Post-Jazz Fest, you’d think that NOLA would need a little rest, but the celebratory summer fest season is just getting started. Summer in New Orleans has everything: festivals honoring food, music, art, and neighborhoods are a regular occurrence along with quirky events like NOLA’s own Running of the Bulls, inspired by Spain’s Encierro de Pamplona.
To help you plan your summer vacation whether you’re traveling for a festival, a family trip, or a mid-week getaway, we’ve compiled this handy list of summer fests. Head to NOLA this summer to experience ‘em!
New Orleans’ welcoming attitude and diverse inhabitants make ideal company for a Pride weekend. The Crescent City boasts an “always open” motto, and there’s no better time to experience it than during this summer festival. Expect parades in the French Quarter, special parties, after-parties, brunches, and more celebrating the LGBT community in New Orleans and beyond. Free to celebrate. Prices vary for special event entry.
When a favorite regional food comes back into season, honor it the NOLA way with a festival. Early June marks French Market Creole Tomato Festival, where you can stroll through the French Market and hear live music, indulge in a variety of Creole tomato-infused recipes, and check out a Creole tomato bloody mary market, cooking demos, kids’ activities, and more. Free.
June marks Caribbean Heritage Month and New Orleans celebrates with the annual NOLA Caribbean Fest. This four-day fest features authentic Caribbean eats, music, dancing and more. Special guest chefs, DJs and performers from a host of Caribbean countries come to show their pride and celebrate the colorful and vibrant heritage of the region.
This summer music fest is a particularly unique one, as it is the only music fest to only feature exclusively Cajun and Zydeco artists! The 2018 festival is headlined by Grammy-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers, and features other beloved Cajun-Zydeco musicians throughout the two-day fest. Food, drink, and more will be available in Armstrong Park. Free.
With a host of participating cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Houston, Black Restaurant Week is a nationally recognized event that has made its way to New Orleans. This weeklong celebration of African American, Caribbean, African cuisine and chefs will feature specially curated deals and menus at participating restaurants across the city. Wrap up the week with the BRW signature event - the NOSH Culinary Showcase. Local caterers, chefs, and bartends will have savory bites and crafts drinks to try as they compete for a number of awards and titles.
If you’ve seen the movie Girl’s Trip, you know how big of a deal the annual ESSENCE Festival is every 4th of July weekend in New Orleans. ESSENCE is the largest celebration of African-American music and culture, and features incredible music headliners and empowering speeches in the Superdome and around downtown New Orleans every year. Plus, you’ll find tons of food, drink, and fashion vendors as well. Previous headliners have included legends like Prince and Diana Ross, and 2018’s lineup includes Snoop Dogg, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, and more. Tickets start at $80.
This annual conference/festival is the world’s premiere cocktail event for industry professionals and enthusiasts alike. What better place to study and taste cocktails than in the city that so many were founded in? The Tales schedule features seminars, tastings, dinners, competitions, and networking events, and you can make your own schedule on the Tales official website. Event ticket prices vary.
Spain’s traditional running of the bulls includes white-and-red clad bull runners and real bulls. But New Orleans’ take on the event is just a little different. Every July, on an early Saturday morning, NOLA citizens and visitors wear white with a splash of red, and their best running shoes. Instead of running bulls, there are running Big Easy Rollergirls: a New Orleans-based rollerblading group wearing all red with horns. For 15 minutes, the Rollergirls chase runners with plastic bats through the streets of downtown, and the party continues all day long. Registration isn’t necessary, but includes perks like participation in the official race and after-party events. Tickets start at $25.
Anyone who has been to New Orleans knows that the city is filled with French influence. You can see it in its architecture, its cuisine, and its people. Once a year, we honor the Crescent City’s French heritage during Bastille Day Fete, the summer festival perfect for francophiles. The event includes a block party, French food and drink, kids’ games, and more. Free.
While COOLinary isn’t technically a summer festival, the month-long dining event has earned its spot on this list. Every August all month long, participating restaurants (and usually, there are over 100!) offer special prix-fixe menus, so you experience the finest of New Orleans’ cuisine for bargain prices. Reservations book up fast, so be sure to check back at COOLinary’s official website to see updated lists of participating restaurants! Prices vary.
August once again proves to be prime time to visit New Orleans, especially if you’re looking for a high brow experience at a low cost. Museum Month (again, not technically a festival, but well-deserving of its spot on this list) occurs all through August in concurrence with COOLinary. If you purchase a membership to one of the participating museums (and these memberships can be extremely low in cost), you’ll be able to access all of the participating museums in August! Updated Museum Month info will be posted here. Prices vary.
If you ask visitors why they come to New Orleans, music is usually at the top of the list. Legends like Louis Armstrong have shaped the city into the special place it is today, and Satchmo Summer Fest takes place in early August every year to celebrate Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. With live music shows around the French Quarter, food, drink, second lines, a jazz mass, outdoor concerts, music history seminars, and more, this weekend will have something for everyone who loves jazz. Daily admission $5.
NOLA’s an artist’s city through and through. Julia Street, in the heart of the Arts/Warehouse District, is a true embodiment of the diversity of artists that call this city home. Take advantage of Whitney White Linen Night by grabbing an all-white ensemble and hitting Julia Street to explore all of the galleries who will stay open after hours. Think: gallery hopping, champagne sipping, live music, and outdoor food and drink on a lovely summer evening. Prices range from $0-40.
Following the White Linen Night model, Dirty Linen Night occurs the weekend after White Linen Night, when folks grab their “dirty linens” from the week before and take advantage of the incredible array of galleries on Royal Street.
A sea of red takes over downtown for one Saturday every August, all in the name of beer and great causes. Everyone puts on their best red dress and joins in for a run with the Hash House Harriers, who sponsor the event and call themselves “a drinking club with a running problem.” All the money raised from this “race” is donated to local charities, and the party goes on all day long. Registration is $40.
Southern Decadence is quite possibly the most celebratory way to end summertime. Consider it your last hurrah before summer season comes to a close. Decadence, an LGBT+ event that occurs every Labor Day Weekend, is known as “Gay Mardi Gras.” The weekend is filled with parties, parades, costumes, dancing, and more. Start off early September the New Orleans way: with openness, parties, and of course, parades through the French Quarter. Prices to events vary.