As the biggest free festival in North America, French Quarter Festival is huuuuge – with 1,700 musicians in more than 300 performances spanning 23 stages.
The festival is free, and it doesn’t have a fence around it. It’s like a big family reunion … it belongs to everyone. But it gets crowded, because here in New Orleans, we’re a big family. (As many as 500,000 people attend each year.)
It’s located in Woldenberg Park, along the Mississippi River, in Jackson Square, at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, at the Old U.S. Mint and in other scattered locations across the (where else?) French Quarter of New Orleans.
The weather in April is unpredictable and can range from super hot and sunburn-y to chilly. Come prepared for anything. Umbrellas are good to keep off the rain or the sun.
Travel light, though, because you will be walking … walking … walking and standing and dancing. It’s best to leave your car at the hotel (safely parked by our valet) and walk or take the streetcar. When French-Canadian explorer Bienville laid out the city some 300 years ago, he didn’t plan for ample parking. The French Quarter is only a 10-15 minute walk from The Mercantile Hotel.
Things To Bring
- Rain poncho (get yours from The Mercantile)
- Cash to support local food and drink vendors to keep the festival free
- Your kids! – There are children’s areas inside
Plan Your Experience
There are two approaches – tackle the schedule and find the bands you think you will most love, or just wander around and surprise yourself.
Woldenberg Park is where most of the big stages are, as well as the food and drink vendors. When you enter this area they will check your bags and prohibit you from bringing in your own drinks.
Check out the smaller stages scattered throughout the French Quarter (especially around the French Market). The smaller stages at the Old U.S. Mint are some of the best places to people watch.
Join the crowd on the grass in front of the stage, or throw a chair on Decatur Street and watch from the sidelines. You can also grab a table at one of the restaurants on the street and enjoy some fine food and a show.
Get the FQF app. For $0.99, you can have access to all the stage and food listings at the festival.
French Quarter Fest is as much a food festival as it is a music one. Food stands serve small snacks from the best restaurants in town, so come hungry.
There are crawfish pies, pasta, gumbo, mini debris poboys, gooey grilled cheeses and so much more. Grab a Plum Street Snoball to keep you cool. If a restaurant serves a ‘gotta have it’ dish, chances are you’ll find it here.
PRO TIP: Send members of your group out to different food booths, then reconvene and share.
There are great local Abita beer selections, wines and walk-anywhere cocktails. But you will need your ID, even if you are far past your prime. (Be flattered.)
Bring cash for festival food and drinks for ease of purchase. Outside food and drink are not allowed. Never fear, this is like eating at the most fabulous restaurants in New Orleans without a reservation.
If you need to use the restroom, there are tons of Port-o-Potties along the Riverfront stage, and the organizers do a great job of keeping them clean. (Really.)
And if all this weren’t enough, when the sun goes down, there are fireworks over the Mississippi.