New Orleans is home to over 130 unique and annual festivals and events. Well-known are the mega-fests like ESSENCE, French Quarter Festival and of course, Jazz Fest, but there’s plenty more to experience and enjoy beyond that. Check out 20 of the Crescent City’s lesser-known events and fests that are well worth the visit in 2020.
Held along Bayou Saint John in Mid-City, this weekend-long fest is dedicated to music, art and most importantly, community. The Bayou Boogaloo experience includes live music by local musicians, specialty bites from Mid-City vendors and beyond, paddleboarding throughout the bayou, an arts marketplace, kid-friendly crafts and activities and much more. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to spring and hello to summer.
This Alpine tradition made its way to New Orleans in 2012 and has stayed around since. A festive yet frightening twist on your typical holiday traditions, the Krewe of Krampus rolls out each December to see who has been naughty - nevermind the nice!
Locals love it and so should you! Every second Saturday of August the city is painted red with eager runners (or walkers) all in the name of charity. After the run, the crowd of red dresses takes it to the streets for a day of revelry and fun. Join the official registry for exclusive offerings and events, or take part in the citywide cluster of folks decked out in red enjoying the festivities. Either way is a major win!
Make sure to bring your best dancing shoes because the Cajun-Zydeco Fest is sure to have you on your feet! Presented by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, this two-day fest celebrates the uniquely Louisiana music genre: zydeco. Dance the day away and take a break (or two) to enjoy a number of local Cajun bites that will be available.
Pig out for a purpose at Hogs for the Cause. Consecutively voted Best Local Charity Event in New Orleans, Hogs for the Cause supports a host of local and national children’s hospitals through its massive lineup of pork infused dishes and desserts. In addition to its delectable menu, Hogs for the Cause also features live music, specialty bacon night and a BBQ cook-off all at the UNO Lakefront Arena.
Each February, the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans East presents Tet Fest - an annual celebration of the Vietnamese New Year. Guests are welcome to experience a small piece of Southeast Asian culture with traditional drum and dance performances, authentic Vietnamese eats, and a lively firework show to close out the three-day fest.
The Crescent City’s own spin on the beloved Spanish tradition Encierro de Pamploma. In lieu of live cattle, New Orleanians enlist the Big Easy Rollergirls to chase eager participants throughout the Arts & Warehouse District. Following the chase, local bars and restaurants offer plenty of festivities and specials for the crowd to enjoy.
The mainly residential Gentilly neighborhood transforms into stomping grounds for music, culture and fun each and every October during the annual Gentilly Fest. What began as a small community fundraiser has evolved into a dynamic festival that welcomes some of the best names in NOLA music including DJ Jubilee, Dawn Richard, Tonya Boyd-Cannon, DJ Raj Smoove and many more.
Canine lovers rejoice! The annual Barkus parade adds a furry twist to traditional Mardi Gras costuming. Instead of people, the pups take center stages with quirky themes such as The Big Bark Theory, Game of Bones, A Street Dog Named Desire, and much more.
Among the many reasons to take the Canal Street Ferry over to Algiers, the Folk Art Festival is high on the list. Hosted and presented by the Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum, this free festival includes live folk performances, paintings, pottery, photography, jewelry and other crafts.
There's no other holiday tradition in New Orleans quite as delectable as Reveillon dinners. Each December, some of the finest restaurants and eateries across the Crescent City offer specially curated and holiday-inspired pre-fixe menus. Elegant entrees, crafts cocktails, and desserts can be enjoyed throughout the month. New to the Reveillon tradition? Check out our explainer here.
This five-day festival is perfect for readers, writers, and lovers of the performing arts. Named after the world-famous playwright who had a special love for the city of New Orleans, the Tennessee Williams Literary Fest features writing competitions, a host of guest authors, literary heritage tours of New Orleans, and the signature "Stella!" screaming contest.
The Bourbon Street Awards are a truly fabulous Mardi Gras Day must-do experience. For many, this annual event is considered “the most famous drag-queen contest in America.” Held in the heart of New Orleans LGBTQ District, spend a piece of your Fat Tuesday cheering on a number of elaborate and vibrant costumes as participants strut the Bourbon Street-based runway.
While its name is sure to leave the imagination running, Birdfoot Festival is a spring festival that celebrates New Orleans’ International Music Chamber. Fest-goers can experience an array of live music performances throughout the city, lunch and dinner shows, evening parties and more.
This special holiday spectacle lights up Algiers each and every Christmas Eve. Snuggle up with family and friends along the levees for holiday fires that can’t be found elsewhere.
Hex Fest is a magical weekend centered on old-world witchery, Voodoo and more. Registered attendees can participate in a host of workshops and rituals hosted at New Orleans most haunted hotel - the Bourbon Orleans.
This annual end-of-summer celebration fuses the Latin dance form of salsa with the bachata music genre. Dance the weekend away and immerse yourself in the lively culture with exclusive workshops, trainings and special guests.
In a city swarming with burlesque clubs and cabarets, it comes as no surprise that there’s a festival celebrating this sultry art form in the Crescent City. The Burlesque Weekender features a number of local and national performers who will compete for the title of Reigning Unicorn of Burlesque.
For nearly two decades, Bayou Bacchanal has remained the Crescent City’s official celebration of Caribbean culture. This weekend-long festival is modeled after nationwide carnival events and includes an epic carnival parade, multiple dance parties, authentic Caribbean eats and live socca, dancehall and reggae performances.
Dubbed the Mardi Gras of Entrepreneurship by many, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) highlights the Crescent City’s inherent knack for culture and innovation. Featured speakers throughout New Orleans and beyond gather to share insight into the ever-changing world of startups, venture capital, hospitality and more.
*While there are no travel restrictions to New Orleans due to the Covid-19, out of an abundance of caution and consideration for staff, vendors, performers, and guests, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week has decided to postpone or cancel this year’s event. Please check the event website for details and updated information.