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4 Free Festivals To Enjoy Louisiana Culture And Cuisine in New Orleans!

New Orleans, LA

Louisiana festivals take the cake with the state’s diverse culture producing unique celebrations chock full of amazing foods, entertaining music scenes, and southern charm, and at the center of it all is its capital city, New Orleans. With over 130 festivals per year, New Orleans finds a reason to celebrate everyone and everything, honoring music, food, art, culture, and everything in between. Best of all, there are many festivals held throughout the year that are completely free to the public to enjoy.

Free festivals are great for a day or two of inexpensive fun in the Crescent City, and you’ll be able to celebrate Louisiana style with great food and music at every turn. Read on for a list of recommendations of the best annual free festivals in New Orleans.

5 Ways to Get Outside on the Turtle River

Taking place every year since 1984, the French Quarter Festival is celebrated each year as thousands of people make their way to New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. Designed to remind attendees of the great value the French Quarter holds, the fest highlights the food, music, art, and culture of this historic neighborhood. The best part is admission is completely free, giving you no bounds for attending live shows, special events, and activities.

Stretching from the Riverfront to Jackson Square, you can enjoy live music from the stages on every corner and indulge in the city’s finest food at the countless booths in the streets. French Quarter Fest celebrates the local music scene, so you’ll hear every genre from traditional and contemporary jazz to R&B, New Orleans funk, brass bands, folk, gospel, Latin, Zydeco, classical, cabaret, and international on 20 different stages. The food varies from booth to booth, but you can expect some Louisiana classics like Po-boys, Boudin, and crawfish in Creole and Cajun styles.

5 Ways to Get Outside on the Turtle River

Known as one of the best free festivals in Louisiana and the United States, the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival is a three day festing experience filled with a mix of blues veterans and newcomers, and some of the best barbeque in the region. Located in Lafayette Square, the festival is held in an ideal location putting the Central Business District and the French Quarter within walking distance and giving you plenty of things to do.

For events, the festival puts up two stages of music and a huge arts market, along with the barbeque booths. The musicians vary from well-known Louisiana and New Orleans headliners to a slew of lesser known artists that give the festival an intimate feel and experience. Be prepared to sample copious amounts of barbeque, as you won’t be able to get enough from the best vendors in the region and their varying Louisiana styles. Admission to the festival is free, but if you want a premium festival experience you can purchase a VIP Experience Pass giving you a balcony view of Lafayette Square, seating, two complimentary bars, and air conditioning.

5 Ways to Get Outside on the Turtle River

What you may know as a “sub sandwich” or a “hoagie,” depending on where you are from in the US, is known as a “po-boy” in New Orleans and is a pretty big deal. The Oak Street Po-Boy Festival is an entire day dedicated to po-boys and the uniquely New Orleans and Louisiana quirks and spins on the classic sandwich. Held every year in November, the festival occurs on a commercial strip of Oak Street in Carrollton, and not only celebrates Louisiana style po-boys, but also is a celebration of the revitalization of the historic, once-thriving shopping district.

To honor the rebirth of the district, merchants along Oak Street open their doors during the festival offering everything from vintage items and art to apparel and coffee. You’ll be able to enjoy the district as it once existed in the past, while viewing the major improvements that have been made in recent years and indulging in goods, food and drinks, and small-town ambiance. Admission to the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival is free, but a five dollar wristband is required to access the po-boy vendors.

5 Ways to Get Outside on the Turtle River

Satchmo SummerFest, held every August each year, is a tribute to one of New Orleans’ most famous natives, the late Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. The first Satchmo SummerFest was held in 2001 to celebrate Armstrong’s 100 birthday and proved to be a success, becoming an annual three day event. Today, Satchmo SummerFest has evolved into one of the top celebrations in the city, and you can enjoy dancing to traditional New Orleans blues and jazz and sampling delicious food. Keep in mind this festival is free for children under the age of 12, but adults are required to pay a small daily admission fee.

If you plan on going to Satchmo SummerFest, you’ll need to head to Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter the first weekend of August. Here you’ll find the live bands of New Orleans’ top traditional musicians playing their tributes to Armstrong and his music. Enjoy the music, keep hydrated and full at the various food and drink booths, and overall enjoy taking part in honoring an important Louisiana figure. There will also be smaller indoor concerts at the Louisiana State Museum’s Arsenal and Satchmo Seminars and lectures to learn all about Armstrong’s life and history, and hear from musicians who were inspired by him.

I am a student, aspiring writer, and avid reader of books. My favorite things in the world are my German Shepherds and hiking in Colorado.

Maeve Miller

Writer , River Travel Magazine