Whether you go to New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for one day or all seven, you want to make the most out of the experience—especially when it comes to catching all the great live music you have at your disposal. With thousands of musicians to see across 12 stages, you could use a few tips to keep you from wasting any time and instead maximizing it so you can enjoy all of the food and music you can handle.
Research Ahead of Time
While it’s definitely fun to just aimlessly walk around Jazz Fest, if you want to see as much on the Jazz Fest music lineup as possible, like anything, it’s going to take a little planning. You may already have in mind a few artists you want to see, particularly some headliners, but what about the rest of the day? Maybe you’ve heard of some local musicians, but maybe you haven’t.
If not, to make these musicians stand out more than simply names on a page of cubes, you can check out some of the local media, many of whom feature musician profiles and interviews, show reviews and festival previews. For example, Where Y’at has already listed its picks for Weekend 1 in its latest issue and on its website, with Weekend 2 to follow. Or you can check out websites like NolaMusicians.com, which is a catalog of local artists, many of whom you’ll be able to find on the Jazz Fest music lineup.
Plan a General Schedule
Now that you know more about the musicians performing on the day(s) you are attending, now you can make a plan. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but even some semblance of a plan will give your day a little direction besides wherever your ears may take you (which can also be just as fun). Know which musicians you want to see and on what stage they’re performing, and take a look at the festival grounds map to get an idea of context. You can block out times that you want to see certain sets and set others for free time when you can wander, grab a bite, browse the crafts booths and so on.
Ring Around the Track
Jazz Fest covers a lot of ground, so unless you want to spend half of your day walking and pushing through thick crowds rather than listening to world-class live acts on the Jazz Fest music lineup, you need to make the most of how the festival is laid out. The fest is spread out across the Fairgrounds race track, and as such, the festival is situated in a large ring around the track. You can hit certain stages in the same area heading around this ring when heading from one stage to the next, particularly if you are traveling between the two main stages.
For example, on the outside of the track near the Sauvage Pedestrian Entrance is Heritage Square, where the Gospel, Blues and Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tents are all situated in a line from the middle of the fairgrounds stretching to just about even with the Acura stage at one far end of the grounds. In between these three stages are crafts and the Heritage Square Food area, so this makes Heritage Square a great area to wander around if you’re looking for plenty to do in a short period of time. Plus, these three stages are covered and air-conditioned, which is perfect if you’re looking to beat the heat for a set or two. But know that you’re not the only one with this information, so often these stages are pretty packed.
Take a look at the festival schedule and map in tandem to set out a plan that gives you a chance to see all of the Jazz Fest music lineup you want in the time you have to be there. And don’t forget to save room for food, drinks and crafts!