Visit: New Orleans French Quarter Fest

French Quarter Jazz Fest

When I think about New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is its reputation as a party city � and let me tell you, there’s a good reason for that! Stroll down Frenchman Street as the sun sets, and you’re greeted by one live music venue after another, featuring everything from jazz and blues to Louisiana’s own Zydeco. And, of course, you can’t miss the iconic Bourbon Street back in the French Quarter, where lively crowds savor cocktails and soak in diverse musical vibes. The beauty of it? You can experience this anytime throughout the year. But, for true music enthusiasts, the festivals steal the show. One standout is the April extravaganza, the French Quarter Fest, offering an unparalleled opportunity to dive deep into the soulful rhythms of this vibrant city.

French Quarter Fest: A History

Jackson Square and the Cabildo during French Quarter Fest, New Orleans
Image Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1984, the French Quarter Festival (FQF) began as a humble local street fair and has since evolved into a grand city-wide extravaganza, boasting over twenty stages scattered throughout the historic French Quarter. The remarkable aspect that sets it apart is its accessibility�the experience is entirely free. In contrast to the more centralized and ticketed Jazz Fest that occurs shortly after the FQF, which commands a considerable cost, the French Quarter Fest unfolds its musical legacy from the New Orleans Jazz Museum, weaving through the iconic Jackson Square and extending all the way to the historic Jax Brewery and along the Mississippi River towards the Aquarium.

The festival aimed to bring residents back to the city and bring in some much-needed revenue. As New Orleans was hosting the 1984 World’s Fair, the city spent $7.2 million on street repairs in preparation. The French Quarter Festival occurred in April 1984 to celebrate local music and bring in some dollars. Today, the festival attracts thousands of locals and visitors from the US and internationally. The World’s Fair, however, received less than two-thirds of the expected attendance and had to declare bankruptcy part way through. This was the last World’s Fair to be held in the United States.

Musical Heritage

French Quarter Fest Friday 2022 New Orleans -
Image Credit: Studios, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The French Quarter Fest showcases New Orleans‘ rich musical heritage, with an impressive variety of genres reflecting the city’s soul. From the syncopated rhythms of jazz that find their roots in the bustling streets of the French Quarter to the heartfelt melodies of blues echoing through the historic alleys, the festival becomes a vibrant testimony to New Orleans’ musical legacy.

The non-profit organization French Quarter Festivals, Inc. produces the four-day event with the support of over 1,500 community volunteers. Funding sources include sponsorships and merchandise sales. The festival has a significant economic impact, generating $313 million at French Quarter Fest 2023 and drawing approximately 875,000 people to the city with hotels at 93% capacity. It actively supports the local economy by employing over 1,700 musicians, hosting a large jazz brunch with 60 local restaurants, and collaborating exclusively with local companies for various services. This community-driven event consistently earns accolades as the “favorite festival” among locals.

Performers at the 2024 French Quarter Fest

French Quarter Fest Friday 2022 New Orleans - Studios, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons (1)
Image Credit: Studios, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

While more than 1,700 musicians are performing at French Quarter Fest 2024, and the music lineup is extensive, some big names are at the event. You’ll have a chance to see some R&B and jazz heavyweights, including Irma Thomas, the soul queen of New Orleans, Kermit Ruffins, George Porter Jr., Charmaine Neville, Waylan Thibadeu, John Boutt�, the Dixie Cups.

Even if jazz and its related genres aren’t your thing, you’ll find a band that appeals. You’ll recognize Chapel Hart’s country music if you’ve watched America’s Got Talent. There are also several rock cover bands, such as Bag of Donuts and the Iguanas. Whatever your tastes, you’ll find yourself swept up in the atmosphere, dancing on the streets with the rest of the crowds and letting all the cares in the world dissolve for just a few days.

Culinary Delights

Beignets at Cafe du Monde
Image Credit: Kelli Hayden/Shutterstock.

The French Quarter Fest is an opportunity to try out some local favorite cuisines. Set up at six of the stages, you’ll find temporary food outlets serving various foods and beverages�including alcoholic ones! The Creole Country Cafe, Tujague�s Restaurant, and Landry’s Seafood House at the Jackson Square location all offer Louisiana delights. You’ll find Cochon King BBQ and Louisiana Fish Fry with NOLA Crawfish King at the Old US Mint location. These are just a sample of what to expect. 

For those looking for something sweet, you’ll be able to buy pralines and beignets. And don’t forget to try chicory coffee! There will be a variety of beer, daiquiris, cocktails, water, and soda. Of course, you’re not limited to the options at each of the stages. You can pick from any number of delicious restaurants in the Vieux Carr�.

Tips for the 2024 New Orleans French Quarter Fest

Soul Rebels French Quarter Fest
Image Credit: Derek Bridges, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Bring Sunscreen: It might be the middle of Spring, but it’s New Orleans, which means the weather can be unpredictable. The average temperature is around 77F, but the humidity level is high, and all events at the French Quarter Fest are outdoors. 

Stay Hydrated: Louisiana can get quite warm, especially during festivals. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Since the festival is free, buying beverages at the festival is encouraged. 

Plan Ahead for Performances: Check the festival schedule in advance to plan which musical acts you want to see. The French Quarter Festival usually has various stages with different performances simultaneously. You will find some of the stages sectioned off with barriers. You’ll need to finish your drinks at these locations before you enter.

Be Mindful of Crowds: The FQF attracts many people. While you might find yourself a little tipsy and caught up dancing with everyone else, still be prepared for the crowds. Keep an eye on your belongings. 

Respect the Environment: Keep the festival grounds clean by disposing of trash responsibly. Be mindful of the historic surroundings and show respect for the city’s rich cultural heritage. Most of the stage areas will have recycling bins provided. 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *