When people think of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter (Vieux Carré), they often conjure up images of raucous Bourbon Street with its many nightclubs, restaurants, and humongous events such as Mardi Gras. However, like many areas of New Orleans, there is a lot more to it.
Home of the largest concentration of antique shops, museums and art galleries in the country, the Vieux Carré takes center stage at the annual French Quarter Festival.
The largest free music festival in the South, the French Quarter Festival, held in April (because of the global pandemic, in 2021 it will be held September 30 – October 2, returning to an April timeslot in 2022), was founded in 1984. Dedicated to supporting the local music community, this three-day event actually came about as a byproduct of the 1980’s oil bust, when city officials desired to boost consumer confidence and encourage the locals to come out and enjoy all that the Quarter has to offer.
Although overshadowed by the world-famous Jazz & Heritage Festival, the French Quarter Festival has continued to gain in popularity over the years. One way it stands out over other New Orleans festivals, is, well, its location.
Instead of jockeying for position at a clump of music stages, culinary stations and arts and crafts booths situated fairly close together, festival-goers can instead leisurely meander from Bourbon Street to Preservation Hall, Jackson Square, Royal Street, the French Market Performance Pavilion, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, the Louisiana State Museum and the Louisiana Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint.
At each location they will experience plenty of room to revel in the plentiful culinary and artistic offerings, as well as over a dozen stages churning out excellent musical performances encompassing everything from jazz to Zydeco, gospel, funk, classical, Cajun, brass band music and a great deal more.
The festival has always been a true showcase for homegrown New Orleans musicians and like Kermit Ruffins, The Ellis Marsalis Quartet, The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ensemble, Arlee Leonard, Wanda Rouzan and A Taste of New Orleans, Original Hurricane Brass Band, Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band, Coco Robicheaux, The Blues Masters Featuring Big Al Carson and scores of others.
An array of special events and activities for the entire family are incorporated into the festival as well.
Read on for more exciting aspects of The Big Easy!