New Orleans is known for many different things, including the likes of the world famous Bourbon Street, its annual Mardi Gras celebration, and the beauty of the historic French Quarter. But for 10 days every spring, New Orleans is also well known for its renowned Jazz and Heritage Festival, or "Jazz Fest," a celebration that highlights the music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. In 2015, it will be held from April 24 to May 3 at the Fair Grounds Race Course, about a 10 minute trek from the French Quarter.
Jazz Fest's roots date back to 1970 when it was founded by the New Orleans Hotel Motel Association. But unlike today's popular festival, that very first Jazz Fest only featured four stages of music and a Gospel stage, many of which didn't even have working microphones for the performers. This inaugural fest only drew about 350 people - and how times have changed since then. By the mid-1970s, the Fest was attracting several hundred thousand attendees. In 2001, it eclipsed the 650,000-attendee mark, and has since featured national acts and brought some $300 million annually to the New Orleans economy.
As the name implies, the New Orleans Jazz Fest is first and foremost about the music. The festival has various different stages, from gospel, to blues, to jazz, and more. There are also a slew of mainstream acts that regularly play at the festival. In 2015, such national acts include:
- Elton John
- Jimmy Buffet
- John Legend
- Ed Sheeran
- Lenny Kravitz
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Keith Urban
- Buddy Guy
Local favorites such as the Honey Island Swamp Band, Creole String Beans and The Soul Rebels also are slated to perform.
While the music takes center stage, the food is worth attending the New Orleans Jazz Fest for, as well. In fact, there's a whole food lineup that's part of the Jazz Fest, featuring items such as:
- Crawfish bread
- Cajun Jambalaya
- Crawfish sausage Po-boy
- Alligator pie
- Cajun duck Po-boy
- Fried soft shell crab
- Grilled chicken livers
- Crawfish strudel
- Roasted jumbo peanuts
In addition to the delicacies mentioned above, there's also a Food Heritage State and a Cajun Food Stage with more items to choose from as well to whet one's appetite.
What to Know About New Orleans Jazz Fest
As we mentioned earlier, the New Orleans Jazz Fest is responsible for bringing some $300 million into the city annually, a feat that is only topped by the annual Mardi Gras celebration. Here are some tips for getting there and enjoying it:
- Getting there/parking: Although the Fair Grounds Race Course is located in a residential area of New Orleans, parking in the neighborhoods is not recommended. Instead, attendees are advised to park elsewhere around the city and take advantage of busses that pick up and drop off at the grounds.
- Book early: The festival is popular and hotel rooms fill up fast. So if you're planning to be in town for the festival, book your room early - even as early as a full year in advance - to get availability and the best room rates.
Dress in cool clothing, and consider wearing a hat, as the festival grounds are in a largely unshaded area under the hot spring sun. Comfortable shoes are also a must, as there's a bevy of walking involved to get between stages and food stands. And of course, you’ve got to arrive in style. Head over to the Perlis Crawfish clothing section of our site, and get your authentic Perlis merchandise just in time for the festivities. You’re also welcome to pay us a visit at any of our locations if you plan to be in there area – we’d love to see you!