New Orleans events include everything from world-class sports events, to the famous Mardi Gras, to music festivals or every-day performances, even to events situated around the spooky history and lore of New Orleans. Music is part of the city's history and, in fact, a couple of the famous music bars on legendary Bourbon Street never closed at all during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Perhaps the most famous of all New Orleans festivals is Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday"), which begins all over the Christian world on the day of Epiphany (January 6) celebrating the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus. This ushers in a season of New Orleans events that includes masquerade and debutante balls, king cake parties, concerts, and parades that last until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the somber observances of Lent.
While much of the New Orleans entertainment and music during Mardi Gras occurs in the French Quarter, the streets there are too narrow for parades and there are too many overhead obstacles. You can find more elaborate parades in the Uptown and Mid City areas along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street. Other Mardi Gras celebrations occur throughout the region, including in the nearby suburbs of Covington and Slidell on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and as far away as Quebec in Canada and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where the event is called Carnival. Even if you show up for your New Orleans vacations during another time of year, you can experience some of the magic of this celebrated season at Mardi Gras World in the Lower Garden District just south of the Central Business District.
New Orleans festivals also celebrate the fact that the city became home to the fictional vampire Lestat after he fled both France and Greece. More than 50 vampire themed films from 11 countries are showcased during the month October. The film fest was moved from Los Angeles because of the popularity of the Anne Rice novel Interview With A Vampire, the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise film based on the novel, as well as the city's atmospheric cemeteries and Gothic architecture. Another of the New Orleans events that capitalizes on the spooky traditions of the city is the Voodoo Experience, which is series of concerts held over Halloween.
The most famous New Orleans festivals showcase the city's music tradition. The Jazz and Heritage Festival is held during April and May. The first was held in 1970 with home town gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and legendary Duke Ellington. It was patterned after the Newport (Rhode Island) Jazz Festival and Folk Festival that began in the 1950s. More than a dozen stages have hosted musicians from Bob Dylan and Fats Domino to Gladys Knight and Youssou N'Dour playing everything from zydeco and blues to Cajun and rock. From only about 350 attendees in 1970, this event today draws as many as 200,000 concert goers today.
Come to the Satchmo Summerfest in August to honor one of the city's most famous native sons—jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong. This great musician is so beloved that even the local international airport is named for him. Other New Orleans entertainment includes year-round music in the many bar and nightlife spots as well as gambling at one of the many city casinos and the casinos just across the border in Mississippi. Other great events to check out here are New Orleans Saints home games in the Superdome.