Jazz Fest Like A Local
It’s finally time for the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which many locals consider to be their favorite time of year… besides Mardi Gras, of course! And just like carnival season, Jazz Fest (as the New Orleanians say), is enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike. But did you know that this festival isn’t just about the music? It’s also a celebration of the food, art, culture and heritage that makeup the Big Easy.
We know that planning the perfect weekend can be a bit overwhelming, especially if this is your first time attending the festival or it’s your first trip to NOLA. So here’s our insider’s guide to ‘festing like a local!’
Where to Stay
The beauty of New Orleans is that anywhere you stay is relatively close in distance. We recommend staying near the French Quarter so that you can enjoy everything this city has to offer, you can just hop on the Canal St. streetcar to take you to Mid-City.
Pro Tip: Some of the best shows don’t even happen at the festival. During this time the city is filled with so many talented musicians. You’ll want to be close to Frenchman Street at night so you can experience it all!
How to Get Around
If you plan on using ridesharing apps to get to and from the Fairgrounds in Mid-City, check their websites for their drop-off and pick up points. Also keep in mind that their prices will spike during this time. You can also rent a Blue Bike for the weekend so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. Bikes are also going to be your best chance at getting as close to the festival as possible without walking. You’ll find convenient bicycle parking pens with racks right outside of entrances.
Budget Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to take public transportation. The city buses will drop you off three blocks from the entrances and you can also plan to take the street cars.
What to Wear
Unlike Coachella, Jazz Fest doesn’t focus on the Instagram worthy fashion. You should always be prepared for the New Orleans’ heat, humidity and rain. Meaning hats, shorts, and a light rain jacket should be staples in your wardrobe. Don’t forget your rain boots, because it’s known to get muddy out there. Most importantly though, ‘do whatcha wanna!’
Pro Tip: The most coveted souvenir to commemorate your experience is the annual Jazz Fest T-Shirt. You won’t want to be seen leaving without one!
What to Pack
It’s important to be prepared, we don’t leave home without:
– Blanket or Ground Tarp
– Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer
– Cash (even though there are ATMs the lines can get long)
– Collapsible Chairs
Budget Pro Tip: Between the heat and the beverages it is important to stay hydrated. The only drinks allowed from the outside are factory-sealed water bottles. Don’t forget to add these to your packing list.
Pro Tip: If you are planning to buy beer inside, we suggest bringing an insulated bag to keep your beers cold.
Have a Plan
First get familiar with the 14 different cubes. Cubes are the master schedule for the music lineup and they can be found on the Jazz Fest website (you can pick up a paper version at the entrance when you arrive). They will tell you the exact time, day, and stage musical talent will perform at. Then make a plan for the day based on what you want to see. You don’t have to spend the whole day on the grounds. You can start your day off or end it in the city, but do make sure to make time to visit the art tent and try as much food as possible!
Budget Pro Tip: Though attending festivals can get pricey, there are many ways to save money. For starters, if you didn’t buy your tickets online early, you can still purchase them at Smoothie King Center Box Office. This will save you $10. Make sure to purchase any children tickets (ages 2 to 10) at the gate for $5.
Pro Tip: Don’t just stick to the big stages. Visit the Zydeco tent or see the Mardi Gras Indians attire at Heritage stage. If you’re getting over-heated head to the mist tents at the Gentilly Stage.
Where to Eat
One of our favorite things about Jazz Fest is the food. We suggest sticking to the small plates, it allows us to enjoy a variety of dishes. We’ve put together a bucket list of dishes you MUST have while you are there, download here!
Most importantly, just remember to have fun and enjoy New Orleans!