Events

Everything You Absolutely Must Do in New Orleans on Your Next Visit

Updated On 01/31/2018 at 06:13PM EST Updated On 01/31/2018 at 06:13PM EST
Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
Rock 'n' Roll Marathon | Rod Mar
January
crawfish boil
crawfish boil | Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock
January
Friday - Saturday
Dec 1-Mar 31

Pinch the tail and suck the head at crawfish boils all season

Pinch the tail and suck the head at crawfish boils all season

Citywide
Crawfish are in season starting in December, but they really hit their prime (prices go down and the tails get fatter) in February and March. If you’re not friends with a boilmaster, hit up a bar or restaurant with fresh boiled crawfish. R Bar has held free crawfish boils on Fridays during crawfish season for more than a decade. Order a strawberry Abita and don’t forget to tip the chef.
Cost: Varies by location
February
zulu parade
zulu parade | JBKC/Shutterstock.com
February
Thursday
Feb 1
Bourbon Street
You can -- and definitely should -- tip and buy dances at the strip club. But how do you support strippers when the New Orleans Police Department raids eight clubs, leaving them and other industry pros unemployed? Easy! You slap on the body paint, scribble #rightsnotrescue on a piece of cardboard and meet at 400 Bourbon Street for what’s sure to be one of the glitteriest, entertaining-est women’s rights marches ever -- then hit the after-party at CBD Social.
Cost: Free
Friday
Feb 2
New Orleans may have elevated Carnival to a boozy, bead-bedizened art form, but we didn’t invent it. Don a mask and celebrate Latin American Carnival traditions with live music by The Stooges Brass Band, Rumba Buena, Javier Olondo & AsheSon, Casa Samba, and an appearance by The Baby Dolls. There’s also Cuban food by Churros Cafe, a second line, and an open bar. Proceeds benefit the Cervantes Hispanic American Arts Foundation.
Cost: $50
Friday
Feb 2
Music Box Village
It was the first (and last) World’s Fair to go bankrupt during its run, and now it’s getting a chopped-up, down-pitched, pink-and-teal saturated Vaporwave remix as the theme for New Orleans’ Airlift’s Mardi Gras ball. Performances by DJ Windows 2000 (Win Butler of Arcade Fire), Rusty Lazer, Rareluth, and DJ Nice Rack, among others, projection mapping, and new installations round out the evening.
Cost: $20 and up
Sunday
Feb 4
Founded in 1993, Barkus is New Orleans’ only Mardi Gras krewe for dogs. The nonprofit boasts all the same festivities as a human krewe: a ball, “pre-pawty,” walking parade, and the ruffest royal court you’ve ever seen. Proceeds benefit animal organizations statewide.
Cost: $60 and up to parade; free to attend
Saturday
Feb 10

Dance at a glorious, gay Carnival ball

Dance at a glorious, gay Carnival ball

Mardi Gras World
The Krewe of Armeinius is known for its spectacular tableaus and masked balls, and this year, for its 50th anniversary, the gay Carnival krewe pulls out all the stops. Though many balls are invitation-only affairs, you can buy a ticket to Armeinius. Just be sure to observe the strict, formal dress code (tuxedos for men, long gowns for women).
Cost: $80 and up
Monday
Feb 12
Woldenberg Riverfront Park
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Zulu Lundi Gras Festival, a day of live music, food, and appearances by Zulu characters. It just might be the biggest free party inside the biggest free party (Carnival) in the world.
Cost: Free
Monday - Saturday
Feb 12-24
Various locations
This is a two-week celebration of food created by African-American and minority chefs in New Orleans, and it's organized by the group Eat NOLA Noir. There are specials and deals associated with the various restaurants participating, and the group's stated goals are to stimulate local economic growth and raise awareness to the culinary efforts of minority-owned businesses.
Cost: Deals vary, but Eat NOLA Noir's site has a full rundown of participating restaurants to assist your decision-making
Tuesday
Feb 13
French Quarter
It’s impossible to leave the house on Mardi Gras day without confronting incredible handmade costumes, but with ornate headpieces, cash prizes, and categories including “best drag” and “best leather,” this event takes masquerading to another level. Varla Jean Merman and Ryan Landry host the gay Carnival costume contest, now in its 54th year.
Cost: Free
Tuesday
Feb 13

Go see Mardi Gras

Go see Mardi Gras

Citywide
What else is there to say? It’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans. You can’t avoid the marching clubs, parades, pageantry, costumes, go-cups, beads, and boobs unless you lock yourself up at home. Even then, glitter finds its way in.
Cost: Free
Tuesday
Feb 13

Catch a coconut at Zulu and hail the Butterfly King at Rex

Catch a coconut at Zulu and hail the Butterfly King at Rex

Parade routes vary
More than 70 parades roll in the greater New Orleans area during the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, but Zulu and Rex are the granddaddies of them all. Founded in 1916 and 1872 respectively, they’re two of the city’s most venerated krewes and most memorable parades. Stake out a spot on the route early on Mardi Gras day (Zulu rolls at 8am), and get ready to yell “Throw me something, mister!”
Cost: Free
Tuesday
Feb 13

Livestream the Meeting of the Courts

Livestream the Meeting of the Courts

It’s one of the more bizarre, esoteric aspects of Mardi Gras, and thanks to WYES, you can view it from your couch. It’s the Meeting of the Courts of Rex and Comus: Two costumed Carnival kings convene at a downtown hotel ballroom for much curtsying and scepter waving. You have to see it to understand. Don’t forget to live-tweet using the hashtag #meetingofthecourts.
Cost: Just a little bit of your time
Wednesday
Feb 14

Go on an unforgettable date night

Go on an unforgettable date night

Citywide
Love is different no matter who you are, which is why when it comes to Valentine's Day, it's best to have options. Fortunately, our glorious city is nothing if not romantic. To that end, we've rounded up the most fantastic date ideas to make your life a little easier.
Cost: Up to you
Wednesday - Thursday
Feb 14-Mar 29

Chow down at a fish fry

Chow down at a fish fry

Citywide
After the debauchery of Mardi Gras, many Catholics observe Lent by... gorging on fried fish. Just kidding, they’re actually performing a solemn act of piety. Churches, charities, and restaurants throughout New Orleans hold fish fries each Friday during Lent, and proceeds often benefit a good cause. Check the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ homepage for information as Lent approaches (just search for “fish fry”).
Cost: Varies
Friday - Sunday
Feb 23-25

Celebrate Tet and Vietnamese culture

Celebrate Tet and Vietnamese culture

Live music, fireworks, kids’ activities, lion dances, and so much delicious pho can be found at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church during Tet. During this Vietnamese New Year celebration, the church campus turns into a bona fide festival ground, attracting more than 10,000 people in years past.
Cost: Free
Saturday
Feb 17
This year Valentine’s Day is the day after Mardi Gras, so everyone’s going to be exhausted, dead-eyed and hungover... not exactly a recipe for romance. Do yourself a favor and postpone the Valentine’s activities by going to a burlesque show on Saturday. Your significant other will thank you, and that’s before they even witness the spectacle that is a Fleur de Tease burlesque show (aerialists, sword swallowers, and comedians have all been known to make appearances).
Cost: $15 and up
Friday - Thursday
Feb 23-Mar 1

Catch a flick (or a dozen) at a weeklong French film festival

Catch a flick (or a dozen) at a weeklong French film festival

Seventeen French films, live music, lectures, Champagne toasts, and thousands of fellow Francophiles, all hosted by Louisiana’s oldest single-screen theater? Mais oui!
Cost: $70 and up
Friday
Feb 23
Animation, photography, live music, and storytelling combine to create “live journalism” at this multimedia event, which the New York Times dubbed “a sensation.” Contributors include photographers, podcast hosts, novelists, journalists, and more -- making this an ideal date for people who sexually fantasize about Ira Glass.
Cost: $25
Friday - Sunday
Feb 23-25
Mary Queen of Vietnam Church
Live music, fireworks, kids’ activities, lion dances, and so much delicious pho can be found at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church during Tet. At this Vietnamese New Year celebration, the church campus turns into a bona fide festival ground, attracting more than 10,000 people in years past.
Cost: Free
Saturday
Feb 24
When is it super classy to max out open bar privileges? When that open bar is in a contemporary arts museum. There will also be food by some pretty great restaurants and music by Lil Jodeci. Plus, if you haven’t checked out the museum’s "Prospect.4" installation (it’s solid), this is your last chance.
Cost: $100 and up
Sunday
Feb 25
Rock 'n' Bowl
Now in its ninth year, this recycled fashion show benefits a local halfway house, nurtures emerging designers, and encourages sustainable fashion. Plus, there’s food and a cash bar. What more could a civic-minded Issey Miyake fan ask for?
Cost: $25 and up
March
New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon | Ryan Bethke
March
Saturday - Sunday
Mar 3-4
Citywide
Little known fact: New Orleans is super flat, which makes it a great place to jog. And it’s incredibly easy on the eyes, so whether you’re running the 5K, 10K, or half or full marathon, the course will fly by. Or you could just sit, drink, and cheer on the runners.
Cost: $44.99 and up
Friday - Saturday
Mar 9-10
Bassnectar, Migos, MGMT, and SZA headline at this two-day music festival on the Mississippi River. It’s a rave-tastic assembly of EDM, hip-hop, glow sticks, and faux fur leg warmers. Even if you don’t want to pay hundreds to get inside the gates, you can probably hear the boom-tss of the beat from miles downriver.
Cost: $185 and up
Thursday - Saturday
Mar 8-10
Tastings, seminars, vendors, industry awards, live music, and parties are highlights at the second annual Bourbon Festival. Plus, the nonprofit donates 25% of event proceeds to the St. Michael Special School for special needs children. Cheers to that!
Cost: $65.77 and up
Sunday
Mar 11

Catch a cabbage at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Catch a cabbage at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Think you’ve had enough parades to last you until next Carnival season? OF COURSE YOU HAVEN’T. Grab a green beer and head to the Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Parade. Yes, you can catch beads there... as well as cabbages and potatoes, making this parade an excellent alternative to a farmers market run.
Cost: Free