Ahhhh French Quarter Fest! H
ere in Louisiana, we like to say that we have more festivals than days of the school year. And we do! Mardi Gras technically kicks off festival season, but things really get going in March and continue into the summer. In honor of French Quarter Fest this weekend and Crawfest last weekend, I thought my annual run-down of the best fests in town would be a big help.
New Orleans is the self proclaimed Festival Capital of America. We do in fact have more festivals per capita here in NOLA than in any other region in America, and this time of year, the problem we usually have is picking which
festival to attend each weekend. If you're looking for a comprehensive guide, NOLA.com has a really good one here
. I mean, how many cities can you live in that actually require an iPhone application to keep track of all of the festivals?
No matter who you are, I hope you get to experience some of the many festivals in New Orleans. If you happen to live here in NOLA, you have probably attended many of these. If you are planning a visit to town or a trip to Tulane, it's always a great idea if you can coordinate your visit with one of these great events. I know I am leaving a ton off of this list, so buyer beware, this is just my own personal top ten!
10) Tennessee Williams Literary Festival
- This one's a hoot. The climax of this festival, honoring the bond between New Orleans and famed author Tennessee Williams, is the Stella Yellin' competition. Participants take to the streets to shout their best and most vociferous STELLAAA, a la A Streetcar Named Desire
. The winner usually is not only quite loud, but very theatrical as well. Tennessee Williams fest celebrates the happy combination of art, music, literature, and food that New Orleans is renowned for.
STELLLAAAA!!! (courtesy of Where Traveler)
9) Louisiana Seafood Festival
- This one is pretty self-explanatory, but mmmm it sure is good! Whether it's oysters, crawfish, blue crabs, red fish, or really any kid of Gulf Coast seafood, you'll find it here. Celebrity guest chefs put on great demonstrations, and the food is killer. This fest is always part of the Vieux to Do
, a weekend of festivals that includes the Cajun-Zydeco Music Festival and the French Market Creole Tomato Festival. It's always an awesome weekend down in the Quarter when these three festivals all take to the stage(s).
Strawberries. Everywhere. (from LouisianaTravel.com)8) Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival
- Where else can you get a decadent deep-fried strawberry but at the Louisiana Strawberry Fest? This festival has become increasingly popular in recent years, and is located around an hour's drive outside of NOLA in a small, quaint town called Ponchatoula. Ponchatoula grows some of the best strawberries in America and dedicate a whole festival to them during the peak of strawberry season. Don't miss the crowning of Miss Strawberry Festival either!
FQF Banners just went up! (photo from DavidNOLA)
7) French Quarter Festival
- Over 750,000 locals and out-of-towners visit the French Quarter to celebrate everything NOLA during this mega-fest. Every year FQF gets bigger and now claims the top spot as the country's largest free music festival. Over 800 musicians take the stage over this four-day festival that spans virtually the entire French Quarter. While 65 of New Orleans' best restaurants set up shop at the fest for you to get a taste of all the different foods this city has been made famous for. The festival has a distinctly local flavor; from the food to the musicians, FQF really does show New Orleans in all of her glory.
6) Voodoo Fest
- Now in its 20th year, this is one of the most popular festivals of the year for Tulane students. I attended all four years that I was a student at Tulane, and got to see some amazing acts at this Halloween-weekend music festival. It all goes down in City Park, not far from Tulane's campus. Tulane even offers shuttle buses to get our students out to the fest. Last year's lineup included Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and the Killers, among others. Last month in the semi-same genre as Voodoo is Buku
which features Lana Del Rey, A$ap Rocky, Sza, and a number of other EDM heavy hitters.
5) Po-Boy Fest
- Also a Tulane student favorite, Po-Boy Fest is probably the only festival in America that celebrates the preservation of the humble sandwich. Of course, for anyone who has ever been to NOLA before, you know that we don't call them sandwiches. Or hoagies. Or subs. We call 'em poor (po) boys. Po-Boy Fest occurs on the entirety of Oak Street, just a few streetcar stops up from Tulane's campus. Last year over 30 vendors offered up their own unique interpretations on the New Orleans classic.
4) Jazz Fest
- The mother of all New Orleans festivals. Officially named the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Jazz Fest enters its 50th year in 2019. The festival occurs over two weeks in the spring and is home to 12 stages and over 460,000 attendees per year. While music may be the centerpiece of this festival, food and art are close behind. You'll try some of the best food in the world here at Jazz Fest—whether your preference is alligator-on-a-stick or the famous Crawfish Monica, there is something for everyone. And don't be fooled by the name, Jazz Fest is way more than just jazz. This year's headliners include Dave Matthews Band, Katy Perry, Jimmy Buffett, Chris Stapleton, Bob Seger, Santana, Van Morrison, Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Revivalists, Leon Bridges, Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas, Gary Clark Jr., The Head and The Heart, The Doobie Brothers, Jimmy Cliff, Ziggy Marley, the Indigo Girls and.... the Tulane University Jazz Orchestra! (I kid you not, Tulane's jazz band gets to annually play at Jazz Fest!). Best part? Tulane offers free shuttles and discounted tickets for our students.
Jazz Fest from above! (http://www.rockthebodyelectric.com)
3) The New Orleans Red Dress Run
- This one takes a little bit of explaining, and is one of those festivals you kind of need to see to understand. The RDR also may admittedly be for olders students to attend after
turning 21 years old. Many cities have Hash House Harriers, running clubs that also enjoy imbibing as a part of their run. The Red Dress Run is one of the largest of these events in America. New Orleanians take to the streets and meander through the the French Quarter and the Marigny. The one caveat is that everyone must wear a red dress. That's really it. It's a great fundraiser for a number of local charities, and there really is no point to it at all, except to have fun in the streets with your friends. And it is fun. Really really fun.
- Did you know that the largest student-run music festival in America is held right here at Tulane? Every April, Tulane students take to the LBC Quad to revel in a day's worth of free food and music. This year was our biggest yet—with two stages, 7 different bands, and 20,000 pounds of Louisiana crawfish. It's all totally planned and executed by our students and is one of our best and most famous traditions on campus each year. This year's headliner were Ra Ra Riot, The Stone Foxes and Welles and previous years have seen Moon Taxi, The Funky Meters, Galactic, Lettuce, and Givers. And lest you vegetarians fret, there are plenty of food options if you don't indulge in eating mudbugs. Every year the Green Club and Veggie Club co-sponsor a large-scale veggie boil during Crawfest. Crawfest is big and has been featured everywhere from the Huffington Post
And now for my number one festival in NOLA.......
1) New Orleans San Fermin
- Okay, this one also takes some explaining. Every year, in the city of Pamplona, Spain, revelers take to the streets to run and avoid being gored by bulls. Well, not wanting to be outdone, a number of years ago New Orleans created their own version of the event: the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans! We take to the streets of the French Quarter early on a Saturday morning in July, wearing the traditional white and red seen in Spain. And then... the bulls arrive. Since we are weird here, our bulls are actually women. With bats. On roller skates. Over 20 different teams of Roller Derby Girls from around the country, including the Big Easy Roller Girls, are actually the "bulls" that you are trying to avoid. This one is really a sight to see. I don't even really know how to describe it... it's just all kinds of fun.
Those bulls look pretty. Pretty scary.
The opening ceremonies of San Fermin in Nueva Orleans
Here's me running from the bulls last summer
Steer clear of the bulls!
So there you have it, folks! My favorite festivals of the year.
New Orleans is the best town in America for celebrating that joie de vivre
that is so pervasive here. I hope you'll be able to come in town to enjoy even a little part of that!