Events & Festivals
You name it, and chances are we’ve got a festival for it! Large music festivals including French Quarter Festival (April), the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April/May), Essence Music Festival (July), Voodoo Fest (October), and Gretna Heritage Festival (October) attract music lovers from around the globe.
We celebrate the Wooden Boat Festival in May, the New Orleans Oyster Festival in June, Shakespeare through the summer, and the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival in November. Satchmo Summer Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, Cajun Zydeco Festival, BUKU Music + Art Project, Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, and the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival are perennial favorites as well — and we’re still barely scratching the surface here!
Of course, the biggest event of them all is Mardi Gras, also known as Carnival Season, which begins each year during Twelfth Night (January 6th) and ends at midnight on Mardi Gras Day (the day before Ash Wednesday). The season includes dozens of parades that roll for weeks, features traditional foods (king cake), colors (purple, green, and gold), and is truly a family-friendly affair.
You’ll find opportunities for food, live entertainment, and socializing year-round. More than a hundred regional festivals will give you a fun glimpse into the soul and culture of Southeast Louisiana. And, we saved the best part for last — many are free!
With its roots in Catholic culture, “Mardi Gras” is French for Fat Tuesday and serves as a celebration before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. Today, Mardi Gras season spans roughly two weeks and is one of the most celebrated traditions in Greater New Orleans. Music-filled parades roll through the streets tossing beads, toys, and colorful novelties to joyous crowds. The riders, known as krewes, often spend months planning and preparing their floats and costumes.
Super-krewes such as Endymion and Bacchus provide a bit of Hollywood glamour with celebrity kings and queens, marching bands, and massive floats. These parades are some of the over 30 parades which often span several miles and families often stake out prime viewing areas hours in advance to ensure a prime viewing location.
Communities across the region celebrate with parades in the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day, including Family Gras in Metairie and the Krewe of Tchefuncte, a boat parade in Madisonville. One thing is certain, Mardi Gras is a family affair across the region with adults and children alike clamoring for the best carnival throws and dancing to marching bands. For the grand finale, the Mardi Gras season culminates with celebration of Fat Tuesday.
Art + Farmers’ Markets
From the Northshore to the Southshore, there is an abundance of regular pop-up markets in Greater New Orleans. Each market generally includes vendors serving prepared dishes and baked goods and a small musical act, making a perfect weekend-morning or after-work destination. Local farms offer fresh produce, farm-fresh eggs, grass fed beef, and other homegrown offerings. Many markets have local artisans selling their handmade wares, like candles, soaps, paintings, and pottery.
Farmers Markets in St. Tammany operate year-round several days a week, including the popular Saturday markets in Covington and Mandeville. Also on the Northshore, Hammond and Ponchatoula (in Tangipahoa Parish) and Bogalusa and Franklinton (in Washington Parish), have regular and seasonal markets.
On the Southshore, Jefferson Parish Farmers and Seafood Markets are offered year-round as well, from the Bucktown Harbor Farmers Market every Friday afternoon to the Gretna Farmers Market every Saturday morning to the Ocshner Farmers Market every Wednesday.
In New Orleans, the popular Palmer Park Arts Market is held monthly (opens extra days each holiday season, too!) and outdoor art markets in Jackson Square and Frenchmen Street are great places to pick up a locally made gift. And, the Crescent City Farmers Market operates weekly markets Uptown, Downtown, and in Mid-City.
Southeast Louisiana is known for so many unique and delicious dishes, it’s no wonder we have created whole festivals to celebrate each. Cultural festivals are a great reason to travel throughout the region and visit neighboring parishes. Each offers local musicians, arts and crafts vendors, and plenty to see and do for adults and children.
In the River Parishes, you can check out the Andouille Festival (andouille is the Louisiana word for pork sausage), Alligator Festival (yep, we celebrate ‘em and we eat ‘em), and the incredible Festival of the Bonfires every December.
The annual Louisiana Crawfish Festival in Chalmette even boasts royalty with a Teen Louisiana Crawfish Queen and Miss Louisiana Crawfish Queen crowned each year. Speaking of royalty, the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula also crowns a Louisiana Strawberry Queen, and is one of the original South Louisiana festivals. You haven’t appreciated a Strawberry until you’ve tasted one at the Strawberry Festival!
The festival offerings of South Louisiana are nearly endless, but we would be remiss without highlighting French Quarter Festival—the largest free music festival in the South with more than 1,700 musicians performing across 4 days on more than 20 stages throughout the French Quarter!