Last Updated on May 30, 2023

As my husband and I exited our plane at Louis Armstrong Airport we swapped out our New England coats for the welcoming warmth of New Orleans’ vibrant sunshine. Immediately we noticed the festive anticipation of crowds dressed in colorful band t-shirts all waiting to catch rides downtown. The festival atmosphere was infectious.

We had finally arrived at what is called “America’s greatest festival” – the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The event, spread across seven days, is a smorgasbord of New Orleans’ diverse cultural influences served up through an endless stream of music, food and local activities.

If you’re a first-time attendee like me, you’ll find this guide to New Orleans Jazz Fest helpful to navigate an event which can feel overwhelming.

When is Jazz Fest in New Orleans?

Each year, Jazz Fest transforms the city beginning on a Thursday on the last weekend of April, and running through the entire weekend. It picks up again on the first Thursday in May and ends that weekend.

The beloved tradition has been a part of New Orleans history for over 50 years, celebrating the soul of the city through its music, art, culture and heritage.

The Jazz Fest Foundation organizes the event established to redistribute funds generated by event to the local community.

Pre-Covid, over 500,000 people attended the Festival. Numbers are rising once again after being closed in 2020 and 2021.

Where in New Orleans is Jazz Fest?

Little Freddy King Blues Band at New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Little Freddy King Blues Band at New Orleans Jazz Fest. Photo by Julie L’Heureux

The rhythmic heart of Jazz Fest is located at the Fairgrounds Racecourse at 1751 Gentilly Blvd in New Orleans. While the venue can prove challenging for parking, a secure lot at 2401 Esplanade Ave in New Orleans is available, a 10-15 minute walk from the fairgrounds.

If you’re looking to forgo the hunt for parking, Jazz Fest has organized buses from several downtown locations in New Orleans. These include Steamboat Natchez Dock at 400 Toulouse Street at the River, Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, 500 Canal Street, and City Park: Wisner Lot at 5700 Wisner Blvd.

Alternatively, Uber and Lyft can also provide transportation to the event. 

How Much are New Orleans Jazz Fest Tickets?

Festival tickets can be purchased on-line prior to the event.

The website is also a treasure trove of information about the festival’s music venues, culture, food, hotels and travel information. Also, there is a nifty free mobile app that can be downloaded to guide you through the events’ schedule.

If you’re more of a spontaneous type, tickets can be purchased at local hotels and at the fairground the day of the festival. Pre-purchased tickets run $85 for adults and $5 for children.

Same-day tickets are pricier, costing $95 for adults.

Multi-day tickets are also available for each weekend. Additionally, VIP passes that include special viewing areas, more private restrooms and special tents are also available.

Where to Stay in New Orleans for Jazz Fest

The Sheraton Hotel at 500 Canal Street is a festival sponsor offering bus transportation to Jazz Fest. There are many other national chain hotels in the downtown and French Quarter area such as Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Double Tree and Hilton. The contact information for sponsoring hotels is listed on the official festival website.

If you prefer 5-star luxury, in New Orleans, only the Windsor Court will do.

New Orleans is a super-popular tourist destination hosting major events year round, there are plenty of hotel options you can search in the map below. Be aware, for these special events, prices will be jacked up.

Booking.com

More Tips on attending Jazz Fest

New Orleans Jazz Fest Crowds.
New Orleans Jazz Fest Crowds. Photo by Julie L’Heureux

We found that these festival days can be long and hot, so it’s important to come prepared. We highly suggest packing items such as sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable shoes. You may also want to bring a foldable chair or blanket to sit on during performances.

Now, let’s talk about food and drinks – the soulful accompaniment to the lively music. Over 70 food stalls, run by local businesses, offer a delicious journey into the heart of Louisiana cuisine with treats ranging from gumbo and pralines to BBQ, beignets, crawfish, and those iconic Po-boys.

As for the music, Jazz Fest proudly showcases a variety of musicians, from established headliners to lesser-known local performers. With several stages featuring simultaneous performances, planning ahead is key.

In 2023, we grooved to the tunes of Lizzo, Ed Sheeran, Santana, Jon Baptiste, Dead and Company, and Mumford & Sons, among others. Jazz Fest isn’t limited to just jazz, it’s a musical assortment featuring blues, gospel, Zydeco, soul, brass band and Cajun beats.

Beyond the music, Jazz Fest also offers a gateway into the unique culture and history of New Orleans through its numerous exhibits and events. After all, Jazz Fest is just one of many cultural experiences showcased by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation.

Other venues they support include Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival held in October at Lafayette Square Park, Gumbo Festival held at Louis Armstrong Park, and the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival in June.

Tthe best part about these festivals is that there is no charge for admission.

Author

  • Julie Smith L’Heureux

    After working for 30 years as an environmental engineer and in policy development, Julie L’Heureux is presently a freelance writer and photographer concentrating in travel and food photography.