How to Jazz Fest in Five Steps
This year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is approaching rapidly, so I wanted to put together some tips that I’ve picked up over the years that have made each Jazz Fest experience better than the last. From what to pack to how to arrive in style, keep these suggestions in mind as you are making your final Jazz Fest preparations.
Sunscreen: New Orleans in April is HOT. The sun beats down unapologetically, and shade at the Fairgrounds is hard to come by. If you are lucky you might get lathered up by concerned locals who see your pasty, white arms starting to bubble in the sun, but the safest bet is to take matters into your own hands, drop some SPF 50 into your backpack, and cover yourself in that stuff like it’s going out of style. Believe me, you do not want to fry yourself on day one and have to spend the rest of the weekend bathing in aloe vera and walking like a cowboy to avoid rubbing your crispy skin on your clothes.
Rain Gear: While an afternoon shower might be just what the doctor ordered to bring a little bit of relief from the heat, it’s best to be prepared in the event of a Jazz Fest downpour…So come equipped with some puddle-proof footwear and a raincoat to keep you dancing no matter what the weather is up to.
Eat It Up
If New Orleans is known for anything besides music, it is its world-famous Creole, Cajun, and French cuisine. You could spend an entire day at Jazz Fest walking around vendor booths, not seeing one musical act, sampling New Orleans staples like etouffee, jambalaya, po’ boys, and more, and it would probably still be worth the price of admission. For me, it would not be Jazz Fest without at least one Rosemint Herbal Iced Tea per day, a visit to Creole’s Lunch House for Creole’s Stuffed Bread, and a bowl of Crawfish Monica.
Take a Walk
Sure, you could hail a cab and have it drop you off right at the gate, but if you want to really amp up your Jazz Fest experience I suggest taking a walk. Even if you aren’t staying within walking distance of the Fairgrounds, have your cabbie drop you off a mile or two out, crack an Abita Turbodog for the journey, and take a walk down the historic jasmine lined streets of New Orleans to your final destination. You will pass by colorful cottages and bungalows hosting porch parties, you will definitely be serenaded by a busker or two, and you will probably make some new friends along the way. If biking is more your speed, many of the streets leading to the festival feature bicycle lanes, and there is bicycle parking near festival entrances.
Throw Out Your Schedule
Of course there are going to be artists and bands that you just cannot miss on any given day, but there will undoubtedly be a few lulls in your day where you might be tempted to check out your Jazz Fest grid and rush over to see a familiar name. Take it from this OCD, schedule keeper: Throw out the grid, even just for one afternoon, and follow the music. Whether you wander into the Gospel Tent, escape the sun in the Aatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent, or get distracted by a chief at the Congo Square Stage, you are bound to slip into a party, and you might even walk out with a new favorite band.
The 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, featuring headliners Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Snoop Dogg, Beck, Van Morrison and many, many more will be going down over two weekends from April 22 – May 1, 2016. Check out the complete lineup as well as additional information at the Official Jazz and Heritage Festival website.