A Complete Guide To French Quarter Fest

Everywhere else in the world it’s just Thursday. But here in New Orleans, it’s the beginning of the largest free music festival in the south, and yet another reason to party.

It seems like every Spring weekend in New Orleans involves some sort of festival—Hogs for the Cause, Jazz Fest, Tennessee Williams Festival, the list goes on. This week is no different, as one of America’s most iconic neighborhoods opens its doors to the 31st annual French Quarter Fest.

Originally created to attract tourists and locals alike back to the French Quarter, the festival has quickly expanded to include more than 1,400 musicians representing nearly every type of genre, from traditional jazz to bluegrass to funk. On top of that, some of New Orleans’ best restaurants flock to sever you Jazz Fest quality food on a slightly smaller scale.

We know this can be a trying time for you. Not only do you have to enjoy weather that only God himself could have created, but you have to listen to the best talent that New Orleans has to offer while sipping on an ice-cold beer and eating a cochon de lait po’ boy. Times are tough. Sometimes you just have to keep on truckin’.

We at Online Optimism feel your pain, so we’ve come up with a complete guide to everything French Quarter Fest 2014.

The Basics 

Though the nucleus of French Quarter Fest goes throughout Woldenburg Park on the Mighty Mississippi River (right next to the Aquarium), it has slowly branched out to include 21 stages throughout the French Quarter. The festival begins on Thursday and continues every day until Sunday night, and has a little bit of something for all ages.

Besides the 1,400 musicians and 60 food vendors, expect to see quite a crowd, especially if the weather holds up. Last year the reported attendance reached over 560,000 people. To put that into perspective, there are only around 370,000 people in New Orleans proper. Be prepared to get pushed around a little. Consider it a precursor to the Jazz Fest crowd.


Nothing like a weekend stroll through the French Quarter

Because of the location and amount of people, not to mention the alcohol that will most likely be consumed throughout the event, I’d hold off on driving unless you absolutely have to. If you do, expect to get a ticket and have a tough time getting there.

Luckily, public transportation works great for anything in the French Quarter. Regardless of where you live in the city, you are an hour MAX from the festival by street car, bus or ferry (does that still exist?). You might have to wait a while, but it’ll happen. After all, patience is a virtue.

On a beautiful weekend like this one, though, you can’t go wrong with a bike ride to the quarter. It’s easier, faster, and you don’t need to worry about a DUI! Just don’t forget where you locked up.

What to bring

 Of course you need your essentials—comfortable shoes, a chair, beer (no glass), sunscreen (at least if you’re a ginger like me), money (about $40 if you want to have a good time) and an appetite. If you really want to get fancy with things you can bring a blanket, then you’ll really be the life of the party.

The Food

Crawfish and spinach boat.
Crawfish and spinach boat.

French Quarter Fest offers comparable food to Jazz Fest, only it’s better because you don’t have to pay $70 to get in. If you’re like me, you scout out the food before you do the music, then make a mental route for food-eating optimization. Beer is $5 and mixed drinks are $7, but if you want to save money, just bring a 12-pack or a bottle of wine and skip the line.

If you look on the food section, the first restaurant you see is Antoines. Not bad, right? That’s only the beginning. French Quarter Fest has nearly every type of food you can imagine, including oysters, crepes, every po’ boy imaginable, snowballs, BBQ, “stuffed crab with baked macaroni” (Woah), and of course, everything that you can possibly stuff crawfish into. There are too many good restaurants to name, but you won’t go wrong with any of them.

The music

 As mentioned earlier, French Quarter Fest has over 1,400 musicians throughout the weekend, both large and small. You can’t really go wrong with any of them, but some acts take precedence over the rest.

Thursday eases you in with mostly local music, all starting at 11 AM. If you can get off work, you don’t work or you just don’t care about work, check out Irma Thomas at 2:15 on the Abita Amber stage. Flow Tribe starts at 5:15 on the GE Capital/New Orleans Tech Big River Stage (really rolls off the tongue) and closes out a relatively quiet day.

Friday the real action begins. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the legendary Dr. John returns to French Quarter Fest for his only local festival appearance of the year. George Porter, Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners are bound to make things funky, Kermit Ruffins always brings the noise and Walter “Wolfman” Washington is bound to entertain.

Saturday’s highlights include Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, The Red Hot Brass band and Glenn David Andrews, amongst countless others.

Sunday closes out with a relatively quiet lineup, but one that will entertain nonetheless. Headliners include The New Orleans Suspects, The Iguanas and the Bucktown All-Stars

Click here for the full schedule.

 Long story short, French Quarter Fest is going to be awesome and you should go.

About Patrick

As a born and bred New Orleanian, on a good day you will find him eating oysters and/or crawfish at the Fly, and on a bad day you might find him in jail.

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