As one of the top three annual New Orleans festivals and the largest free music fest in the South, French Quarter Fest remains a favorite in the hearts of many of the city’s visitors and inhabitants. It’s a weekend in which an entire section of the city is transformed, from street to sidewalk to green space, into a boisterous celebration of local culture: food, music, art and more. This upcoming four-day weekend, April 11th-14th, the French Quarter will open its doors to hundreds of thousands of attendees to celebrate its 30th annual festival this year.
If you’ve never had the chance to go to French Quarter Fest, you can expect to see, hear and taste some of the best that New Orleans has to offer. With more than 800 musicians and food from 65+ local restaurants, you’ll enjoy a heaping taste of New Orleans culture any day of the fest—and more if you visit for the whole weekend.
Beyond the entertainment, booths and special events, the first thing you can expect at French Quarter Fest is crowds. Last year, nearly 600,000 people converged on the French Quarter throughout the festival weekend, which kept all parts of the festival areas packed fairly nonstop. Particularly at the busiest times of the afternoon, you will absolutely be wrangling with throngs of people waiting in line for food, standing in front of a stage, or weaving through crowds of people, chairs, blankets and strollers.
The music is a shining representation of all that New Orleans has to offer. From jazz and blues to Cajun and brass bands, you’ll find a hodgepodge of local talent across 21 stages on Saturday and Sunday, the two biggest days of the festival, 12 on Friday and five on Thursday. The stages are set up at various points around the French Quarter, from Woldenberg Riverfront Park and the Old U.S. Mint to Jackson Square and the French Market. Stages are also sprinkled about streets of the French Quarter like Royal St, Bourbon, Decatur and North Peters.
The food is as varied and delectable as the booths at Jazz Fest and features a wide range of restaurants and catering companies throughout the city. Grab a prime rib debris po-boy from Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, shrimp & alligator sausage cheesecake from Jacques-Imo’s Café or a Satchmo Dog topped with red beans and rice from Dreamy Weenies. You can wash it down with a New Orleans Original Daiquiri, hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s or a cold classic snoball. Food booths are set up in rows in different areas of the festival, such as Jackson Square, the Old U.S. Mint, the Riverfront and the New Food Area on Decatur near the Cajun-Zydeco Showcase.
There are also plenty of free events and activities and two children’s areas for fun for the whole family. There will be a second-line kickoff on Friday morning, a crawfish eating contest, public forums and even a film festival. Children’s activities include face painting, games, entertainment, technology and science stations and arts and crafts. There’s something for everybody at this enormous festival.