April 6, 2017 | New Orleans

A Local’s Guide to New Orleans Jazz Fest

By: Abby Sanders, Pelican New Orleans (Cajun Encounters)


You bought your tickets for Nola Jazz Fest 2017 months in advance. You’ve probably already read through the lineup 100 times and know exactly which acts you need to see, and which you can miss. But surely you’ll have a few spare hours here and there when you’re ready to venture away from the crowds. 

New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in the country, so make the most of your time in the Big Easy and check out everything the city has to offer! Here’s a local’s guide to all the must-do New Orleans activities while you’re in town. No doubt you’ll adjust your vacation itinerary here and there once you’re here (we left Bourbon Street and Hurricane mixed drinks off this list because, well, they’ll find you). But here are a few ideas to fill in the gaps during your busy Jazz Fest schedule. 


Thursday, 4/27 – We’re guessing you have at least one evening in town before the festivities begin. Take a ride on the Riverfront Streetcar and you’ll enjoy a Southern breeze as you coast through the Lower Garden District, Central Business District, French Quarter, and the bustling French Market. Hop off once you reach Jackson Square and take a leisurely stroll up Decatur Street. Stop at Huck Finn’s Café for your first meal, and sample some home-style Southern cooking, like crawfish etouffee, blackened redfish, or red beans and rice. Welcome to Nola.

Friday, 4/28 – Sunday, 4/30 – Jazz Fest begins! Check your lineup so you don’t miss a thing.

Monday, 5/1 – Ah, your first free day! Now is the perfect time for a Plantation Tour. Local tour company Cajun Encounters will pick you up at your hotel for ultimate convenience. Enjoy a relaxing bus ride as a professional tour guide points out historic landmarks and the beautiful geography of Louisiana as you leave the city and make your way to the famous River Road plantations. You’ll have a few hours to explore the beautiful Oak Alley, Laura: A Creole plantation, or Whitney: a memorial to slaves of the American South.  

Tuesday, 5/2 – By now you’ve fully recovered from your first weekend of Jazz Fest, and you’re probably itching to get out and explore the city. Take a 10:00am guided walking tour of the French Quarter and St. Louis Cemetery #1 so you can get a full appreciation of all the architecture and history surrounding you.   Your tour will wrap up just in time for a delicious lunch at Acme Oyster House just a short walk away.  Later that day, rent a bike to get around the French Quarter, or get a scooter and check out the surrounding neighborhoods! You’ll see much more in a short amount of time than if you chose to walk. In the evening when you’re back on your feet, take an 8:00pm Ghost Tour. You’ll hear some eerie stories from the city’s past, see the American Horror Story House, and even get some historic and architectural facts thrown in.

Wednesday, 5/3 – You’ve seen parts of the French Quarter and Central Business District. You’ve probably had more than your fill of Bourbon Street. But there’s so much more to the Crescent City! Book a City Bus Tour, and check out the neighborhoods you might have missed, like the Garden District and City Park. You can even choose an option that includes a tour of the local Seven Three Distillery.

Thursday, 5/4 – Brace yourself – back to Jazz Fest! 

Friday, 5/5 – Go ahead, sleep in. You need a break. In the afternoon, tour the World War II Museum to immerse yourself in another time (and get out of the sun for a few hours). When you realize you’re famished, the world-renowned restaurant Commander’s Palace is a short streetcar ride away.

Saturday, 5/6 & Sunday, 5/7 – Enjoy the festivities!

Monday, 5/8 – You’re nearing the end of your trip. Get out of the city for an afternoon and take a Swamp Tour. You’ll catch a breeze on the bayou, and an air-conditioned bus will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.


And finally, your last assignment: enjoy your last night on the town! You’ll miss it when you leave.

We hope this helps you put together the perfect itinerary for your New Orleans vacation. This year’s Jazz Fest lineup is well worth the trip in itself, but when you’re in a city like New Orleans, you need to make the most of every day you’re in town. 

Now you’re on your own – order up a Sazerac and enjoy your time in the Big Easy.