The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, commonly known as Jazz Fest, is an annual celebration of music, art, and culture rooted in New Orleans’ vibrant traditions. Originally envisioned in 1970 by George Wein as “The Louisiana Heritage Festival,” the event has grown into a cultural landmark that draws visitors worldwide. Wein’s vision was to create a festival that combined local music styles, arts, crafts, and evening concerts to showcase the heart and soul of New Orleans. Today, this vision has become a reality, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors annually where they can also enjoy over 100 food options and explore a craft bazaar featuring the work of local and regional artists.

When Is Jazz Fest in New Orleans?

Jazz Fest typically spans two weekends in late April and early May, featuring a star-studded lineup of artists across various genres. The first Jazz Fest, held from April 22-26, 1970, had only 350 attendees but featured legendary performers like Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, and Fats Domino. Today, it attracts music lovers from all over the globe. Check the official website for up-to-date information on specific dates and lineups.

  • The festival occurs over two weekends in late April and early May
  • Lineup is typically announced in mid-January, while daily schedules (“cubes”) are released closer to the event
  • Secure your tickets early, as the event often sells out quickly

Where is Jazz Fest in New Orleans?

Since its inception in 1970, Jazz Fest has evolved from its original location outside the French Quarter, growing into a major cultural event that attracts locals and fans from around the world. The inaugural Jazz Fest was held in 1970 outside the French Quarter at Congo Square, a historic site where enslaved people in the 18th century gathered to trade, dance, and play music. It  relocated in 1972 to the infield of the Fair Grounds Race Course and is situated where Gentilly meets Bayou St. John. The Fair Grounds Race Course is the third-oldest racetrack in America and has been the home of Jazz Fest since 1972. The Fair Grounds, encompassing a 145-acre site, transforms into a lively hub where multiple stages host an all-star lineup of entertainers from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each festival day.

The New Orleans Race Track

What to Expect at Jazz Fest New Orleans

Attendees can expect a unique blend of musical styles from local and international artists, with diverse performances ranging from traditional jazz to contemporary rock. There are multiple stages dedicated to different genres, from the Congo Square Stage’s Afro-centric beats to the Sheraton Fais Do Do Stage’s Cajun and Zydeco music, to one of the oldest and most revered stage, The Gospel Tent. Beyond the music, savor local cuisine from vendors offering iconic dishes like Crawfish Monica and Po’boys, or explore craft stalls brimming with local artistry.

  • Multiple stages represent a range of genres, including blues, gospel, and brass band music
  • Food vendors serve local delicacies like Crawfish Monica and Mango Freeze
  • Craft stalls and cultural exhibits highlight Louisiana’s rich heritage

New Orleans Jazz Fest Guide and When it is

Jazz Fest Tickets and Passes Information

Tickets include single-day passes, weekend passes, and VIP packages offering perks like special seating and lounge access. Jazz Fest has adopted a cashless payment system, and all transactions require an AXS account. Each pass comes with specific benefits, such as private viewing areas or exclusive lounges. Note that Locals Thursday, offering discounted rates for Louisiana residents, remains a beloved tradition.

  • Tickets include single-day, general admission weekend, and VIP packages
  • An AXS account is needed for purchase, with additional service fees applicable
  • Locals Thursday offers discounted rates for Louisiana residents

Getting to Jazz Fest New Orleans Safely

With public transportation, ridesharing, and biking available, attendees have multiple ways to access the Fair Grounds. Parking is limited and fills up quickly, so consider using buses or streetcars. Jazz Fest is a rain-or-shine event, and it’s best to arrive early to secure your spot and avoid traffic congestion.

  • Streetcars, buses, and rideshares provide convenient options
  • Parking is limited, so public transportation is recommended
  • Arrive early to avoid traffic and find the best viewing spots

New Orleans Jazz Fest Tips for Visitors

Preparing for changing weather is crucial, as New Orleans can be unpredictable. Comfortable shoes, sunscreen, a hat, and a refillable water bottle are recommended essentials. Collapsible chairs or blankets help make the day enjoyable, and festivalgoers should bring credit or debit cards for cashless transactions. Bring a light rain jacket or boots for sudden downpours, and stay hydrated as the heat and humidity can get intense.

  • Comfortable shoes and a refillable water bottle are essential
  • Bring credit or debit cards for cashless payments
  • Light rain gear and sunscreen will keep you prepared for all weather

New Orleans Jazz Fest Guide

Best Places to Stay Near Jazz Fest

Staying near the festival grounds in neighborhoods like the French Quarter, Mid-City, or Faubourg Marigny offers proximity and a taste of New Orleans culture. Hotels near the French Quarter provide nightlife and historic ambiance, while Faubourg Marigny and Mid-City have quieter but equally charming accommodations. Consider travel packages for deals on hotels and festival access.

  • French Quarter hotels offer nightlife and proximity to attractions
  • Faubourg Marigny features charming bed-and-breakfast options
  • Mid-City provides a more relaxed atmosphere away from the crowds

Exploring New Orleans Beyond Jazz Fest

While Jazz Fest is the centerpiece of your visit, take time to explore New Orleans’ unique neighborhoods, art museums, and culinary treasures. Whether it’s a stroll through the Garden District or sampling classic Creole and Cajun cuisine, the city has much to offer. A Mississippi River cruise or a visit to City Park can round out your cultural immersion.

  • Wander through the historic neighborhoods like the Garden District
  • Indulge in local cuisine, including po’boys and gumbo
  • Take a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River

Visiting New Orleans Jazz Fest Guide and When it is


Key Takeaways from the New Orleans Jazz Fest Guide

  • Festival Timing: Jazz Fest traditionally spans two weekends in late April and early May, so plan your visit accordingly.
  • Ticket Options: Purchase tickets early for the best prices, from single-day to VIP packages.
  • Preparation: Prepare for all weather conditions and bring essentials like sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable shoes.

Frequently Asked Questions About the New Orleans Jazz Fest

  1. When is the next Jazz Fest in New Orleans?
    • Visit the official Jazz Fest website for the most accurate dates.
  2. How can I secure VIP packages?
    • VIP packages can be purchased on the official website, but they sell out quickly, so book early.
  3. What should I wear to Jazz Fest?
    • Dress comfortably for the weather and consider wearing expressive, fun outfits to capture the festival spirit.
  4. Is the festival kid-friendly?
    • Yes, the Kids Tent features children’s music, performances, and interactive activities.
  5. What kind of food is available at Jazz Fest?
    • Find local vendors serving Louisiana specialties like po’boys, Crawfish Monica, and Mango Freeze.