Better Than Mardi Gras? The Jazz Fest in New Orleans

This festival takes place during the last weekend of April and first weekend of May.

Formally known as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Jazz fest is a traditionally celebration of New Orleans and Louisiana culture, although the festival has become a vibrant and exciting melting pot of cultures.

The celebrations began in 1970 and were carefully planned out by New Orleans and George Wein, creator of the Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival. Wein was commissioned to create a festival to celebrate New Orleans culture, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation was created. The Jazz Fest was born and became a great success.

Today the festival features live music, flavorful food, crafts, markets, parades, and demonstrations. Food is a big part of the fun; you can find things from the fiery to the refreshing, like crawfish bisque, Cajun chicken, jambalaya, fried plantains, Creole cream cheese cake, sweet potato pie, and chocolate Azteca gelato. The Louisiana Folklife Village brings together artisans and experts in Louisiana tradition to get back-to-basics with traditional crafting skills. The Louisiana Marketplace is a representation of New Orleans and Louisiana culture as seen through the eyes of Louisiana artisans.

The music is a big part of what draws such a huge crowd; while plenty of Lousiana music is represented, there are also tons of well-known singers and bands from around the world. The festival boasts country music, pop, blues, R&B, folk, Latin, rock, rap, Cajun and much, much more.

The Jazz Fest falls on the same weekend each year as the newer Festival International de Louisiane, so many festival-goers feel torn between the two options. While the Festival International de Louisiane is said to have a more authentic, community-oriented feel (and is free), many think the Jazz Fest has a more intense atmosphere and is more culturally diverse. There is plenty to see and do.

Visit the official site of Jazz Fest.