Renowned as the birthplace of jazz music, it’s no surprise that one of the largest and best jazz festivals in the world happens each spring in The Big Easy – New Orleans. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a ten-day cultural extravaganza that celebrates the music and culture of both New Orleans and Louisiana. And what a celebration it is, with every style of music imaginable, from jazz and folk to R&B, Cajun, Afro-Caribbean, country, hip-hop, and so much more.
Ready to experience this cultural phenomenon? Read on as we discuss everything you need to know about the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and how to make the most of your experience.
Plan Your Visit Around the New Orleans Jazz Fest Lineup
Jazz Fest 2020 takes place from April 23 to May 3 at the Fair Grounds Race Course, located at 1751 Gentilly Boulevard in downtown New Orleans. That’s about 10 minutes by car from the famous French Quarter. The Jazz Fest Express shuttles run from several locations to the festival throughout each day.
This year’s Jazz Fest lineup represents a wide scope of musical genres and styles, and span across several decades of musical brilliance. Performers include Stevie Nicks, The Who, and The Black Crowes, as well as Lionel Richie, Elvis Costello, and Lenny Kravitz. And don’t miss your chance to see The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Kool & the Gang, and even Lizzo. Check out the full list of this year’s performers, so you can plan your trip around the day (or days) your favorite singers and bands perform.
Performances take place on either the primary stage, the secondary stage, or one of the many stages throughout the grounds that is dedicated to a specific musical style, such as blues, gospel, or Cajun.
The Heritage portion of the Jazz & Heritage Festival — that is to say the local craft booths and food vendors — further complements the energy of the music. The official policy of the Jazz Fest is “no carnival food.” Instead, you’ll find over 70 food booths featuring authentic, handmade Louisiana cuisine using fresh, local ingredients, including seafood and produce. Now is the perfect time to try alligator pie, crawfish Monica, and a soft-shell Po’ Boy.
Keep the Fun Going at New Orleans Music Clubs
In the Crescent City, the party never stops. And with Jazz Fest wrapping up late in the afternoon each day, New Orleans music clubs and venues come alive with live music and entertainment. You may be surprised at who you see performing at one of the local clubs, as festival acts are known to make surprise appearances at night at music venues all over town.
Preservation Hall, showcasing traditional New Orleans jazz music since 1961, is a must-see, historic venue. Located in the French Quarter, Preservation Hall is renowned as the go-to place for authentic New Orleans jazz. They don’t serve food or drink, only great music, but don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line. Don’t worry, though, this iconic venue is worth the wait.
Frenchmen Street teems with music clubs, bars, and dives, and it’s here where you’ll find Snug Harbor, a New Orleans jazz institution. If you’re looking for a great steak, Snug Harbor’s restaurant has it. But this intimate spot is where true music aficionados come to hear great music and a who’s who of the best local jazz artists.
Another New Orleans institution, Maison Bourbon Jazz Club makes its home in the French Quarter and is where many famous musicians, including Harry Connick, Jr., served their apprenticeships and honed their craft. And it’s here where you can enjoy a curated cocktail and live music well into the night.
Dine Like a Local at These Classic New Orleans Restaurants
Whether you need to refuel after a long day at the festival or your night is just getting started, you’ll find no shortage of dining options in New Orleans.
Combining an innovative Creole menu with personalized service and old-world elegance, Brennan’s has been a fine-dining New Orleans mainstay since 1946. Fresh seafood highlights the eclectic menu, but be sure you save room for dessert and the bananas Foster.
With a name like Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, you should expect the unexpected. Ray Charles wrote the song “Early in the Morning” about this legendary New Orleans eatery, which features down-home, Creole comfort food, including mouthwatering fried chicken and savory gumbo. If you plan on going, go before the festival because this famous spot is only open for lunch.
And if you’re looking for a great spot for a light bite and a drink before heading to a club for some live music, visit Barcelona Tapas in the Uptown district. This quaint eatery boasts authentic Spanish paella and tapas, expertly created by noted Chef Xavier Laurentino.
Follow Our Insider Tips for a Festival You Won’t Forget
The New Orleans Jazz Fest is all about celebrating the history, culture and musical traditions of New Orleans and Louisiana. So when you arrive, leave your cares and worries behind, embrace spontaneity and creativity, and soak up everything you can from this unforgettable city.
And just for good measure, here are a few more insider tips for your New Orleans Jazz Fest experience:
Bring a tarp or blanket to sit on
Arrive early to claim your spot
Dress comfortably, especially when it comes to your shoes or boots
Prepare for the sun – wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock
Prepare for rain – bring a poncho, rain jacket, and towel
Bring cash for souvenirs and food
Be open to meeting new people
Now that you’re ready to plan your trip to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, it’s time to find great deals on flights and accommodations. Let Vacations by Marriott help you get started today.