Events Not to Miss This Spring in New Orleans
Photo by Chris Granger courtesy of New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
New Orleans loves to throw a party, and this is especially true in the spring, when the weather is pretty much perfect, and there are dozens of festivals featuring the best of live, local music and honoring every type of food we love. There’s something to do every weekend starting in March and through June, and many events are free. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss this spring.
Kick things off on a more serious note with the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) on March 19-23. The weeklong series of events features notable speakers, covers such topics as business and innovation, and takes place citywide. The Contemporary Arts Center hosts a NOEW Summit on Thursday and Friday.
Unwind with a cold beverage on any given Wednesday at the Square, a free, 12-concert music series held in Lafayette Square every Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m., in the heart of the Central Business District. The 2018 dates are March 14 – May 30, with the rain dates of June 6 and 13.
Another popular March event is Hogs for the Cause (March 23-24), a meat-centric annual fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer. Dozens of barbecue chefs compete in seven categories, including fan favorite, whole hog, ribs, and sauce. The live-music lineup features top local acts including brass bands.
April in New Orleans marks the height of the festival season, starting with the annual Freret Street Festival, held on the first Saturday in April (April 7 this year). This free neighborhood festival has been growing since the mid-1990s, with about 200 vendors participating this year, and three music stages.
Next up is the immensely popular French Quarter Fest, also free. Held on April 12-15, it celebrates its 35th year this year, featuring the best the city has to offer in food and drinks, and several stages of non-stop live music. This year you can dance in the streets of the French Quarter to Irma Thomas, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Amanda Shaw, and many more top-notch acts.
The last weekend of April and the first weekend of May marks one of the biggest, most anticipated, and always well attended events this side of Mississippi. Visitors from all over the world flock to the Fairgrounds for the food and the music of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 27 – May 6). Now in its 49th year, Jazz Fest 2018 features the local favorites like the Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty along with the nationally acclaimed headlines including Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Sting, Jimmy Buffett, Beck, Lionel Richie, Anita Baker, David Byrne, Jack White, Common, and Sheryl Crow. The music is the focal point, of course, but don’t miss the second lines, the art vendors, and the local food favorites like Crawfish Monica and cochon de lait po-boys.
The first Friday of May brings us Whitney Zoo to Do (May 4), an annual fundraiser for the Audubon Nature Institute and the chicest gala in town. It’s held on the Zoo’s grounds and features live music, a silent auction, and food and cocktails from dozens of the best restaurants and bars in the city.
The French Quarter-centric New Orleans Wine and Food Experience raises the bar every year on the last weekend of May (May 23-27) with its epic dinners with wine pairings, wine tastings, seminars, cooking competitions, and even a second-line parade (led by the Krewe of Cork). With the hundreds of local restaurants and international and domestic wineries participating in this annual event, the event has raised millions for local nonprofit organizations, from culinary schools to food banks.
Going into June, the spring festival seasons closes with a bang and two free food festivals. The Oyster Festival is held on the first weekend (June 3-4) in Woldenberg Riverfront Park in the French Quarter. Slurp and savor everything oysters at this two-day fest featuring live music, arts and crafts, and oyster shucking and eating competitions.
Another annual favorite is the French Market Creole Tomato Festival on June 10-11. Traditionally held on the second weekend of June, the fest welcomes the arrival of Creole tomato that Louisiana loves to incorporate into crepes, crawfish pies, and even gelato. Stroll the French Market while you sample the fried green tomatoes and the Bloody Marys, or try the always-popular Creole tomato with shrimp salad. The fest also features live music and cooking demos.
As you see, the spring season in New Orleans is loaded with activities and events, and with the right planning and the willingness to eat and dance with gusto you can have the best time the city has to offer.