I first visited New Orleans as part of a yearly tour with my high school choir. We sang at a few places, including Loyola, and lined up some of your basic New Orleans tours (swamp tour, ghost tour, etc.). Naturally, everyone was excited to see the French Quarter and Bourbon Street because they were the huge tourist attractions. When we got there (around noon, because our guardians figured that there was the least chance of something horrific happening to us if we were exploring the city during the day), our tour guide took us around some back streets because it was so busy. It turns out that we had walked into the middle of French Quarter Fest–a perfectly friendly situation but a crowded one.
So, naturally, all of us high school students are wide-eyed, staring at everything that was going on (I think we were specifically staring at the street performers), and the tour guide just laughs at us and tells that that if we thought this was something, we ought to see the number of people that will be out tonight.
To talk about festival season in New Orleans is almost cheating, because festivals happen year-round. Mardi Gras is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s almost a festival for everything (and if you think there isn’t, then you might not be looking hard enough). St. Patrick’s Day is in a couple of days and brings its own parade into the mix (you can catch cabbages!). Jazz Fest is another favorite of mine. It falls around my birthday and attending the festival has always made my birthday for that year. Jazz Fest has a lineup of musical artists from all over the place, much like Voodoo Fest (also in New Orleans but in October) or Austin City Limits. The artists at Jazz Fest are, you know, more jazzy. The energy is always excellent.
One of my personal favorites is the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. I got and satisfy the literary nerd in me by coming to this (free) festival and listening to speakers who have awards ranging from the Pulitzer Prize to the Emmy talk about various aspects of writing and/or performance.
Remember, food at these events is a must, and you can always believe that you’re going to be fed well in New Orleans (for rather affordable prices, if you know where to look). But, in case you’re a real foodie (meaning you’re one of those lovely people who watches the Food Network almost 24/7), there is a whole other festival just for food–not even for one type of food, just for food! It’s so easy to see why so many tourists flock to New Orleans. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone here. So, if you want to find an event that suits your fancy, you should check out this page as a starting point and come see us!