Photo by Tulane University
Mardi Gras - January/February/March
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.
Buku Music and Art Project - March
One of New Orleans' newest music festivals, Buku features a weekend full of numerous electronic, hip-hop, and local musical acts at a variety of smaller venues in the Warehouse District. Past performers have included Skrillex, Avicii, Calvin Harris, Passion Pit, and the Flaming Lips.
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.
Hogs for the Cause - March
Hosted annually in "City Pork," this weekend-long festival includes a BBQ and grill competition that draws chefs and cooks from across the state. While attendees sample over 80 different BBQ dishes, they can also take in music from numerous local and nationally known artists such Pat Green, North Mississippi Allstars, and the Hold Steady. Profits from the event sponsor families with children affected by pediatric brain cancer.
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.
Southern Decadence - August
People travel from far and wide to attend the parades and parties at one of the largest LGBTQ pride events in the country.
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
Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival - March
Great food and even better music make this festival an must-do New Orleans event. Sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, this annual three-day festival features impressive lineups of both blues musicians and BBQ vendors.
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
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
Fringe Festival - November
Centered in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, Fringe Fest offers a week of boundary-pushing live performances, including spoken word presentations, dance productions, and alternative theatrical pieces.
www.nofringe.org or 504.941.3640
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.