The Ultimate Guide to Celebrating Jazz Fest 2022 in New Orleans

Get to know the most exciting, culturally rich, and star-studded music fest in America.

With the heat turning up and the sun setting later in the evening, festival season has officially landed in New Orleans. The city is king at keeping the party going all summer long, with bashes big and small taking to the streets almost every weekend. In case you haven’t heard, this year’s Mardi Gras celebration was nothing short of a smashing success. And while French Quarter Fest, Greek Fest, and Essence Fest are all great reasons to pop down to the Big Easy for a long weekend, the city truly hits its stride during the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, held this year from April 29 through May 8.

Back in 1970, musical icon Duke Ellington and New Orleans’ own Mahalia Jackson performed at the Louisiana Heritage Fair in what is now Congo Square. Imagine—for just $3, you could have witnessed that incredible marriage of brilliant sound and local pride. City officials had been trying to create an event they deemed worthy of the birthplace of jazz, and finally found the right recipe by blending the best of both worlds: A fair featuring parades and live global acts, vendors dishing up Cajun and Creole cuisine, and an area dedicated to one-of-a-kind arts and crafts during the day, followed by an evening concert series highlighting big name artists. To no one’s surprise, it quickly became a festival force to be reckoned with.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival | Photo by Paul Broussard

The spontaneity and spirituality of the genre itself combined with the festival’s consistent pedigree has kept folks coming back for more each year, albeit for a bit more than $3 a ticket these days. And after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, Jazz Fest is back and better than ever. Here’s everything you need to know about Jazz Fest 2022, from the event’s humble beginnings to its modern day spoils—plus who to see, where to party, and what to eat and drink between sets.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Festivities aside, Jazz Fest is really all about the jazz—and nobody does jazz like New Orleans. Heavy with rhythmic improvisations, the music is always executed with finely tuned skills and a hearty dose of existential knowledge about the movement. New Orleans’ grand diversity greatly aided in the birth and development of the genre, a marvelous blend of ragtime, marching band, blues, and other historic influences led to jazz having little, if any, limits. Kick back and listen to local favorites like Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band—even jazz skeptics can’t resist this festival’s down-right infectious cast of characters.

No foolin’, take a look at this lineup: Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, The Who, Willie Nelson, Erykah Badu, Norah Jones, Jimmy Buffet, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Nelly, Death Cab for Cutie, Foo Fighters, The Avett Brothers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ziggy Marley, The Black Crowes, Ludacris, Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Melissa Etheridge. And that’s literally just scratching the surface. The list is endless and the curatorial taste is exquisite. Local and global acts of extremely high caliber will be kicking things off every day after 11 am, entertaining festival-goers with their musical stylings until well after dark. Check out the full schedule online and prepare to be wowed.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

The Fairgrounds’ 145-acre expanse will host more than 10 stages and tents catering to different aspects of the fest’s core offerings. Expect an area dedicated to gospel, a tent stocked with stuff to keep the kiddos on their toes, and the recent addition of a space set up expressly for discussions, interviews, and exchanges with artists arriving in the Big Easy.

Frequent flyers of the fest are already familiar with the event’s fun and user-friendly layout. Each act can be located on the official Jazz Fest map, boxed out in cubes with their start times throughout the grid. DIY your day by sketching up your own plans ahead of time or hit up Jazzfest Grids for a handy, ready-made victory lap of sorts, complete with a list of the best live music to catch around town each day and night before, during, and in between Jazz Fest. They don’t miss a beat by updating their listings on a near daily basis.

WWOZ 90.7 FM New Orleans

Over the decades, Jazz Fest has held steadfastly true to a staunch “no carnival food” ethos. With five designated dining areas spanning over 70 food vendors, you’re bound to find a booth or two that perfectly matches your mood. Sno-balls, Gulf oysters on the half shell, red beans and rice, beignets, boudin, po-boys, pralines—that’s just a fraction of the tasty goods up for grabs, including lots of vegan and vegetarian options available, as well. Start your engines by peeping the complete vendor list here.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Similar to its culinary makeup, the festival’s arts and crafts showcase encompases a tasteful and impactful web of intricate and interesting creations. Peruse jewelry, pottery, paintings, and photographs you won't find anywhere else—for real, we’ve looked. Hundreds of regionally and nationally acclaimed artists will be in attendance and they can’t wait to strut their stuff at the Congo Square African Marketplace, the Louisiana Marketplace, or the Contemporary Crafts Center. Be sure to snag a Jazz Fest t-shirt for yourself, because if you didn’t get the t-shirt, did it even happen?

Faubourg Beer
Faubourg Beer

The music doesn’t stop when the lights go up at the Fairgrounds, y’all. Among other raucous shindigs, Thrillist favorite Big Freedia has April 30 covered with a massive takeover at One Eyed Jacks—y’all don’t wanna miss this. The String Cheese Incident is set to rock out at Faubourg Brewery Co. during the sudsy two-day Daze Between New Orleans bash presented by Live For Live Music Presents (May 3 - May 4), while the Disco Biscuits close things out at the Joy Theater on May 7. Keep an eye on Jazzfest Grids to track down all the top venues set to get you bumpin’ until the wee hours.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival | Photo by Paul Broussard

The end

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: There’s no place like New Orleans. The city has so much love to give, and you can genuinely feel it in the people, the music, and the spirit bouncing off every corner. Whether you’re stopping by for a single night of Jazz Fest or planning to stay the course, odds are you’ll be back sooner than later. 

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Joshua Bock is a contributor for Thrillist.