New Orleans is unlike any city in the United States which is why it consistently ranks as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Travelers visit the Crescent City for a variety of reasons. Some choose to go on a foodie vacation and indulge in the massive variety of dishes this city offers ranging from po-boys to friend seafood. Others come here for a musical tour and take in the history of Jazz. Many simply come to let loose in the infamous Bourbon Street, where the party never stops and you never know what you can expect to happen on any given night. Still others want to attend some of the city’s events. Whether they are annual or semi-annual; New Orleans size, location, and established tourist appeal make it an excellent location for festivals, concerts, shows, and other events.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. There is simply nothing else like New Orleans Mardi Gras anywhere else in the country and while there are many fun annual events in New Orleans throughout the year, Mardi Gras is simply at a completely different level. The entire city comes alive and fills up with parades, balls, parties, and décor. While Mardi Gras itself takes place on Fat Tuesday (typically either late February or March), with the largest and most prestigious parades taking place the weekend prior; the unofficial start to Mardi Gras season is the first day of Carnival in January. It is not uncommon to see the Mardi Gras décor go up at the same time revelers take their Christmas décor down for the season. There are many aspects of Mardi Gras that attract people ranging from parties and food to parades and balls. The parades in New Orleans during Mardi Gras are among the most elaborate in the country. Although the parades happen on many weekends between Carnival and Fat Tuesday, the most prestigious take center stage the weekend prior. The parades floats are organized by essentially various social clubs known as krewes, many of which have gathered renown for the show they are able to put on. The Krewe of Endymion and the Krewe of Bacchus are just two examples of groups who go all out to create unforgettable parades experiences. Various parades take place throughout the city but eventually, most of them cross the French Quarter along their routes. Some individual krewes have parades that are composed of as much as 90 floats and these krewes time their routes so they continuously follow one another. This makes the Mardi Gras parades turn into an all day treat for those lucky enough to attend.
Once the parades are over, the party on Bourbon Street will just be starting up. While Bourbon Street does not lack for people on any given night, large events such as Mardi Gras lead to the streets being packed with people. While this is not an ideal setting for some, it is an unforgettable experience for others. The energy can be felt in the air with a horde of people descending on the clubs and bars of Bourbon Street, all looking to dance and drink the night away. Bourbon Street is filled with many clubs that each have their own type of music they specialize in. So whether you prefer rap, country, dance, or rock; visitors simply need to wander from club to club until they find a club that matches their style and spend as much or as little time as they want there. For those who still want to experience the Mardi Gras vibe without spending the entire night surrounded by a crowd of people, several clubs offer tickets to their rooftop bars, allowing for a comfortable experience with easy access to drinks and food without needing to fight the crowds.
Aside from Mardi Gras, Halloween is my favorite time of year in New Orleans. A lot of the reasons for this are the same as my reasons for enjoying Mardi Gras so much. It is a time of year when the entire city is excited to let loose and celebrate. Much like Mardi Gras, the Halloween décor that people put up in their houses are very extravagant. These houses put on free shows for the entire neighborhood and ask nothing in return. These homeowners do it simply to add to the city’s enjoyment. Some of the homes decorated have gathered a substantial social media following. Whether it’s the Skeleton House in Uptown or the Ghost Manor in the Garden District; these decorated houses are well worth the trip to see for yourself if you are in town during October. Much like Mardi Gras, Halloween also has an annual parade associated with it that is organized by the Krewe of Boo. This parade route takes place in the French Quarter and lasts several hours. Just like with Mardi Gras, when the parade ends; the party begins on Bourbon Street where the majority of those in attendance that night are in full costume. For visitors who want a different experience, a ghost or voodoo tour would be a more family friendly option to enjoy during Halloween night in New Orleans. Finding and booking one of these tours is very simple as there are tourist guide kiosks located throughout the French Quarter and the vendors there are happy to answer any questions you have when you stop by.
Jazz Fest is an annual music festival that takes place in New Orleans each spring and attracts many performers and musicians. Some of the names that have performed in Jazz Fest over the last few years have been Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Willie Nelson, The Who, and many others. This year’s lineup has also been recently announced and will be headlined by Dead and Co, Ed Shereen, and Lizzo as well as dozens of other artists. Jazz Fest is an event that takes place over two weeks in spring and is located in the City Park. The entire park is converted for the festival with the park subdivided into several sections; each section being highlighted by a stage. Artists perform at each stage throughout the day and are on a set schedule, making it very easy to wander around from section to section throughout the day until you find music that catches your attention. In addition to the stages, food vendors are lined up throughout the park. Many of these vendors come from the city’s top restaurants and are an excellent way to sample the city’s top culinary treasures while they are all congregated in one area. In addition to musical artists, other artist also setup shop around the park giving festival goers an opportunity to buy local art from local artists for their own collections.
Due to the city’s popularity, it attracts many international events as well. The city has hosted WrestleMania’s and Super Bowls on multiple occasions. One such event that occurred very recently was the annual Miss Universe pageant that was hosted in New Orleans at the Ernest P. Memorial Convention center. Due to the city’s natural attraction for visitors, central location, and year-long temperate weather; it allows the perfect combination of circumstances for large events to choose New Orleans as their host city of choice. This is made easier since the city’s rank as a popular tourist destination has caused many hotels to be located here in addition to an ever growing vacation rental community that is able to house visitors who choose to come to the city for these prestigious events.
Whatever your reason is for visiting New Orleans, you will be sure to find a great time in this welcoming city as long as you come with the right mindset. Whether you come for one of the city’s many events or you simply arrive to see the city itself, the city’s reputation as a popular tourist destination is very well earned. There are many other events that I would love to share that occur in the city annual such as the French Quarter Festival or the annual Christmas décor in the city’s downtown hotels, but those will be stories for another day…