Jazz Fest 2024: What You Need to Know

Image courtesy of New Orleans Jazz Fest 2024 on Facebook

There are many jazz festivals the whole world over, yet there is only one of the genre in the city that birthed it: the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which has been around for over five decades and still takes over the city during the last weekend in April, the first weekend in May, and pretty much all days in between (Thursday, April 25 – Sunday, May 5, 2024).

It is fair to say Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are the two keystone entries of the New Orleans events calendar. Where Mardi Gras is a celebration with deep Catholic and pagan roots that is indelibly branded by the city of New Orleans, Jazz Fest is rather a celebration of New Orleans itself.

That’s the backstory on the “& Heritage” part of the description in the official Jazz Fest title: The event has become less about showcasing jazz per se, and more about showing off the city that gave us jazz.

Because New Orleans is so central to pop music, almost any act and genre you can imagine has strutted across the Jazz Fest’s on 14 stages — and yes, there are that many stages popping off at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots (1751 Gentilly Blvd.) during the 2024 Jazz Fest. As a result of this sheer scope and size, in many ways, Jazz Fest feels like too overwhelming of an event to properly tackle, especially for those who are attending for the first time.

Regarding the festival’s musical acts, there are plenty of commentators who think festival organizers have unfairly stretched the definition of what music falls under the jazz and heritage rubric. We’re not here to debate that topic, but rather point out that there is undoubtedly a wide variety of genre presence at Jazz Fest, which only adds to the looming sense of choice overload.

With all of that in mind, there are some sound tactics for making Jazz Fest more manageable. Here are some of our time-tested strategies.

Ride a Bike

While this choice isn’t going to work for everyone — some visitors simply don’t have urban cycling experience or are scared of the prospect — we can’t stress just how much biking can improve the Jazz Fest experience. Even the most diehard Jazz Fest boosters will admit parking can be a nightmare during the festival. Parking enforcement officers are on high alert — we’ve never seen the impound lot on Claiborne Avenue get quite so busy as it does during Jazz Fest.

Of course, you can pay for parking. Folks who live near the Fairgrounds will turn even the smallest plot of the backyard into an impromptu parking lot (rates vary, but around $30 per day seemed to be the going rate in the past).

There are other ways of outflanking the parking issue, including the official Jazz Fest shuttle, taxis (both cars and bicycle rickshaws), rideshare, and the streetcar. Note that if you take the streetcar, you’ll still have to walk about a half mile to the festival entrance. (Take the number 48 line that runs on Canal Street and get off at the final stop at City Park/Art Museum.)

But we really love getting to Jazz Fest on two non-motorized wheels. Bike lane infrastructure can now bring riders to the gates of Jazz Fest. If you’re staying in the French Quarter, the bike ride to the Fairgrounds covers a 10-15 minute straight shot up Esplanade Avenue.

Plus, there is extensive bicycle “parking” (overlooked by security staff) on site. While we can’t guarantee what the weather will be like during Jazz Fest weekends, in general, late April and early May form a lovely climate window in New Orleans.

In addition, being on a bicycle gives visitors a better sense of the city. You can see New Orleans at the street level without the loss of time walking might engender. There’s an intimacy to biking in the city that’s tough to replicate from a car.

Shaping Your Cube

The Jazz Fest lineup is famously scheduled into “cubes” for attendees. Devising a schedule for seeing all of your favorite acts can be a fun logistical challenge, but don’t forget that the stages of Jazz Fest are spread out over a decently large area. If you’re in the middle of the crowd at one of the main stages, it can take about 10 or 15 minutes just to extricate yourself from the center of mass.

Note that Sundays and Thursdays always feel a little bit less crowded at the racetrack, although that “little bit less” is admittedly a relative number — there are no real “light” days at Jazz Fest.

The way you assemble your cube is up to you, but here are some pointers we’ve picked up on over the years:

  • Stick to your cube, but don’t do so religiously. Part of the fun of Jazz Fest is simply letting the music take you wherever it wants to go.
  • Don’t ignore smaller stages. We found one of our great unexpected Jazz Fest shows at the Kids Tent. We also always find the Fais Do-Do stage to be a consistently good break in our routine — basically, you can never go wrong dancing to Cajun or zydeco music.
  • Visit the Gospel Tent at least once. We’ve consistently found that even those who know next to nothing about gospel music have their spirits lifted and their musical boundaries expanded in this venue.

Cool Off

It can get hot in Jazz Fest. A few good means of beating the heat include:

  • Enjoying the air conditioning in the Grandstands
  • Hitting the mist tents by the Gentilly Stage and #2 food vendor area
  • Sitting down and relaxing in the vicinity of the Louisiana Folklife Village
  • Getting strawberry lemonade and Mango Freeze! (And of course, hydrating with water)
  • Staying out of the scrum for bigger headliners

Priorities, Priorities

While the price of Jazz Fest tickets continues to climb, the fact of the matter is you can still see some grade-A headliners for a bargain rate compared to similar (or even smaller) festivals. Many locals treat Jazz Fest as a chance to see big acts on the relative cheap. On the flip side, if you live in or near the city, you can see the New Orleans musicians throughout the year at local venues, which means there’s less pressure to see them on the Fairgrounds.

If you’re coming in from out of town, you may have the opposite scenario prioritized — you can see big-name acts anywhere, but this is your best chance of seeing Louisiana music on its native soil. In addition, smaller local acts often occupy stages that are less crowded, and everyone enjoys a break from the seething masses.

With all of that said, don’t forget that during the “off days” in between the two festival weekends, many smaller and mid-sized acts will be playing gigs around town. If you miss them at the Fest, you may well catch them on Frenchmen Street.

With that said, there’s something about seeing local acts at Jazz Fest. The big-name headliners are used to huge audiences. A local Louisiana act would be playing to wow the world, and some of those sets end up being nothing short of legendary.

What to Know About the 2024 Jazz Fest

  • Jazz Fest expanded to eight days this year, adding the opening day of Thursday, April 25, to the schedule.
  • Jazz Fest went cashless last year, and remains so. Ticket, food, beverage, craft, and merchandise booths no longer accept cash payments. If you come to the event with only cash, the Festival will offer two cash exchange booths near key vending locations so you can get a prepaid card for your cash.
  • This year, Jazz Fest features over 5,000 musicians across 14 stages.
  • The festival will be the largest one in its 53-year history. Eight is the most number of days for the event, and this year there will be the most food vendors and food items ever. And there also will be 260 art and craft vendors, the highest number ever.
  • Single-day tickets are $95 through April 24 and $105 at the gate. Tickets for children ages 2-10 are $5 at the gate.
  • “Locals Thursday” will be April 25 this year, with tickets at $50 for Louisiana residents.
  • This year Jazz Fest is introducing a 4-day GA+ weekend pass with access to an exclusive GA+ lounge with private restrooms, a full-service bar, and a shaded area to relax.
  • Tickets for Thursday, May 2, the day topped by The Rolling Stones, are sold out, including multiple-day passes.
  • The Rolling Stones headline Thursday, May 2, at 5 p.m. That day of the festival will operate normally until about 3:30 p.m. Then, when the Stones go on at 5 p.m., they’ll be the only band playing on the Fair Grounds.
  • Besides The Rolling Stones, the lineup includes Foo Fighters, Queen Latifah, Heart, The Beach Boys, Jon Batiste, Neil Young Crazy Horse, The Killers, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Bonnie Raitt, Earth, Wind & Fire, and hundreds more.
  • This year, Jazz Fest will celebrate Colombia’s musical and cultural diversity at the Expedia Cultural Exchange Pavilion. During the festival, 17 bands and a wide variety of artisans from throughout Colombia will present their sounds and traditions.
  • The Jazz & Heritage Gala kicks off Jazz Fest with the celebration of Louisiana music and cuisine on April 24 at Generations Hall (310 Andrew Higgins Blvd.).

Are You Attending Jazz Fest?

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How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

There’s plenty of Irish in this town, so the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day is an important one for the city of New Orleans. Several parades kick off, including the infamous Irish Channel Parade, where float riders pass cabbages to the screaming crowds. Also, the Downtown Irish Club Parade rolls from the Bywater to the French Quarter, making several pit stops on its way to Bourbon Street.

Here’s what to expect during the nearly two weeks’ worth of festivities, including block parties, balcony parties, and, of course, parades.

St. Patrick’s Day Events in New Orleans

Downtown Irish Club Annual Grand Marshall Party Bus

Saturday, March 9, 2024, 1:30-4 p.m.

The club will be meeting at the Ugly Dog Saloon (401 Andrew Higgins Blvd.) and will head out on a party bus for a “mobile bar crawl.” There are about five scheduled pub stops before the bus returns the revelers to the Ugly Dog Saloon. You don’t have to be a club member to ride, though you are asked to wear “traditional Irish colors, your parade tuxedo, or kilt for this ride.” The cost is $25 per person and includes free Guinness at each stop and on the bus. You can reserve your seat on the club’s website.

Germans Go Irish

Sunday, March 10, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Deutsches Haus (1700 Moss St.) in the Bayou St. John area of Mid-City is throwing a party to celebrate Ireland’s Patron Saint as they do in the small villages in the Old Country: with a Céilí (a gathering). Expect traditional Irish food like cabbage, soda bread, and Guinness beef stew served over colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes), plus Celtic musicians, Irish dancers, bagpipers, and other family-friendly activities. The event is free except for the Beth Patterson concert at 5:30 p.m. (You can get tickets online on the venue’s website or at the door).

Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Saturday, March 16, 2024, 1-6 p.m.

The parade begins on the corner of Felicity and Magazine streets around 1 p.m. The parade rolls up Jackson Avenue, turning onto St. Charles Avenue, turning onto Louisiana Avenue, and back onto Magazine Street. Throws include green beads and doubloons, plus the makings of Irish stew (minus the beef). So watch out for flying cabbages (yes, seriously). There is also a block party located at Annunciation Square, near Chippewa and Race streets.

Parasol’s Block Party

Saturday, March 16, 2024, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Parasol’s (2533 Constance St.) annual party Uptown features live music, food, easy parade access, and yes, green beer. It’s a popular party, so wear green and arrive early.

St. Patrick’s Day Italian American Viewing Balcony Party

Saturday, March 16, 2024, 7-10 p.m.

Cornet Restaurant (700 Bourbon St.) hosts a balcony view of that night’s Italian American Parade with three hours of unlimited drinks and Cajun and Creole food in the French Quarter. Tickets are $150-$200. Please note that Cornet is also hosting a St. Patrick’s Day balcony party the day after, on Sunday, March 17 (the setup, hours, and offerings are the same).

Downtown Irish Club St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Sunday, March 17, 2024, 6:30 p.m.

This annual parade starts as usual at Washington Park in the Marigny (700 Elysian Fields Ave.) after a pre-gaming at Marigny Brasserie (corner of Frenchmen St. and Royal St.) beginning at 4 p.m. The route remains the same every year, as are the bar stops. The after-party at the Ugly Dog Saloon will feature live music.

As you can see, there’s plenty to see and do to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s not limited to Uptown or the French Quarter. Speaking of, check out our guide on how to spend St. Patrick’s Day without leaving the French Quarter, plus our list of highly recommended Irish pubs in the French Quarter.

Are you visiting New Orleans this spring? Take advantage of Alder Hotel’s specials, group rates, and best-rate guarantee for greater savings to spend on New Orleans famous cuisine and enjoy everything this magnificent city has to offer. Reserve your room today!

Also, consider booking a guided tour of the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to experience the hauntingly beautiful past of New Orleans. And, for easy, informative sightseeing, we recommend the City Sightseeing New Orleans city tour on the open-top, double-decker bus. It runs every 30 minutes through the Garden District, French Quarter, and CBD. You can hop on and off anytime!

Happy spring!