New Orleans, Louisiana, is known for its world-class brass bands and jazz music. Throughout the year, this vibrant city hosts a plethora of music festivals, each offering a unique blend of music, food, and culture. These events, ranging from the iconic French Quarter Fest to the soulful Essence Music Festival, highlight the city’s rich musical heritage. Here are ten famous New Orleans music festivals that should be on every music lover’s bucket list.
1. French Quarter Fest
Location: French Quarter Neighborhood, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Annual event in April
French Quarter Fest is New Orleans’ largest music festival, attracting over 875,000 music fans each year. This festival, which began in 1984, has evolved into a celebration of Louisiana’s music scene, with traditional and contemporary jazz, R&B, funk, brass bands, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, and more. It offers a musical journey unlike any other in the historic French Quarter.
2. Essence Music Festival
Location: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Late June to Early July
With nearly 500,000 annual attendees, Essence Music Festival is the second-largest music festival in the city. Founded in 1995, this festival initially marked Essence Magazine’s 25th anniversary but has evolved into a massive celebration of African American culture and music. It consistently hosts top-tier artists, making it a must-visit event for R&B, hip-hop, and soul music lovers.
3. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Location: Fair Grounds Race Course, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Annually in April or May
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, commonly known as Jazz Fest, is one of the world’s largest jazz events, drawing over 475,000 attendees each year. Established in 1970, this ten-day extravaganza celebrates the rich cultural tapestry of New Orleans. With stages dedicated to blues, contemporary jazz, gospel, and more, Jazz Fest offers a diverse musical experience along with local cuisine and crafts.
4. Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
Location: City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Last week of October
The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience started as a one-day Halloween event in 1999 and has since grown into an annual festival that attracts around 180,000 music enthusiasts. It features a diverse lineup of renowned artists from various genres, making it a captivating musical journey. The festival also offers local delicacies and immerses attendees in New Orleans’ vibrant arts and culture.
5. BUKU Music + Art Project
Location: Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Annually in March
The BUKU Music + Art Project, which began in 2012, has grown to accommodate 25,000 visitors per day during its two-day event. BUKU features an impressive lineup of artists who specialize in electronic and hip-hop music. While the festival ended in 2023, it left an indelible mark on the New Orleans music scene.
6. Hogs for the Cause
Location: UNO Lakefront Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Late March or Early April
Hogs for the Cause is a unique two-day festival that combines music and barbecue to support children with cancer. Drawing over 30,000 attendees, this event showcases top-notch bands and 90 barbecue teams competing for culinary glory. Beyond the music and food, Hogs for the Cause serves as a heartfelt fundraiser for a noble cause.
7. Gentilly Fest
Location: Pontchartrain Park Playground, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Late October or Early November
Gentilly Fest offers a blend of jazz and gospel music, providing a soulful experience for over 20,000 attendees each year. With its Jazz Under the Stars and Gospel Tent stages, this festival celebrates both traditional and contemporary sounds. It’s an excellent opportunity to savor the flavors of New Orleans while enjoying captivating performances.
8. Jazz In The Park
Location: Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Every Thursday in spring and fall
While not a traditional festival, Jazz In The Park is a beloved weekly event held every Thursday during the spring and fall seasons. This free event features local and national jazz bands, including Hot 8 Brass Band and Kermit Ruffins, providing delightful midweek entertainment.
9. Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival
Location: Bayou St. John, New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: In May
The Bayou Boogaloo Music Festival offers a unique experience, allowing festivalgoers to enjoy music from boats and rafts along the shores of Bayou St. John. With over 15,000 attendees, this event boasts a diverse lineup and an array of local cuisine, making it a true celebration of New Orleans culture.
10. Satchmo SummerFest
Location: Various venues in New Orleans, Louisiana
Time: Early August
Satchmo SummerFest is an annual celebration of jazz legend Louis Armstrong. This two-day festival features live jazz performances at multiple venues throughout the city. It’s a fitting tribute to the iconic musician and a fantastic way to experience the heart and soul of New Orleans.
Music festivals in New Orleans offer a dynamic mix of genres, flavors, and cultures, making the city a music lover’s paradise. These festivals provide unforgettable musical journeys in the heart of Louisiana, whether you’re grooving to jazz in the historic French Quarter or exploring the eclectic sounds of Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.