Any weekend is a good weekend to visit New Orleans. Still, if you want to experience the epitome of good food, good music, and good company in one epic trip, you should plan your visit on French Quarter Festival weekend.
The French Quarter Festival, or French Quarter Fest, is a favorite local celebration that occurs each April and showcases New Orleans’ rich musical talent and history.
If you’re planning your stay at a vacation rental during the festival season and want to make the most out of the weekend, we’ve got you covered with the ultimate guide to enjoying the French Quarter Fest.
Let’s start with a little history to fully appreciate what makes the French Quarter Festival what it is today. The French Quarter Fest began in 1984 as a way to welcome locals back to the historic French Quarter neighborhood after a lengthy construction period.
The music festival started as a one-time event, but locals quickly embraced it as a chance to annually honor the city’s rich history and instill pride in the community.
While other festivals, such as Jazz Fest, might be more well-known, The French Quarter Festival is the local favorite for a reason. The festival is built on the community’s rich cultural history and musical talent and serves as a celebration of the Historic French Quarter neighborhood.
The festival is headed by French Quarter Festivals, Inc. (FQFI). This local non-profit organization exists solely to promote high-quality events throughout the city that showcase its unique heritage and talent.
This vibrant representation of the soul of the city celebrates New Orleans’ local music talent with more than 20 stages set up around the French Quarter featuring New Orleans jazz, R&B, folk, brass bands, Zydeco, and more. In addition, to live music, the festival features local cuisine on every corner of the Quarter, from Jackson Square to Bourbon Street.
New Orleans has its own “festival season,” not to be confused with “carnival season,” which encompasses Mardi Gras. Festival season typically begins after Mardi Gras and lasts until the early Fall.
You might assume that New Orleanians take a break from celebrating after the months-long Mardi Gras event; however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The city gears up for even more entertainment during its annual music festivals that happen from spring through fall.
Festival season is one of the most exciting times to visit New Orleans, but it can also be overwhelming for first-time visitors! We’ve got you covered with all the details to make the most of your festival weekend.
The festival kicks off on a Thursday at 11 am with a second-line performance. The second line is one of the most defining Louisiana traditions, where a brass band leads a foot parade to mark a monumental event, such as a wedding or a funeral. The festival begins with its own bespoke second line before the opening act begins.
No one wants to get their tuba wet. New Orleans weather can be unpredictable. However, April is one of the loveliest times to visit the Big Easy. The weather is typically mild and sunny, with highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-60s.
Festival clothing ranges from costumes to everyday wear – it’s really up to you what you feel best in! You will definitely see sequins, feathers, and glitter galore. But you will also see people dressed in day-to-day clothing.
Since the weather is mild, we recommend packing comfortable, airy clothing with light jackets as needed. Bring your walking shoes as you will be strolling throughout the French Quarter streets and dancing to music for four days straight! We also recommend bringing sunscreen, a rain jacket, and a portable chair if you want seating at the parades.
Transportation is tricky during festival season as many French Quarter streets are blocked off for pedestrian usage. We recommend utilizing ride-share services like Lyft or Uber to get to the French Quarter and then walking on foot around the festival. The best way to get around the festival and stay agile is by foot or bike.
If you plan to drive to the Quarter, beware of hefty parking tickets! However, the French Quarter does offer public parking garages on most corners. A full list of parking options can be found here.
From Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street, over 70 vendors line the streets offering samples of their infamous dishes for the four-day festival. Where else can you try that many tasty treats in one setting?
The French Quarter Fest is a chance for visitors to taste the most well-known dishes of New Orleans from their favorite local restaurants. While the food vendor line up changes yearly, you are guaranteed to have Cajun staples at your fingertips, including boiled crawfish, alligator, and turtle soup.
Due to the festival’s free entry, the festival does not allow outside beverages or food as it relies on revenues from food and merchandise vendors. It also does not allow coolers, ice chests, or large containers. For a full list of festival rules, head here.
The French Quarter Festival’s four-day live music is free to the public. However, Nola.com offers a Fest Family Experience pass, which allows guests to access exclusive lounges, air-conditioned restrooms, elevating standing spots, and special programming.
Tickets can be purchased for $129 per day or $429 for four days. More information can be found here.
The festival is meant to be enjoyed by all, young and old. Children and adults alike will enjoy the countless entertainment options available to them throughout the four-day festival. Sadly, furry family members are not allowed with the exception of service animals.
According to French Quarter Fest information, visitors can visit the ADA info tent upon arrival for maps, braille brochures, and mobility information for the festival. Guests can contact the French Quarter Fest team here for specific questions.
If you can’t make the French Quarter Festival in early April, don’t fret! There are plenty of festivals to enjoy throughout the festival season. For example, Jazz Fest is held later in the Spring, followed by the Satchmo Summerfest in late summer.
Truth be told, there are special events all year round, each with its own flavor of New Orleans fun.
You can expect the French Quarter Festival in 2023 to take place from April 13th to 16th. With an estimated 800,000 visitors in attendance each year, the four-day weekend festival is open to the public and free of charge.
The lineup changes yearly, featuring over 1,500 local musicians each time. The live music runs each day from 11 am to 8 pm. You can find the 2023 music lineup and participating vendors’ information here.
Between the live music, vibrant crowds, tasty cuisine, and breezy spring weather, the French Quarter Festival has it all. It is the perfect way for visitors to get a four-day crash course in New Orleans’s local culture.
While it is a local celebration, it is meant to be enjoyed by all. The French Quarter Festival wouldn’t be what it is today without visitors like you joining in on the celebration.
Let Book Nola help you find the perfect vacation rental for your visit to the French Quarter Festival. Whether you stay right in Mid-City, festive Marigny, or cultured Uptown, you can’t go wrong in the Big Easy.