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New Orleans Jazz Fest: The Ultimate Guide (2023)

New Orleans Jazz Fest: The Ultimate Guide

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) is a long-time staple in New Orleans festival culture. The 10-day festival featuring local musicians, food, and entertainment attracts over half a million people yearly. Don’t let the name fool you: Jazz Fest features various music styles, including R&B, hip-hop, zydeco, gospel, bluegrass, cajun, and everything in between.

New Orleans’ festival season begins shortly after Mardi Gras and lasts until early fall. With countless festivals to attend, visitors have many chances to catch a glimpse of what makes festival season in the “Crescent City” so special. It’s the perfect time to grab your beads and book a vacation home rental.

However, if you are only going to make one festival while staying, you will want it to be Jazz Fest. As the largest festival in Louisiana and one of the top festivals in the country, Jazz Fest is the ultimate celebration of Nola’s unique musical, art, and cultural heritage jam-packed into two long weekends.

If you plan to visit during Jazz Fest, we’ve created the ultimate guide for you to feel like a local and get the most out of your festival getaway.

Jazz Fest History

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Jazz Fest, formally known as New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, began a half-century ago in the spring of 1970. Founded by George Wein, the first Jazz Fest was called the Louisiana Heritage Festival and gathered a crowd of 350 in Congo Square to enjoy headliners such as Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, and Pete Fountain.

Legend has it that Mahalia Johnson, a New Orleans native, and well-known gospel singer, passed the music festival just as the Eureka Brass Band led a second-line parade and joined in on the fun by singing alongside them.

This iconic, spontaneous moment symbolized Jazz Fest’s melding of jazz and heritage. Thus, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was formed. The Jazz & Heritage Foundation was founded in 1970 and has overseen the festival to this day.

Over the next twenty years, Jazz Fest grew from one event to a full week-long celebration, with crowds growing to 300,000. The festival has been known to attract major headliners to its main stage, throughout the years, including artists like Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, and Stevie Wonder.

However, the festival stays true to its local roots with multiple stages of musical talent, ranging from traditional gospel and jazz music to R&B and hip-hop. This blend of internationally recognized artists and talented local musicians has led to Jazz Fest being recognized as one of the country’s best music festivals.

For a complete take on Jazz Fest’s history, head here.

Experience Jazz Fest Like a Local

Photo Credit: Richard Schneider via Flickr CC2.0

While Mardi Gras and the French Quarter Festival draw revelers from around the country, Jazz Fest has become one of the most iconic events of the year in New Orleans.

Beyond flaunting an incredible musical line-up, New Orleanians take pride in their rich cultural heritage and welcome visitors to experience their musical heritage. We’ve compiled all the tips and tricks to get the most out of your Jazz Fest trip.


Jazz Fest takes place annually at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course, located about 10 minutes from the French Quarter.

Where to Stay

Welcome Home! View of the living area and kitchen from the bathroom door.

The location of Jazz Fest is at the southern tip of the Gentilly Neighborhood, right in the heart of Nola. Visitors have many vacation home options that give them easy access to the Jazz Fest Fair Grounds. In addition, vacation rentals in Mid City and Treme are very accessible to the festival.


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Jazz Fest has its own bespoke public transportation option – the Jazz Fest Express. The Jazz Fest Express is the only shuttle that drops visitors off right at the Fair Grounds gates. It has three departure points:

  • The Steamboat Natchez Dock (French Quarter)
  • Sheraton New Orleans Hotel (French Quarter)
  • City Park (Fillmore/Gentilly)

Tickets for the Jazz Fest Express are available through the official Jazz Fest website, and prices vary per weekend.

Visitors can also opt to use a taxi or ride-share option for convenient drop-off. We do not recommend taking a car, as there are limited parking options nearby and they can come with spendy rates. Depending on where you are staying, you can also choose to bike to the Fair Grounds.

Jazz Fest Eats

Photo Credit; Wally Gobetz via Flickr CC2.0

Jazz Fest isn’t just about good music. It also showcases local cuisine from more than 70 vendors over the two-weekend festival.

Food vendors tend to stay the same year-to-year, making a spot at Jazz Fest highly sought out. Visitors can try Creole classics like gumbo, po’ boys, red beans and rice, and crawfish in peak season.

There aren’t many chances to experience the “best of the best” Louisiana cuisine in one spot, so this marks a special occasion for foodies to experience it all. Because the food is as much of a draw as the music, the event posts a regularly updated lineup on its website each year.

Pro tip: If you feel overwhelmed by all the food choices, check out a locals’ favorite dishes at Jazz Fest.

Areas Around the Festival

Jazz Fest is known for its diverse range of performers, crafts, food, and cultural experiences. In addition, the festival highlights various cultures and traditions at stations throughout the Fair Grounds.

  • Louisiana Folklife Village shines a light on the state’s century-old traditions and invites visitors to participate through hands-on demonstrations. The live presentations range from duck carving, Mardi Gras Indian crafts, Cajun accordions, and ironwork on traditional New Orleans balconies.
  • Native American Village pays homage to the state’s indigenous peoples with crafts such as basket weaving and beadwork, Native American foods, and traditional dancing.
  • The Grandstand is an air-conditioned section of Jazz Fest that pays tribute to Louisiana’s culture and art scene with special exhibits that rotate each year.
  • Cultural Exchange Pavilion celebrates Louisiana’s multicultural heritage by featuring a different country each year through art, live music, authentic food, and cultural displays.

Jazz Fest Stages

Jazz Fest offers a variety of stages and tents that highlight different genres of music and performances:

  • WWOZ Jazz Tent: Contemporary Jazz Music
  • Gospel Tent: Gospel Musicians and Performers
  • Festival Stage: Main Stage
  • Gentilly Stage: Secondary Main Stage
  • Jazz & Heritage Stage: Mardi Gras Indians + Brass Band Performances
  • Economy Hall Tent: Traditional New Orleans Jazz
  • Congo Square Stage: Afro-centric and World Music
  • Lagniappe Stage: A potpourri of sound and style
  • Blues Tent: Blues Music
  • Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do Do Stage: Cajun & Zydeco Music

What to Pack

The weather is typically mild and sunny, with highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-60s. You can expect a few light showers but mostly sunny skies at this time of the year.

We recommend packing lightweight, comfortable clothes that make you feel festive! Festival goers typically pull out all the stops when it comes to clothing, with garb matching the vibrant, eclectic event itself. However, we recommend packing comfortable walking shoes, a raincoat, and sunscreen to prepare for a full weekend of walking around and enjoying Nola’s spring weather!

Ticket Information

Guests have ticket choices that come with a variety of price points and perks. Options include:

  • Individual day passes
  • Weekend passes
  • VIP packages

You can find current ticketing information on the event website.

Disability Accommodations

Yes. Jazz Fest’s Access Team focuses on providing accommodations for people with disabilities so that all visitors can enjoy the festival. In addition, jazz Fest has a dedicated parking lot for visitors with disabilities for $50 a day.

Visitors can stop by the Access Center at the beginning of each festival day to get a wristband for seating options. Wheelchairs and medical scooters are permitted. Service animals are also allowed. The Access Center has a daily schedule of interpreted performances for visitors to enjoy.

Is Jazz Fest Family-Friendly

Certainly! Children are welcome to join in on the fun and partake in the various activities that Jazz Fest offers.

Children under two do not need a ticket to attend. Children aged 2 to 10 can attend for $5 per day. Jazz Fest even has a Kid’s Tent for children to get the most out of their festival experience, with daily live performances and kid-friendly crafts. Check out New Orleans Mom’s post on enjoying Jazz Fest for the whole family.

Jazz Fest 2023

Jazz Fest will take place this year from April 28th to April 30th and May 4th to May 7th, 2023. The event will run from 11 am to 7 pm each day and features countless musicians, artists, local cuisine, and cultural experiences.

The 2023 line-up includes iconic performers such as:

  • Dead & Company
  • Lizzo
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Santana
  • The Lumineers
  • Mumford & Sons

For a complete list of the 2023 lineup, food vendors, and ticket information, head to the event website.

A Jazz Fest Success

We hope our ultimate Jazz Fest guide gets you excited about your festival stay! Between the musical talent, unique cultural experiences, and an array of cuisine options, Jazz Fest is the ultimate chance to immerse yourself in rich Louisiana heritage while enjoying international performances.

Whether you come for a weekend or stay the whole week, make sure you are comfortable. Take a look at these vacation rentals in the heart of Nola.

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