Photo by Tulane University
Mardi Gras - January/February
The Mardi Gras Season begins on the Feast of Epiphany and runs through midnight on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent). Uptown and Mid-City neighborhoods offer a low key alternative to the intense party atmosphere of Bourbon Street. Pick up an Arthur Hardy Mardi Gras Guide for a comprehensive list of parades and routes as well as bits of carnival history.
Art in Bloom - March
New Orleans Museum of Art, located in historic City Park, features floral exhibits, lectures, workshops, birdhouses designed by local architectural firms, and a silent auction.
Tennessee Williams Literary Festival - March
New Orleans pays tribute to one of the South's most important playwrights with this week-long celebration of all things Tennessee. Activities include a one-act play contest, panel discussions, various productions of the author's work, and the popular Stella shouting contest.
French Quarter Festival - April
A laid-back favorite among the locals, French Quarter Fest provides all of the fun of Jazz Fest without the crowd. Grab some etoufee in Woldenberg Park and mosey down to Spanish Plaza for the brass band du jour.
Strawberry Festival - April
Ponchatoula, strawberry capital of Louisiana, hosts two days of rides, food, music, a 10k strawberry strut, and a strawberry eating contest. And what festival would be complete without the crowning of the Strawberry King and Queen?
http://www.lastrawberryfestival.com/ or 504.386.6677
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival - April/May
Ask any local and they'll tell you the crawfish bread is worth suffering the long Jazz Fest lines and blistering hot sun. Twelve stages host constant entertainment, from Louisiana artists to former guests such as Paul Simon and Dave Matthews. Artisans showcase regional and international crafts while providing hours of enjoyable browsing.
New Orleans Wine and Food Festival - May
For five days, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is transformed into a display of viticultural and culinary talents, pairing New Orleans cuisine with wines from around the world. Vintner dinners, seminars, a Royal Street Stroll, and grand tastings compliment the main showroom.
Tulane Shakespeare Festival - May - August
Performances are merely a perk of this highly energetic, professional acting troupe. A variety of educational programs, apprentice and internship programs, and community events keep them busy year-round. Their bi-annual home performances have been met with both popular and critical success.
http://neworleansshakespeare.tulane.edu/ or 504.865.5105
French Market Tomato Festival - June
Cook 'em, cover 'em with sauce, or just eat 'em raw. This annual French Market festival complete with seminars and cooking demonstrations, celebrates the little red fruit long confused for a vegetable.
Essence Music Festival - July
New Orleans hosts Essence Magazine's annual "party with a purpose," including soulful performers, enlightening speakers, empowering seminars, and finger-licking cuisine. Past performers have included Erykah Badu, Destiny's Child and Patti Labelle.
White Linen Night - August
Locals don their favorite white linen and wander through the streets of the Warehouse District viewing the multitude of open galleries. This event is sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans.
Oktoberfest - September/October
From polka to bratwurst, the Deutsches Haus crowd celebrates all things German. The festival spans the last weekend of September to the last weekend of October.
http://www.deutscheshaus.org/ or 504.522.8014
Art for Arts' Sake - October
Galleries across New Orleans participate in this citywide celebration of the arts, capped off by a party and live music at the Contemporary Arts Center on Julia Street, the heart of the Warehouse District.
www.cacno.org or 504.528.3805
Gumbo Festival - October
Bridge City hosts this gathering, including live entertainment, a 5k run, Cajun cuisine and, of course, the annual Gumbo Cooking Contest. Admission is free.
New Orleans Film Festival - October
Dubbed "Cannes on the Mississippi," the New Orleans Film Festival has won a permanent spot on the city's cultural landscape. Regional, national and international films are debuted to record-breaking crowds each year.
http://www.neworleansfilmfest.com or 504.523.3818
Swamp Fest - October
Learn the Cajun two-step, make a roux and handle an alligator as the Audubon Zoo converts into a fais-do-do for the whole family. Fabulous food, live music and local crafts make this festival mandatory for locals and visitors alike.
http://www.auduboninstitute.org/swamp-festival or 800.774.7394
Voodoo Music Festival - October
City Park hosts this all-day music festival celebrating the Afro-Caribbean, Latin and alternative music roots of Louisiana. The hardcore headliners that earned this festival the nickname "Louisianapalooza" are usually not for the weak at heart.
http://www.voodoomusicfest.com or 504.486.4300
Celebration in the Oaks - November/December
City Park is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights and merriment for this two-month holiday festival. Whether you ride on the miniature train or take a horse-drawn carriage, it's sure to get you into the spirit of the season.