New Orleans is known for many things. Food. Drinks. Mardi Gras. Bourbon Street. And the list goes on. But New Orleans is also best known for both its music and its festivals. Ernie K. Doe once said, “I’m not sure but I’m almost positive that all music came from New Orleans.”
There are numerous music festivals every year celebrating all genres from EDM and hip-hop to the city’s very own cajun zydeco. No blog post or guide can REALLY do justice and cover all the amazing festivals that conquer the City of New Orleans by here’s a start. Here are music festivals you should not miss this year in New Orleans:
1. Family Gras
Location: Clearview Center
Dates: February 14 – 16
About: Brian Wilson, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Marshall Tucker Band and a family tribute to Ricky Nelson are headlining this year’s Family Gras. Family Gras is a free event filled with more than just music. It’s a family-friendly event where you can enjoy Mardi Gras parades, local food, arts & crafts and a kids play area. According to festival producer Greg Buisson, “Family Gras has grown into a ‘mark the calendar’ event. We are excited to once again welcome some of nation’s music legends to our stage and carnival.”
2. Wednesdays at the Square
Location: Lafayette Square Park
Dates: Every Wednesday at 5:00 pm from March 11 – May 13
About: Wednesdays at the Square is a weekly concert series that takes place every Wednesday for two months. These free outdoor concerts are sponsored by the Young Leadership Council of New Orleans and feature local artists like Flow Tribe, Galactic, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Partners-n-Crime, Robin Barnes, Shamarr Allen, and more! Admission is free and open to the public. For information and to view this year’s line-up, visit here.
3. Buku Music + Arts Project
Location: Mardi Gras World (next to the Convention Center)
Dates: March 20 & 21
About: With one of the most diverse lineups in 2020, Buku Music + Art Project features an all-star lineup of local, regional, and national EDM and hip-hop artists. Besides live music, you can catch art demonstrations including a live graffiti gallery. This year’s lineup includes heavy hitters such as Tyler the Creator, Glass Animals, Flume, Run the Jewels, Illenium, Megan Thee Stallion, $uicideBoy$, Ari Lennox, and more. If you attend Buku, I personally suggest going with one of their VIP packages. For more info on this year Buku Project, visit here.
4. Freret Street Festival
Location: Freret Street (between Napoleon & Valmont)
When: April 4
About: A free music festival on one of New Orlean’s most beloved street, Freret. It’s seven blocks filled with local food, art, music, and fun. Support local businesses within the area while enjoying live musical performances from the three different stages. In true New Orleans fashion, the Freret Street Festival features a second line and Mardi Gras Indian walk from one end of the festival to the other at the start of the day!
5. French Quarter Fest
Location: In the French Quarter
Dates: April 16 – 19
About: Let’s start with it’s FREE. Yes, a free four-day music festival full of music, food, and fun! It’s known as the largest free music event in the country! With nearly two dozen stages (yes, you read that correctly), French Quarter Fest is a showcase of local Louisiana music and the city of New Orleans’ finest restaurants. Previous performers include Irma Thomas, Galactic, Kermit Ruffins, Brass-A-Holics, Amanda Shaw, and more. Besides music from local artists and food from local restaurants, French Quarter Fest features lectures, a kids zone, art vendors, and more.
6. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Location:Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Dates: April 23 – 26, April 30 – May 3
About: In 2020, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is bringing two weekends, April 23rd – 26th and April 30th – May 3rd, of back-to-back back-to-back great music from local artists such as Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas, and Tank and the Bangas to world-renowned musical legends such as Dead & Company, Lizzo, Lionel Richie and Stevie Nicks. If you attend Jazz Fest, I personally suggest going to Jazz Fest with an empty stomach and trying the Mango Freeze, Crawfish Beignets, and Strawberry Lemonade! For more info on this year’s Jazz Fest, visit here.
7. Bayou Boogaloo
Location: Bayou St. John
When: May 15 – 17
About: A few miles from the French Quarter is Bayou St. John, a swampy land in Mid-City connected to Lake Pontchartrain. Every year in late May, people come together for live music from local artists, delicious eats from local vendors, and various arts & crafts. Don’t fill like driving? Show up to the fest in your boat, kayak, or canoe and enjoy the music! In previous years the line-up has included artists like Walter Wolfman, Deacon John, Naughty Professor, Bag of Donuts, and more. Bring your dog, bring your chair, and bring some money to donate to support the Friends of Bayou St. John non-profit at the entrance gate!
8. Essence Festival
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Dates: July 2-6
About: Essence Festival, the festival you probably saw in the movie Girls Trip, is a three-day festival filled with more than just music. This year’s line-up includes Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson, Estelle, Jidenna, Janelle Monae, Patti Labelle and more. Though Essence Fest does have a star-studded lineup every year with the best of the best R&B, jazz, hip-hop artists, it’s more than that. At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Essence Fest has empowerment seminars, beauty and style expos, lectures on life, movie screenings, and loads of freebies & giveaways from their major sponsors for FREE. It’s open to the public the same three days of the music festival.
9. Satchmo Summerfest
Location: New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Mint
When: July 31 – August 2
About: Every first weekend of August, locals look forward to Satchmo Summerfest. It’s a 3-day music festival honoring the talent and memory of the late Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong with live bands and scrumptious food! Daily admission is only $6 and with that, you get a wristband that allows you to come and go throughout the day! Fest-goers can also sign up to attend seminars and lectures aka “Satchmo Seminars” or attend indoor, smaller show inside of the Old Mint.
10. Lil Weezyana Festival
Location: UNO Lakefront Arena
When: August or September 2020
About: Homegrown rapper Lil Wayne brings a annual artist-curate music festival back to his hometown every summer. Last year, the festival announced a new location – moving from Champions Square to the UNO Lakefront Arena’s Festival Grounds. The one-day music event has included artists like Drake, Gucci Mane, Migos, 2 Chainz, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Meek Mill, Trey Songz, Megan Thee Stallion, NBA Youngboy and more. Lil Weezyana Fest has cemented itself as an annual homecoming for Wayne that celebrates the city’s musical history and is a way for him to give back to the community.
11. Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival
Location: Lafayette Square Park
When: October 2020
About: This free three-day music festival is presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation aka the same organization that produces Jazz Fest. Name a better combo than barbecue and blues in the cool October weather. Though a relatively small festival, it’s filled with live blues performances from some of the best in the Crescent City and of course, some of the best BBQ you can get in the city! Also, vegan and vegetarian options are available. Previous performers included Erica Falls, Samantha Fish, Tucka, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Tab Benoit and Little Freddie King.
12. Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
Location: City Park
When: October 30 – November 1
About: With previous headliners like Post Malone, Jack U, Ozzy Osborne, The Weeknd, Martin Garrix, Mumford & Sons, KISS, and more, Voodoo draws thousands of locals and out-of-towners to the Big Easy for Halloween weekend to “worship the music”. Throughout the fest grounds, you’ll find carnival rides, tarot card readers, live art demonstrations, a haunted house, interactive activities with sponsors like Toyota, and more. If you’re attending Voodoo, my advice to you is to come prepared. Rain or shine, the fest rolls on (except in 2015) so packing rain boots is essential for this festival!
Don’t miss out on your chance to win your way into an upcoming New Orleans music festival or concert. Check out the NOLA Concerts Instagram page for weekly giveaways and event announcements!