One of the questions we probably get asked the most is when is the best time to visit New Orleans? Of course Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest immediately spring to mind, and with good reason–both are bucket list, must-see events. But the great thing about New Orleans is that there really isn’t a bad time to visit. And when you have a city that loves to celebrate life as much as we do, you can find something enticing during every single month of the year. Which is exactly why we rounded up our very favorite things to do, see, eat and experience each month in New Orleans.
January in New Orleans calls for King Cakes and Krewes - a telltale sign that Mardi Gras is just around the corner. And of course, football! You won’t want to miss out as bakeries, cafes and shops around the city begin breaking out their special king cake menus and treats to provide New Orleanians with the delicacy they crave year-round. Favorite spots to snag one in season include Dong Phuong, Manny Randazzo's, and Haydel's - to name a few. In addition to sweets, the streets are also filled with festive fun. From Uptown to Downtown and everywhere in between the city kicks off Carnival season with a number of smaller parades led by local Krewes. Joan of Arc, Phunny Phorty Phellows and The Société Des Champs Elysée are all rolling out this January. The Allstate Sugar Bowl and College Football Playoff National Championship are hosted in New Orleans this January as well.
February is jam-packed with so much to celebrate in the Crescent City. Of course, the city’s staple, Mardi Gras, is celebrated with parties and parades galore. You’ll see beads, Mardi Gras Indians, and the iconic purple, green and yellow trio every which way you turn. Catch Zulu, Rex, Bacchus and more. See the full parade schedule here. The rich heritage and culture of the city are also celebrated during the month of February. The Vietnamese New Year celebration, Tet Fest, takes place each February as well as a number of Black History Month celebrations and programming. Don't forget Valentine's Day! Enjoy a romantic dinner at one of the many top restaurants.
After the excitement of Mardi Gras has died down, the city begins to blossom into springtime New Orleans and the festivals begin. In March alone you can attend Buku Festival, Hogs for the Cause, Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday, New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. Don’t forget to wear your best green and head Uptown for the Irish Channel Parades to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or make your way to a local seafood shop and grab a pound to celebrate the start of Crawfish Season.
You know the old saying - April showers bring May Flowers. In New Orleans, the showers bring more fests and April has some of the best! A local favorite, French Quarter Fest celebrates the beauty and charm of New Orleans’ French Quarter and all that is has to offer. Venture Uptown for Freret Street Festival for more local fun. The annual Crescent City Classic and a number of awesome Easter Parades are a great way to celebrate the holiday weekend. End April with the iconic New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with more delicious food and an all-star lineup.
As we move closer to the summer months in NOLA, May is the perfect time to wind down and discover hidden and niche sides to New Orleans. Crawfish Mambo at the University of New Orleans celebrates the signature state seafood: crawfish. Explore the extensive list of Asian-Owned establishments in support of Asian Pacific Heritage Month. Or explore the oldest African American neighborhood: Treme, during the Treme 7th Ward Arts & Culture Festival. You can also head to Bayou St. John for the annual Bayou Boogaloo for a fun and funky neighborhood festival experience.
June is for upbeat celebrations of culture and cuisine! Ring in the summer at Oyster Festival and experience one of New Orleans’ many delicacies. June marks Pride Month nationwide and voted one of the most welcoming cities, New Orleans celebrates Pride in a huge way. Enjoy parades, parties and more in New Orleans’ French Quarter in honor of the LGBTQ community. Check out the handful of local festivals that showcase New Orleans’ diversity and heritage such as Creole Tomato, Cajun Zydeco and the NOLA Caribbean Festival. Close out the month with Black Restaurant Week - a weeklong celebration of local African American, Caribbean and African Cuisine, which includes special deals, menus and signature events. As the temperature rises, be sure to try a snowball to cool you down.
The city heats up both literally and figuratively in July. From Uptown to Algiers, Fourth of July fireworks can be viewed all across the city. Pick your favorite neck of the woods and enjoy the show. The festivities don’t stop there: Essence Festival celebrates African American culture over five days. Make your way to the Convention Center for free, daily access to vendors, panels, exclusive sneak peeks and giveaways! Purchase your ticket concerts in advance and check out live music at the super lounges and mainstage of the Caesars Superdome. After the Essence Fest fun, July is still jamming with Bastille Day, and the signature summertime events Running of the Bulls and Tales of the Cocktail.
Enjoy special deals, highlights and events throughout the month of August. COOLinary and Museum Month make exploring New Orleans’ culinary scene and museum collections a breeze. Locals receive free museum entry with membership and everyone can partake in COOLinary’s specially curated menus and deals. Look forward to the Satchmo Summerfest, honoring New Orleans native and jazz legend Louis Armstrong as well as the beloved Red Dress Run. Break out your linen for White Linen Night on Julia Street. Celebrate Labor Day Weekend in New Orleans with Southern Decadence - an annual, uniquely NOLA take on Pride.
On the ninth month in NOLA the city gave to us: a whole lot of WHO DAT pride! We welcome back the regular football season, tailgating outside the Dome and of course, the New Orleans Saints. September also kicks off Hispanic Heritage Month in the Crescent City. Be on the lookout for a number of fun and unique ways to celebrate. As we transition from summer to fall don’t miss out on the number of fall fests happening in September like NOLA on Tap, and the National Fried Chicken Festival.
As the weather cools down and Halloween approaches, fall fests are at their peak in October. Munich meets Midcity at New Orleans’ very own Oktoberfest. Each weekend throughout the month of October, celebrate German presence and heritage in New Orleans at Deutsches Haus. October will also feature a number of local fests and celebrations including Art for Art’s Sake, Gentilly Fest, Treme Fall Fest, Beignet Fest, Praise Fest and more! As the month closes out, celebrate Halloween and the exciting Voodoo Fest in City Park. October is also a prime time to slurp some oysters.
New Orleanians get in the holiday spirit with sports and special fests. Take the ferry across the river for the Algiers Folk Art Festival, enjoy unlimited boudin and bourbon at Emeril Lagasse’s Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, or indulge in New Orleans classics at the Oak Street Poboy Fest or the Treme Creole Gumbo Fest. If you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving Day in New Orleans then you’ll probably want to do it with an award-winning meal or at the Bayou Classic. Enjoy the coveted Battle of the Bands and the annual rivalry between Southern and Grambling State universities.
December in New Orleans is a site to see. Between the Audubon Zoo Lights, Christmas Bonfires, LUNA Fête, Celebration in the Oaks, Krewe of Jingle and more, there are limitless light shows, displays and activities to explore. The city is glowing with holiday spirit and cheer all month long. Make sure to check out the Reveillon Dinner menus and enjoy festive fare throughout the city. Close out the year by watching the Fleur de Lis drop on New Year’s Eve.