This year’s 46th annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival brings back its iconic performances, explosion of colorful Mardi Gras performers, and mouth-watering meals. With so much going on at this unique festival, there’s a lot to see and do—and you don’t want to miss any of it.
So Mercury sat down with festival insiders Erin Ross, AEG Director and Katie Bailey, AEG Global Partnerships an Account Executive at AEG to reveal the secret recipe for having the best time at Jazz Fest.
Mercury: Jazz Fest has a lot going on, with multiple performances going on at the same time. How do you decide which to attend?
Bailey: My plan is to jump around from stage to stage during the day. I have already scoped out the headliners that I would like to see each night so the rest will just be on a whim.
Mercury: What’s your favorite tent to visit at the Festival?
Ross: Any food tent… Jazz Fest has the most delicious food options.
Bailey: That’s to be determined, but I think it will be the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent.
Mercury: Since the ticket price is relatively inexpensive compared to other large music festivals, where do you usually spend most of your money at Jazz Fest?
Ross: Most of my money is spent on food! So much to enjoy in New Orleans.
Bailey: Since it is New Orleans, I would have to say food. It’s truly a melting pot for cuisine!
Mercury: Have you snagged any of the collector Jazz Fest posters?
Bailey: I have seen the designs from years past and they are beautiful, I will definitely be searching for one to bring home.
Mercury: If you want to ditch the crowd, are there any places at the festival to stop by?
Ross: Some of the smaller tents are a nice way to break away from the crowds and give you a taste of true jazz music.
Bailey: The Louisiana Folk life Village has some art and craftsman exhibits that are perfect sanctuaries from the crowds.
Mercury: What are the top three meals you tried at the festival?
Ross: Crawfish, lobster roll and sweet corn!
Bailey: Louisiana crawfish, jambalaya and a crab po-boy.
Mercury: Are there any great Sunday brunch spots to visit on the last day of the festival?
Ross: There a lots of really good brunch locations on Bourbon Street.
Bailey: I have been scouring websites to find cafes close to the hotel for beignets and chicory coffee on Sunday.
Mercury: What local bands have been you discovered at the festival?
Ross: Too many to name, but if I had to pick two, then DUKES of Dixiland and Baritone Bliss.
Mercury: Other than the musicians in the popular tents, where else can people go for a good performance?
Ross: Jazz Fest is unique because the festival takes place during the day so there are many artists that make cameo appearances at the local spots on Bourbon Street.
Bailey: The Cultural Exchange Pavilion will be showcasing students from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts all weekend long. NOCCA has had a number of alumni become regulars at Jazz Fest and it should be a great place to find some new talent off the main stages.
Mercury: Where’s the best place for a family to visit at the festival?
Ross: There are family areas within the festival grounds. Heritage Square includes the contemporary crafts area as well as several food and beverage options that are perfect for families.
Bailey: I think anywhere in the crafts or culture tents would be great locations for kids to walk around and interact with local artists.
Mercury: When Jazz Fest comes to a close in the evenings, where do you recommend people visit?
Ross: It is very warm in New Orleans in May, so I definitely recommend a stop back at the hotel to change after the festival and then a walk to dinner on Bourbon Street.
Bailey: Outside of the local bars and restaurants that artists are known to do encore performances at … I would say the Garden District or the old cemeteries, I hear there are some pretty incredible tours at night.
Mercury: What have you learned about New Orleans that you didn’t know before going to Jazz Fest?
Ross: There is so much to see in the city. Make sure to leave an extra day to site see
Bailey: This will be my first time visiting New Orleans so I am excited to learn more about the history of the city and how it has been shaped by this festival and jazz music in general.