By Jennifer Cuellar, on October 15, 2019

Guide to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Mardi Gras might get more attention, but the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans feels like the most authentic Nawlins festival of them all. There’s jazz, of course—lots of it—from traditional songs and styles to new, inventive performances. Plus, there’s a whole array of other musical styles such as blues, bluegrass, gospel, zydeco, Cajun, and more. There’s also a whole lot of heritage, from the Louisiana-local food vendors, to the Native American Village showcase, to the Congo Square African Marketplace. The history, diversity, passion, and joy of New Orleans are on full display at the Jazz and Heritage Festival, and you’re invited to join the dance.

Things You Need to Know

Close-up of food at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
Via Eris A./

Where is the Jazz Festival in New Orleans?

Jazzfest takes place at the Fair Grounds Race Course on Gentilly Boulevard. It’s only about 10 minutes from the French Quarter, the most famed of all New Orleans’ neighborhoods.


When does the New Orleans Jazz Festival take place?

The Jazz and Heritage Festival takes place over two 4-day weekends; the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. In 2020, the festival weekends will be April 23-26 and April 30-May 3. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


How much are Jazz Fest tickets?

Tickets for the festival are sold by the day, with different price tiers depending on a number of factors, including how far in advance the ticket is purchased, and whether the ticket is for General Admission or part of a VIP package. The least expensive New Orleans Jazz Fest tickets for adults are single-day Early-Bird Advanced tickets, and the most expensive are Big Chief VIP Experience tickets. At the last Jazzfest, an Early-Bird ticket cost $70 for a day’s admission, while a Big Chief VIP ticket, good for a whole weekend and covering access to special perks, was $1,500. There is also a Locals Thursday Discount ticket available for the two Thursdays of the festival, which is open to Louisiana residents.


Can I buy Jazz Fest tickets at the gate?

Yes, you can buy tickets at the gate, but the price may be $10-15 more expensive than a ticket purchased in advance. However, children’s tickets can only be purchased at the gate. In 2019, children’s tickets were only $5, making a family trip to the Jazz and Heritage Festival well worth the price of admission.


How many people attend the Jazz and Heritage Festival?

The NO Jazz Fest regularly draws crowds in the hundreds of thousands, with attendance in 2019 measured at 475,000 people—the highest number of attendants yet!


What’s the Jazz Fest lineup?

You can expect to find an excitingly diverse mix of musical styles on the schedule. Performers in 2019 included Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Al Green, Santana, Diana Ross, Ziggy Marley, Buddy Guy, Katy Perry, Gary Clark Jr., and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, among dozens of others.

Aside from the lively music, another great part of the Jazz and Heritage Festival is the wide range of arts and crafts for sale. The Congo Square African Marketplace, the Louisiana Marketplace, and the Contemporary Crafts showcase are brimming with hand-wrought jewelry, leather goods, clothing, sculptures, and pottery, with techniques both historic and modern on display.


What’s the weather like, and what do you wear to Jazz Fest?

The weather in New Orleans will likely reach the upper 70s and low 80s during the day, with evening temperatures in the 60s. Since there may not be much shade on festival grounds, plan to protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, sunscreen, and perhaps a hat. Comfy walking shoes will keep you on your feet and having fun as long as possible, and lightweight clothing will keep you cool and unencumbered.


What are my food options at Jazz Fest?

The food at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is heavily centered on regional dishes. That means you can expect to find Creole and Cajun dishes, New Orleans staples like beignets and café au lait, po’boys, fried fish, crawfish, and countless other traditional and inventive Nawlins favorites. Fear not, vegetarians and vegans: there will be plenty of hearty, flavorful options for you, too!


Anything else I need to know?

A few helpful tips for navigating the festival:

  • Small bags and backpacks are allowed, but they must be 17” x 12” x 10” or smaller. Also allowed are small soft coolers, unopened water bottles, small umbrellas, and blankets 6’ x 8’.
  • Items prohibited from festival grounds include hard-sided coolers, beach umbrellas, bicycles, and AV recording equipment.

Closest Airport and Transportation

The entrance to the New Orleans International Airport, where you fly into for the Jazz Festival.
Via Bianca N./

The closest airport for flights to New Orleans is Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. It’s about 14 miles away from the Fair Grounds Race Course, a drive that can take 30 minutes by car. Once you check into your hotel and change into your dancing shoes, you can reach the Jazz and Heritage Festival by several modes of transportation:

  • Jazz Fest Express: The official shuttle of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival serves attendants with continuous round-trip transportation between the festival grounds and three departure points. Just be sure to buy your shuttle tickets ahead of time.
  • Public transportation: The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) operates streetcars and buses that can get you from wherever you’re staying to just outside the festival grounds. Check the schedule to map out the best route.
  • Driving: There are plenty of parking lots in close proximity to the festival grounds. Keep in mind that lots closer to the festival will be more expensive, and some of the less expensive lots may be a bit of a walk from the Jazz Fest.
  • Ridesharing: Uber and Lyft are good options if you want to avoid walking a long distance or searching for parking, but remember that surge pricing may be in effect around the festival and bump up the cost of your ride.

Where to Stay

The ornate buildings of the French Quarter, the top place to stay during the New Orleans Jazz Festival
Via Shantel M./

If any festival city is worth exploring, it’s New Orleans. You’ll get the most out of your Jazz and Heritage Festival visit by spending some time soaking up the vibrant energy of Nawlins. For a great taste of the Big Easy, consider hotels in New Orleans in one of these neighborhoods:

  • New Orleans’s legendary French Quarter deserves its reputation. Centuries-old restaurants and bars, tiny clubs packed with hot music, elegant architecture, and the carnival atmosphere of Bourbon Street are just a few of the French Quarter’s alluring draws. Plus, it’s a quick 2.5 miles from the Fair Grounds Race Course location of the Jazzfest.
  • The Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods of New Orleans have a vivid, arts-influenced vibe, and Frenchmen Street is famous for live music. The area is also home to theaters, galleries, and hip eating and drinking spots.
  • For convenience and proximity to the Jazz Festival, look no further than Mid-City and Bayou St. John. Not only will you find lovely views of the eponymous bayou, you’ll also find a host of bars and restaurants, a low-key atmosphere, and easy access to the Fair Grounds Race Course.

Other Things to Do in New Orleans

New Orleans is a paradise for music and history fans, so stick around after the Jazz and Heritage Festival ends to immerse yourself in more of the city’s cultural roots.

  • Louisiana Music Factory: Support local artists by shopping for music at Louisiana Music Factory, an indie record shop that specializes in works by Louisiana artists. Don’t be surprised if you end up spending hours in this haven for regional music.
  • Preservation Hall: A jazz venue, a nonprofit organization, and the home of an acclaimed house band, Preservation Hall exists to keep the jazz tradition of New Orleans alive.
  • Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro: Consistently ranked as one of the best jazz venues in New Orleans, Snug Harbor serves traditional New Orleans meals, cold drinks, and live music every day of the week.

If you’re serious about music, culture, history, and having a good time, make your way to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Come hungry for great music, amazing art, and mouthwatering Nawlins food. You’ll leave full of awe for the one-of-a-kind culture of the Big Easy.

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