New Orleans has long been a haven for artists of all kinds, but of all the cultural arts, the one most often associated with the city is music. As local legend Ellis Marsalis put it, “In other places, culture comes down from on high. In New Orleans, it bubbles up from the streets.” And, it’s on these streets in that you’ll often hear music playing – be it a single busker, a jazzy duo, or a full-fledged brass band during a second line.
There are a few particular spots where these outdoor performers tend to congregate (weather permitting), that we recommend passing by as you traverse the city. Be sure to bring cash for tips, especially if you stop to enjoy the show!
Even if you can’t get inside of one of jazz clubs on this famous stretch, the music still pours out of the open windows and doors of its many venues. There are often outdoor performers who set up shop down the street to entertain before the clubs open their doors for the evening. Day or night, take in the sounds and sights.
Royal Street has become equally known for its art galleries, unique shopping experiences, and as a hot spot for concert-worthy outdoor performances in the city. In particular, the Pedestrian Mall – a stretch between Bienville Street and Orleans Avenue – is blocked to through-traffic weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and on weekends between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. so performers of all stripes can utilize the space for some fantastic shows. Be sure to wear your best walking (and dancing) shoes!
While you peruse the art vendors set-up around Jackson Square or enjoy a fresh order of beignets with a café au lait at Café du Monde, you’re very likely to have some outdoor musicians providing a soundtrack for your outing. On certain days, you can grab a seat at the amphitheater of Oscar Dun Park across from the Square and take in a set as well as the iconic view of St. Louis Cathedral across the street.
Pick up some classic local cuisine and some great souvenirs at this historic location. You’ll often find musicians set up outside of the covered market space. Peruse everything from seasonings and produce to accessories, handmade crafts, art, and more – all while enjoying whichever performer has set up for the day.
This French Quarter courtyard space is attached to Café Beignet and allows you to enjoy a snack or a full meal alongside bronze sculptures of some famous local musicians – and, of course, hear some great live music, too.
This historic area is enclosed in Louis Armstrong Park and is considered by many historians to be the birthplace of jazz. While the Square hosts its share of concerts and cultural festivals and events, the occasional outdoor musician – and, if you’re lucky, a drum circle – can be found on the grounds.
If you’d like to support New Orleans’ local outdoor performers with more than a tip, consider donating to MaCCNO, the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, who organize, empower, and advocate for the city’s musicians, artists, traditional culture bearers, and their allies and communities.