New Orleans Jazz Festival

New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz. There is no better way to feel the history of New Orleans than to enjoy the experience of Jazz music playing live. A great way to experience incredible jazz artists in the “Big Easy” is at a New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Jazz Fest New Orleans
Jazz Fest New Orleans  Image: Douglas Mason

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, better known as Jazz Fest New Orleans, is the granddaddy of all the jazz festivals New Orleans offers. Started in April of 1970, it was originally formed to preserve the music of Old New Orleans jazz, as rock and pop music threatened to make this music a lost art form. It began with only 350 visitors and today hosts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival now stretches over 10 days, combines multiple stages of live performances with crafts booths and Louisiana food booths. New Orleans Jazz Fest is a fantastic place for all ages to enjoy the culture of Louisiana and its legacy of music.

New Orleans Jazz Fest Lineup
New Orleans Jazz Fest Lineup  Image: kyonokyonokyono (flickr)

This New Orleans Jazz Festival has traditionally featured a wide variety of renowned artists like Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Dave Matthews Band, and many others. Jazz Fest New Orleans prides itself on celebrating Louisiana culture by combining the fervor of a gospel hymn with the joy of a jazz parade. So in addition to contemporary and classical jazz, you can also find at Jazz fest New Orleans blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass and everything in between.

New Orleans Jazz Festival
New Orleans Jazz Festival

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival takes place in April and May and is located at the Fair Grounds Race Course, minutes from the French Quarter. Buses depart from the dock in the French Quarter and from many of the big hotels. Once inside you can find a Food Fair with 100 booths to sample delicious Cajun, Creole and American food; as well as a Craft Fair to peruse crafts booths celebrating the crafts of African and South American artistry. A big hit and must-see at this New Orleans jazz festival, is the gospel choir tent, where you can listen to amazing and uplifting gospel music the south is famous for.

You might have trouble getting hotel reservations during this popular event, so be sure to book in advance. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival lists the Sheraton New Orleans as their official hotel or check their webpage, which advertises special room rates if you book early. Remember that if you book a hotel in the French Quarter during Jazz Fest, it can be quite noisy in certain parts of the town. So check with the hotel to give you an interior room or choose a hotel away from crazy party Bourbon Street.

New Orleans is the kings of events and festivals in Louisiana, so you can find other New Orleans jazz festivals during the year like the French Quarter Festival in April and the Satchmo Summerfest in August which celebrates the music of one of the original founders of jazz music, Louis Armstrong.

Top image: Douglas Mason

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