July 14th (commonly known at Bastille Day) marks the eve of the French Revolution. Bastille Day to the French is what the Fourth of July is to the US. New Orleans is the most French city in the U.S. and we pay homage to our French heritage this week in celebration of Bastille Day. We don't think one day is enough time to properly celebrate all of the cultural contributions of the French in New Orleans, so we dedicate a whole week to the festivities! From costume contests (best Marie Antoinette or Napoleon) to learning French language, to learning French cooking, to admiring French art, this week is all about the French! Kick off the weekend at the Bastille Day Fete at the New Orleans Museum of Art Friday night, or experience the French influence in our cuisine first hand at one of the many French style restaurants in the city.
Jazz Fest may be coming to an end but It’s still festival season! This month started with the first annual Crawfish Festival which ended just in time for the second weekend of Jazz Fest! Though Jazz Fest did get rained out one day last week, the weather forecast for this weekend May 5-7 looks just perfect! The next festival on the agenda after Jazz Fest is Bayou Boogaloo a local favorite Spring outdoor event on the banks of Bayou St. John. It is reminiscent of the early years of Jazz Fest with local arts and craft vendors and traditional New Orleans’ music. May 19th-21st will celebrate the 12th annual Bayou Boogaloo! Bayou St. John will see more action the following weekend May 26th-28th for the 44th annual Greek Festival! This will be the same weekend as the Bayou Country Superfest, a huge attraction for country music fans hosted in the New Orleans Superdome. Looking for a mid-week festival instead? We’ve got those too! Check out Lafayette square for live music every Wednesday through May 24th at Wednesday in the Square. Or, if Thursday works better for you, there is the Thursday night concert series (also free!) at Armstrong Park called Jazz in the Park, running through June 1st. And there are still plenty more fests to look forward to in June…
New Orleans is full of rich history and traditions, and Mardi Gras is of course one of them. The tradition originated in medieval times in Europe and made its way to the U.S. via French colonists, the founders of our fabulous city. Ever since 1699, when French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville named a plot of land Pointe du Mardi Gras the pre-Lenten celebration has been a part of our annual calendar of events. The French celebrated Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday with street parties, formal masked balls and lavish dinners, not unlike the customs of today. When the French lost control of New Orleans to the Spanish, the debaucherous rituals were abolished and despite decades of prohibition, revelers prevailed legalizing street masking. For many years the carnival season was primarily celebrated behind closed doors in the form of formal balls and secret, member-only societies. It wasn’t until 1857 that the first official Mardi Gras parade took place. One of the secret societies known as the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized the event, complete with marching bands and rolling floats. This event definitely set the tone for the celebrations of the future. The dozens of parades rolling this week and next are all organized by individual krewes, private clubs with their own style, themes, costumes, and personalities. See which krewes are rolling this weekend!
Krewe du Vieux kicks off the 2017 Mardi Gras Parade schedule this Saturday, February 11th. As parades go, this is one of the most anticipated by locals and is sure to astound and delight visitors as well! It is the one parade of the carnival season that isn't exactly family friendly, as it is full of satire, adult themes, and political comedy. As the parades start rolling, we thought we would share some tips to keep you safe and happy this Mardi Gras season!
1. DO get to the parades early! Waiting for the parade to roll is half the fun! Plus you are more likely to get a good spot. But DON'T stay out all night to stake your territory (some people do!).
2. DO buy a wristband for bathroom access, you will need it! DON'T pee on the street, you will get arrested!
3. DO bring snack food and street food with you to the parades, it's easy to have too much to drink and not enough to eat! DO also make reservations if you plan to dine at a restaurant.
4. DO dress up! It's perfectly acceptable to wear a costume to the parades, and if you are here for Fat Tuesday, you MUST wear a costume!
5. DON'T fight over beads, they are just plastic and there are always more than enough to go around!
6. DO have fun! Happy Mardi Gras!
Looking for a family friendly holiday activity? The New Orleans Convention Center is hosting the 4th annual NOLA Christmas Fest, December 16-30th! This year’s event features an indoor ice rink (the only one in the city) plus carnival rides, games, food, and fun! The festivities will be hosted in Halls I and J of the Convention center, open daily from 10AM-8PM. For tickets and more info click here.
For more sights and sounds of holiday spirit, visit Miracle on Fulton Street, only steps away from the Convention Center, which features interactive art installations, scheduled snow falls, live music, and more! Oh and it’s free!