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A First-Timer’s Guide to French Quarter Festival

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Staying in the French Quarter during the French Quarter Fest is one of my favorite ways to explore New Orleans; you’ll encounter more than just your normal festival. This local event is the primary kickoff to festival season in New Orleans. 

Whether it’s your first visit or just the latest chapter in your ongoing love affair with New Orleans, get ready to join the main stages and enjoy another great lineup of New Orleans Local musicians. Let French Quarter Fest become your favorite reason to come to New Orleans. 

When should I book my flight and hotel for the French Quarter Fest?

As you plan your trip to New Orleans for the French Quarter Fest, booking your flight and hotel well in advance is essential. Accommodations can fill up quickly.

Flight Booking: Aim to book your flight at least 3-4 months before the Festival to secure the best rates and ensure availability. I tend to book my flights with Southwest because they will give you credit if the price drops – no questions asked!

Hotel Reservations: Hotels in and around the French Quarter are in high demand during the Festival. Make hotel reservations 4-6 months in advance for the best selection. Remember, the closer to the event date you book, the fewer options you’ll have and the more expensive the hotel will be!

Hotel Options:

French Quarter: Choose one of the many French Quarter hotels right in the heart of the Festival for convenience. The official hotel for French Quarter Fest is The Omni Royal Orleans which can book up pretty quickly.

Surrounding Neighborhoods: Consider staying in nearby areas like the Warehouse District, Central Business District, or Garden District for more availability and slightly better rates.

Remember, Spring Break can also affect accommodation availability and prices due to its proximity to the festival date. Booking early is your best strategy to ensure a stress-free experience.

What’s the best way to get around during French Quarter Fest?

Navigating the streets of the French Quarter Festival requires a bit of planning to enjoy the whole experience without the hassle of traffic jams and parking woes. Here’s a friendly guide to help you get around smoothly:


Parking Lots and Garages: There are lots of paid parking lots and garages where you can park to leave your car. Ensure you understand the fare information before parking your car for a few hours or days. 

Ride Sharing: Ride-sharing is effortless to get to the Festival; if you plan on leaving when everyone else is leaving, you may want to wait about an hour for the crowds to clear and for the prices of your ride-sharing app to go down. 

Public Transportation:

Buses: Lines such as the #11 Magazine and #55 Elysian Fields can connect you to downtown areas close to the festivities.

Streetcars: The #12 St. Charles streetcar offers scenic routes. In contrast, the #47 Canal/Cemeteries and #48 Canal/City Park streetcar take you through iconic New Orleans streets.

If you are looking into taking the Streetcar, get the Jazzy Pass to make your ride a little easier.

taking the street car during french quarter fest

Canal Street Ferry:

The Canal Street Ferry can get you across the river if you are coming from the Westbank. It’s a convenient and picturesque way to travel if you happen to be on that side of the river.


Walking is one of the best ways to get around New Orleans during French Quarter Fest – even if you are dropped off a few blocks from the Festival; you can easily walk to some of the main stages. Many of the hotels in the French Quarter are within walking distance of the festival, so you do not need to worry about other modes of transportation.


Bringing a bike or renting one can be a great way to dodge the dense traffic and enjoy the French Quarter’s ambiance at your own pace. If you rent a bike, my favorite is one of the Blue Bike rentals because you can leave them wherever and do not have to worry about your bike later in the evening. 

If you cannot find a Blue Bike at the end of the day you will have to opt for another mode of transportation to get home.

blue bike 1

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What is the weather like For the French Quarter Fest?

The weather in April is some of my favorite! April brings mild and pleasant temperatures to New Orleans, making it an excellent time for outdoor activities.


Highs: You can expect daytime temperatures to average around 78°F.

Lows: In the early mornings, temperatures generally fall to about 59°F.

This range of temperatures calls for comfortable spring attire.


In April, New Orleans can be a little unpredictable with occasional rain, so keep a light rain jacket or an umbrella handy. You will also want to make sure you bring waterproof shoes or some sort of shoes that can dry out quickly if you do get stuck in the rain.

Outfit Suggestions:

Daytime: Bring short-sleeve shirts, shorts, or dresses for warm afternoons.

Evening: It’s wise to have a sweater or light jacket for chillier evenings.

Sun Protection: Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen, especially if you plan to explore the Festival and the city outside.

The overall humidity is lower than summer levels. Despite this, a bit of unpredictability means you should be prepared for sudden rainstorms and sunny days. It’s a good idea to bring a few different outfits – I’ve been to the Festival where I wore a sundress one day and jeans the next. 

French Quarter fest caught in the rain

Exploring French Quarter Fest

Now that we got all of those little planning details out of the way – it is time to get into the fun part about French Quarter Fest! As you venture into the heart of New Orleans for the Fest, you’ll experience the fun of the Big Easy.

One of the best things to do is determine which stages and food booths you must visit. There are also special events sprinkled throughout the weekend, so if that is something you want to attend, make sure you attend. 

The Festival’s first day begins with a second line and parade through Bourbon Street. This is perfect for first-time visitors who have yet to experience a parade or second line.

Navigating the French Quarter

The streets are pedestrian-friendly, but grabbing a festival map or using a digital one is best for getting around. When looking at the map, you will want to pinpoint stages, restrooms, and food vendors.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking on uneven ground and navigating through the large crowds. I typically like to wear cute tennis shoes or sandals. 

Main Stages and Music Areas

At the heart of the Fest, 20 main stages are placed, featuring an array of genres from jazz to zydeco. Key outdoor stages to note are:

Jackson Square: Often hosts big acts with iconic New Orleans sound. This stage is in front of St. Louis Cathedral. 

Woldenberg Riverfront Park: Perfect for riverside dancing with playbill-topping bands.

New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Mint: This stage is a little off the beaten path and is less crowded.

Plan to arrive at any stage early if you want to put up a chair or blanket. They all draw large crowds, and space becomes a premium. If you are okay with standing and dancing, there is space for no chairs at the front of the stages. 

dancing at a main stage french quarter fest

Smaller Stages

If you’re searching for a more intimate musical experience, the French Quarter Fest doesn’t disappoint. There are some more intimate stages, tucked away on side streets, allowing for up-close performances. These might include:

Classical Music Stage: For a serene break, featuring chamber music and solo performances.

Jazz Playhouse: Discover the sultrier side of jazz in an intimate setting.

Preservation Hall: A historic building in New Orleans, this stage will have you stepping back in time. 

Stepping into these smaller venues offers a personal connection to the music, creating unique fest moments.

Essentials to Bring

Packing the right items will ensure your experience at French Quarter Fest is comfortable and smooth. Remember these essentials to make the most of your time at the Festival! The last thing you want to do is go back to the hotel or car to grab something you forgot.

What should I wear to the French Quarter Fest?

New Orleans can be warm and humid, so lightweight and breathable clothing is critical. A comfortable pair of walking shoes is necessary as you’ll be strolling through the French Quarter. Consider a hat and sunglasses to protect you from the sun, and remember, a rainstorm can happen unexpectedly, so pack a poncho or rain jacket.

Best items to bring to French Quarter Fest

Water bottle: Stay hydrated in the heat, start your day off by drinking from your water bottle

Portable charger: Keep your phone charged to capture all the moments. In recent years, I’ve been using the Mophie when walking around New Orleans.

Sunscreen: Apply and reapply to shield your skin. I like to use Blue Lizzard sunscreen. 

Hand sanitizer: Many of the potties are Port-a-Potties. Keep some Hand Sanitizer with you in case you need it. 

Festival schedule and map: Help navigate your day (often available as a mobile app). I usually prefer the paper copy. 

Cash and Identification

Bring along cash, as some vendors may not accept cards, and having small bills can quicken your transactions. Always have your identification on you, as it is required when purchasing alcoholic beverages.

Cuisine and Dining

Now for the good part, everyone’s favorite part of visiting Louisiana is the food. French Quarter Fest gives you the opportunity to either participate in fine dining at one of the restaurants or grab and go something to eat from the booths.

Local Food Favorites

Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boys: A festival favorite featuring crunchy fried seafood on fluffy French bread with lettuce, tomato, and a tangy remoulade sauce. Poboys are one of the best items to eat at any festival.

Praline Beignets: this twist on the traditional beignet is sweet and nutty. It adds a Southern pecan flavor to the powdered sugar-dusted treat.

Hot Sausage Po-boys: If you’ve never had one, grab a Hot Sausage Po-boy from one of the vendors – it is a local favorite. 

Café du Monde: It’s not technically part of the Festival, but how could you skip out on getting beignets? This is the perfect spot to start or end your evening! 

Remember, part of the fun is discovering your favorites among the festive food booths that line the streets! The vendors serve local cuisine, and you cannot walk away unhappy. 

Check out this blog post to learn more about all of the local food favorites in New Orleans!

ajun cajun at french quarter fest

Beverage Stands and Bars

At the Festival, you’ll find a variety of beverage stands serving both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to quench your thirst, such as:

Cafe au Lait: Perfect for coffee lovers, this blend of strong coffee and hot milk is a delightful pick-me-up.

Sno-Balls: Fluffy shaved ice soaked in flavored syrups—a refreshing option to cool down under the New Orleans sun.

Craft Cocktails: The French Quarter Festival is also an excellent opportunity to explore local bars for a signature cocktail, the Sazerac, or a refreshing Mint Julep.

One of my favorite things is getting a Hurricane or Mint Julep from Pat O’Brien because I know it will help me keep my buzz.

Check out this blog post about all the classic cocktails you should get while in New Orelans.

pat os at jackson square

Cultural Exhibits and Activities

At the French Quarter Festival, immerse yourself in the vibrant history of New Orleans’ culture with many exhibits and activities tailored for every taste.

Arts and Crafts

Discover the handmade wonders of local artisans throughout the city. From jumping into shops or buying from street vendors, You’ll find jewelry, pottery, and artwork, ensuring you can take home a piece of New Orleans.

Pottery: Exquisite clay pieces, each telling its own story.

Jewelry: Handcrafted accessories showcasing New Orleans flair.

Art: Vivid paintings and prints celebrating the city’s rich hues.

Street Performers

Feast your eyes and ears on the diverse array of street performers and musical acts that give the French Quarter its unique charm. From jazz musicians to mime artists, each corner of the Festival brings a new surprise.

Musicians: Spellbinding jazz and blues performances.

Mime Artists: Silent yet expressive theatrical shows.

pirates alley with walkers french quarter fest

Workshops and Demonstrations

Participate in interactive workshops and watch live demonstrations to gain insight into the traditional crafts and practices of New Orleans. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the best in the business.

Cooking Demonstrations: Learn to cook classic Cajun and Creole dishes.

Dance Workshops: Get swept up in Cajun two-step or zydeco dancing.

Tips for a Memorable Experience

To ensure your time at the French Quarter Festival is unforgettable, consider these essential tips covering passes, visiting times, and maintaining courtesy.

Fest Family Experience Pass

Even though French Quarter Fest is a free festival – you can also upgrade your experience by purchasing day passes or the Fest Famly Experience Pass. If you bring the family along, each child under 12 is free for each paying adult. These extra-cost tickets get you free beer and water, a private restroom, front-of-the-stage views, and shady areas to hide from the sun. 

There are opportunities to buy single-day tickets to receive the same amenities. 

I have participated in one of these front-row experiences, and they are worth the money! If you want to try to get a front-row seat to see Big Freedia or the brass bands, this is one of the best ways to do it!

front row viewing

Best Time to Visit

I visit French Quarter Fest all day, but if you do not want to spend all day at the Festival because you are going over a few days, here are my favorite tips. 

Morning: Arrive early to enjoy performances with thinner crowds.

Afternoon: Ideal for indulging in food and more relaxed drinks.

Evening: Experience the vibrant nightlife, but prepare for larger groups.

The Festival’s peak is typically midday to early evening. For a more relaxed visit, aim for early mornings or later evenings. I like to get out there early, and if it gets too crowded or hot – pop into one of the local bars for some air conditioning and relaxation. 

Safety and Etiquette

Stay Aware: Keep personal items secure and be mindful of your surroundings.

Respect Boundaries: Enjoy the music from designated areas and avoid disrupting performances.

Sensory Overload: If you or a loved one are overloaded, you can head to the KultureCity powered by We Can Do This “SAV” vehicle. SAV is a sensory-inclusive program that allows those who need a safe space to calm down to do so without feeling overwhelmed. 

Remember, the French Quarter Festival is a community event, so maintaining a friendly atmosphere ensures a pleasant experience for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you attend the French Quarter Festival, you might have some questions about the experience. Here are some answers to common queries to help you plan your visit. If a question is unanswered in this blog post, please comment, and I will answer it to the best of my ability! 

Is French Quarter Fest worth it?

Yes, French Quarter Fest is considered a favorite event among both locals and tourists, showcasing Louisiana’s rich musical heritage and delicious cuisine in the historic heart of New Orleans.

What do you do at the French Quarter Festival?

At the French Quarter Festival, you can enjoy live music performances by over 1,700 musicians across various genres, savor local food from numerous vendors, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of New Orleans.

How much does it cost to go to the French Quarter Festival?

The Festival is free to attend. You only need to pay for the food, drinks, and any merchandise you want. There are a few experiences for which you can pay extra for additional luxuries while at the Festival. 

What to wear to French Quarter Fest?

Comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing is recommended for the French Quarter Fest. Think casual, breathable attire suitable for walking and enjoying the New Orleans climate.

What is the difference between the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the French Quarter Fest?

The French Quarter Fest focuses on local New Orleans music and food within the French Quarter, and it’s free to attend. Jazz Fest is a more significant, ticketed event featuring a more comprehensive range of internationally known artists and diverse performances beyond jazz.

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