Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors, Jazz Fest is one of the top things to do in New Orleans. Here, we’ve put together a list of 10 FAQ to help you understand the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, plus we've still got plenty of availability during the festival so you can book hostels in New Orleans and enjoy Jazz Fest.
1. What is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival?
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or Jazz Fest is the city’s second largest annual event after Mardi Gras, attracting around 400,000 visitors each year. Combining music and culture, this hugely popular New Orleans festival features everything from live performances to craft demonstrations to the famous Louisiana cuisine. Jazz Fest is a long-running festival, dating back to April 1970. The first edition of the festival was produced by George Wein, a famous American jazz promoter, and it featured performances by greats like Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson and Fats Domino.
2. When is Jazz Fest in 2011?
These days Jazz Fest takes place over two weekends and this year’s dates are as follows:
Weekend 1: April 29th-May 1st.
Weekend 2: May 5th-8th.
3. Where is the festival held?
Fair Grounds Race Course is the setting for this year’s Jazz Fest. It is located at 1751 Gentilly Boulevard, a mere 10 minutes from the French Quarter, the most famous neighbourhood in New Orleans. The festival grounds are open from 11am-7pm on each day of Jazz Fest.
4. What acts are performing at this year’s Jazz Fest?
Well, as the festival boasts 12 different stages, a huge number of local, national and international acts are set to perform during both weekends of Jazz Fest. A wide variety of music genres are represented during the festival including gospel, blues, Cajun, funk, rock, R&B, country, rap, Caribbean and more. Some of the most well-known performers you’ll find at Jazz Fest this year include:
April 29th: Wyclef Jean, Mumford & Sons, Jeff Beck & the Avett Brothers.
April 30th: Bon Jovi & Jason Mraz.
May 1st: John Mellencamp, The Decemberists & Tom Jones.
May 5th: Wilco & Cyndi Lauper.
May 6th: Better than Ezra, Arcade Fire, Willie Nelson & Lupe Fiasco.
May 7th: The Strokes & Ms. Lauryn Hill.
May 8th: Cowboy Mouth & Kid Rock.
The full line up is available here.
5. But what about jazz?
It wouldn’t be Jazz Fest without jazz! The Jazz and Heritage Stage and the WWOZ Jazz Tent are two of the best places to hear jazz during the festival. Both contemporary and traditional jazz musicians are featured. One performance to keep an eye out for takes place at the WWOZ Jazz Tent on Sunday, May 8th from 5.40pm to 7pm, as this is when jazz legend Sonny Rollins and his saxophone take centre stage.
6. What kind of food is available at Jazz Fest?
A veritable smorgasbord of Louisiana cuisine can be sampled at Jazz Fest including local favourites from jambalaya to po’boy sandwiches. Crawfish and fried chicken are also very popular at the various food stalls dotted all over the festival grounds, along with more exotic choices like alligator. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re in luck as you’ll find a huge selection of pies and candy to try, as well as delicious New Orleans pastries called beignets.
7. What kinds of cultural events are taking place at the festival?
As this is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, you can expect to see plenty of cultural events over the course of the festival. Housed in four themed tents, the Louisiana Folklife Village is the place to go if you want to find out more about life in both New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Check it out to see what is involved in making floats for Mardi Gras, how handcrafted accordions are made, what to expect from Creole cooking and more. At the Haitian Village, you’ll find a huge celebration of Haitian culture which recognises the strong connections between Haiti and New Orleans. As well as discussions and traditional handcrafts, you’ll be able to see some traditional Vodou drumming. On top of all that, Louisiana tribal elders will be on hand at the Native American Village to demonstrate indigenous crafts from wood carving to basket weaving, while visitors can also enjoy pow wow performances throughout the festival.
8. What’s happening at The Grandstand?
Over the course of Jazz Fest, The Grandstand is set to host a number of special exhibits covering a variety of different topics including Haiti: The Soul, The Spirit, The Art.
9. Can visitors check out local crafts during the festival?
There are actually three main craft areas you can visit at Jazz Fest: Congo Square African Marketplace, Heritage Square and Louisiana Marketplace. The works of African diaspora from all corners of the globe are featured at the Congo Square African Marketplace including painting, photography and sculpture, alongside traditional clothing and jewellery. There’s also a demonstration area where you can see firsthand the work that goes into these colourful handcrafts. Over at Heritage Square, the focus is on more contemporary crafts during both weekends of Jazz Fest. Here you’ll see jewellery, clothing and handcrafted musical instruments, as well as pottery and metalwork demonstrations plus lots more. If you’re looking for New Orleans and Louisiana handcrafts, check out the Louisiana Marketplace. These beautiful pieces have been inspired by Louisiana’s music, culture and architecture, and include everything from local photography to fleur-de-lis jewellery.
10. Are tickets still available?
They are. You’ll find details of all the various different types of tickets and how you can purchase them on the official Jazz Fest site. Ticket prices start from $45 for one-day tickets booked in advance.
With so much music and culture to soak up, it’s no surprise that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of the most enjoyable things to do in New Orleans. If you’re planning to visit Jazz Fest or fancy a trip to New Orleans at any time of year, we’ve got a great selection of hostels in New Orleans for you to check out.