Regarded as the birthplace of jazz and where music great Louis Armstrong first honed his skills, it’s no surprise that one of the most prestigious jazz festivals is held here. The New Orleans Jazz Festival, which kicks off on April 27th and ends on May 6th, embodies everything about the rich and world-renowned New Orleans music.
The New Orleans Jazz Fest 2018 headliners include Aerosmith, Lionel Richie, Jimmy Buffet, Anita Baker, and plenty more. People from all around the world will descend into the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans to get the 10-day party started, and if you’re a first-timer or a New Orleans Jazz Festival novice, we’ve created this handy guide for 12 things you MUST do.
1) Check out as many acts as possible
Of course, by their names alone the headliners of any festival will draw thousands to the stage, but be sure to check out the lesser-known performers that are on smaller stages. Every musician starts out with humble beginnings, whether that’s in a local bar or on the street corners of Bourbon Street. The New Orleans Jazz Festival is the perfect place to discover the music stars of tomorrow.
2) Get there early for the main stage headliners
Names like Lionel Richie, David Byrne and Sting will be performing on the two main stages at the Fair Grounds. If you really want a good view, be sure to get there early to avoid getting stuck way at the back. Usually the headline acts take the stage after 3pm on their respective days, so keep an eye on the schedule to be on top of timing.
3) Head to Tipitina’s
The Jazz Festival runs for ten days, so if you’re in need of a break from the chaos at the Fair Grounds for one night, there can be no better place for chilled out vibes than Tipitina’s. Get tickets for the festival weekend, where performers will be on-stage ‘til 2am. If you’re looking for the ultimate musical thrill-ride, then you can head to Tipitina’s straight from the festival and carry on rocking ‘til the late hours.
4) Don’t rely on cabs
The line to wait for a cab outside the Fair Grounds can be insane during the festival days, especially as the day draws to an end. Instead, why not rent a bicycle and travel at your own leisure, or walk to another location to hail a cab.
5) Follow your ears and you’ll find the after parties
New Orleans doesn’t only come to life around festival season, it’s pumping with great music, culture and vibes all year round! When the festival ends for the day, keep an ear out for where it’s all happening next. Head towards Fortin Street and you’ll find yourself in the middle of an impromptu street festival that has no rules!
6) Eat as much festival food as you can
The only thing as good as the performances at the New Orleans Jazz Festival is the mouth-watering food stalls all around the Fair Grounds. The favourites are Crawfish Monica stand, Cajun Duck Po Boy, and the Cochon de Lait Po Boy stalls. Served to you exactly how it should be, full of flavour and in your hand to be enjoyed right away.
7) Relax in the mist
The sun in the deep South can be unforgiving, and you’ll need to be prepared as you’ll be exposed to it for most of the day. When you want to chill out and kickback from the frantic pacing around, head to the Jazz and Blues tents, where you’ll find mist machines to cool you down.
8) Remember a sun hat and comfy shoes
You’ll be walking around all day and standing, dancing or jumping (whatever your style) when you’re watching performances, so it’s advisable to be dressed as comfortably as possible – especially when it comes to footwear. Hopefully the sun will be beaming down, so a hat wouldn’t go amiss.
9) Visit the French Quarter
Before New Orleans became a part of the United States, it was founded and owned by France, and some of the French traditions, such as French folk music and food stalls are still around in the city. When you leave the Fair Grounds, head on over to the French Quarter district where you’ll find street performers of all kinds.
10) Check out the famous cocktail bars and breweries
New Orleans is full of fantastic bars and drinking hotspots, but few can match up to the longstanding New Orleans Original Daquiris and Cooter Brown’s. The two spots are opposite each other on Charles Avenue, and welcome people from all over the world with their range of drinks that helm from every corner of the globe.
11) Pace yourself throughout the day
If you’re in it for the long-haul and start your day at the festival from 7am, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t wear yourself out before noon. Keep hydrated (with water!) and take frequent rest breaks in-between your trails from stage to stage.
12) Keep partying after 7pm
Just because the festival comes to an end for the day around seven in the evening doesn’t mean the party stops for you. One of the most popular spots to hit up afterwards is Liuzza’s By the Track, which is a buzzing café that affords you a great view of the busiest streets with festival goers continuing the partying. There’s also an opportunity to get free drinks if you donate to a cause, provided that the charitable organisations are in the area at the time.