fest runs from Friday, May 22 to Sunday, May 24, 2020, at Bayou St. John.

8. Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival

There is an important part of the New Orleans community which has been unrepresented thus far in the festival discussion, and that’s the literary and theatre community. For example, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Fatima Shaik, Anne Rice, William Faulkner are only a slim few of those who’ve stomped through French Quarter streets and written a piece of the New Orleans experience.

Tennessee Williams is one of the most renowned authors to emerge from New Orleans, penning works like A Street Car Named Desire during his stay. In his honor, the five-day Lit Fest focuses on writing education and showcasing local artists. Moreover, there are plays, forums, and tons of writing events to participate in. Visit the Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival from Wednesday, March 25 through Sunday, March 29, 2020. New Orleans, LA.

9. St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St. Patty’s Day is pretty exciting everywhere, but in New Orleans, it can be downright rowdy. Especially when folks are coming off the tail end of Mardi Gras parades. But, beyond the drinking and revelry, New Orleanians love to relive their heritage (which in the case of the Irish Channel parade means, you guessed it, more drinking and revelry). St. Patrick’s Day festivities are held on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Hopefully, now you can see that Mardi Gras alone can’t show you everything that makes up New Orleans. Instead, New Orleans offers up a full calendar of festivals that can come a little closer. With food, music, and heritage you can choose the New Orleans festival experience that fits your travel wishes. The Big Easy’s got everything you need, baby.