Here in New Orleans, we have a favorite expression: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” is a Cajun saying meaning “Let the good times roll!” And let them roll, we do. With more than 130 festivals year-round in the Crescent City, we know how to have a good time.
While some of the most popular festivals like Jazz Fest and the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience can carry a hefty ticket price, there are also plenty of free festivals to enjoy. Read on to discover ten of our favorites.
1. Mardi Gras
While not a festival in the same sense of the word as the rest on this list, Mardi Gras is a free celebration unlike any other. There are plenty of smaller events that happen throughout the Carnival season that may charge an admission fee or require membership to an organization, like the exclusive Mardi Gras balls, but most of the beloved festivities are free to attend.
Mardi Gras celebrations stretch over a few weeks and include a variety of elaborate parades, costumes, and of course, king cake. Learn more about the local Mardi Gras traditions and book your room early! Fat Tuesday falls on February 13, 2018.
2. French Quarter Festival
After Mardi Gras, French Quarter Festival is definitely the largest of the free festivals in New Orleans. The event got its start in the early 1980s as a way to bring the local community back into the neighborhood after weeks of construction. The festival has grown into one of the largest events in the Southeastern United States, drawing more than 760,000 people to our own historic neighborhood in 2016. Locals and visitors alike flock to this festival each April for the 20+ stages of live music as well as the myriad of delicious food options.
3. Satchmo Summerfest
Organized by the same folks behind French Quarter Festival, Satchmo Summerfest celebrates the life and music of New Orleans’ most beloved son, Louis Armstrong. The event is held in early August to coincide with Armstrong’s birthday on August 4, and typically features special programming like historical lectures and film screenings in addition to free live music. This year’s event will fall on August 3-6, 2017.
4. Freret Street Festival
Freret Street Festival is the annual offshoot of a monthly market that happens on Freret Street at Napoleon Avenue. For the annual free festival, the market expands from its normal 90 vendors selling art, fresh food and flea market finds to a full-blown block party with three stages of live music and 200 local vendors. This laid-back neighborhood fest also features pet adoptions and a kids’ activity area.
5. Oak Street Po-Boy Festival
Many of the festivals in New Orleans are centered around a single favorite food, and this one is no exception. Each fall, fans of the beloved po-boy head to the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival to sample sandwiches prepared by local restaurants, who compete to see who has the best po-boy. Po-boys range from the classic (Soft Shell Crab or Blackened Catfish) to the exotic (Shrimp and Pimento Cheese or Alligator Fricassee’). The festival also hosts three live music stages featuring favorite local bands.
6. Bayou Boogaloo
One of our favorite summer events in New Orleans is Bayou Boogaloo, a free music and arts festival that takes place along the banks of beautiful Bayou St. John in the Mid-City neighborhood. The festival features multiple stages of music and 60 local and regional artisans as well as a Marketplace of other local businesses and service providers. Each year, the event offers arts & crafts demonstrations and activities as well as recreational fun like hoop dancing and kayak racing.
7. Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival
In 2017, Grammy-winning artists Robert Cray and Bobby Rush will be the headline performers of the 12th annual Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival. The event takes place within walking distance of our hotel at Lafayette Square Park in downtown New Orleans and features local music, food vendors, and artists. This free festival takes place during the peak of beautiful fall weather, October 13–15, 2017.
8. Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival
This festival takes place just outside of our French Quarter neighborhood, at Louis Armstrong Park. The 11th annual Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival runs from June 24-25, 2017, and features the best in Louisiana Cajun and Zydeco music. Of course, as with any local event, there will also be delicious food delicacies and plenty of local artwork to peruse.
9. Congo Square Rhythms Festival
Also in Louis Armstrong Park is the Congo Square Rhythms Festival, which celebrates the music and dance of Africa, the Caribbean, and the American Gulf South. This free festival is a family-friendly way to celebrate the diversity of New Orleans and explore the rich cultural history of the area. The event usually takes place in March.
10. New Orleans Oyster Festival
The New Orleans Oyster Festival takes place just steps from our hotel at Woldenberg Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. Get your fill of this delicacy June 3-4, 2017, and sample a wide variety of oyster dishes from local restaurants. In addition to live music, this festival also features cooking demonstrations and oyster-themed crafts.
Stay In The Heart Of It All
Book your room at Bienville House and stay in the heart of it all! We’re conveniently located in the French Quarter, with easy access to all of the free festivals that New Orleans has to offer.
Want more free fun? Head to the blog of our sister property, Hotel Monteleone, for a guide to 20 fun free things to do in New Orleans.