Though it’s known colloquially as Jazz Fest, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival really is a more fitting title, as the seven-day event celebrates not just jazz music, but the rich cultural heritage of the Crescent City. Now in its 48th year, Jazz Fest proudly spotlights the local bands, tribes, cajun chefs and artisans that make New Orleans such a unique and vibrant cultural center.
The massive scope of the festival also makes negotiating the many stages, activities and events within the Jazz Fest grounds somewhat intimidating. To help you navigate the festival, we’ve put together this handy Q&A guide to Jazz Fest 2017. Read on for tips on everything from food to transportation and of course, the impressive music lineup.
The music lineup is absolutely packed. What’s the best way to make my own custom schedule?
Great question. With 12 stages and tents featuring performers, Jazz Fest has one of the most robust (and unique) rosters of any summer music festival. It’s never a bad idea to simply walk the festival grounds and see what catches your ear, but Type A personalities who prefer a bit of structure to their day can make a custom schedule through the Jazz Fest website. The Jazz Fest App is also a great resource for plotting out your daily schedule, or even planning your meals.
Speaking of meals, what are the food options at Jazz Fest?
Honestly, even if you were some weird sicko that hates live music, you could still have a blast at Jazz Fest simply by eating your way through it. This link will take you through the many food options at the festival; from Po-Boys to Muffulettas to Jambalaya, the cuisine is all locally-sourced and delicious. If that weren’t enough, there will also be two different food stages -- the Food Heritage Stage and the Cajun Cabin Stage -- where renowned local chefs will be putting on demonstrations that spotlight some of Louisiana’s finest delicacies.
What’s best way to get to Jazz Fest?
Again, outstanding question my friend. The best way to get to the festival is to purchase tickets to the Jazz Fest Express, an air-conditioned shuttle that takes you to and from the festival (it even drops off inside the grounds). There are two pickup locations in the city -- downtown and at City Park -- and there are package deals that include both a ticket and round trip shuttle service.
If you can’t take the shuttle, you can take a taxi to the gates and arrange for pickup with one of the many local taxi services. Uber and Lyft -- the latter of which tapped local musicians for impromptu concerts for riders last year -- are also options, though you may be subjected to additional costs based on the high demand of riders. However, always make sure that your car is the one booked officially through the app so you don’t fall victim to a criminal posing as a ride-share driver.
Of course, you can always take an RTA bus to Jazz Fest or drive yourself. But parking at festivals is always a spotty proposition and the city is licking its chops at all the extra fees they’re about to collect from drivers who get ticketed or towed for parking illegally. In other words, make driving your last resort.
Good looking out, I was planning on driving. You don’t know what the weather will be like, do you?
What do I look like, Al Roker?
I’m honestly not sure what you look like, this is a written Q&A.
Fair point, my bad. According to NOLA.com, the weather for the first weekend “isn’t looking too sunny.” Actually, Friday and Saturday are looking mostly sunny with a high in the mid-80s, but severe weather could move in on Sunday, with rain likely and wind gusts of 30-35 mph. Still, this is pretty much par for the course at Jazz Fest, so bring a raincoat and galoshes on Sunday and you should be good.
Duly noted. What else is there to do besides music and food?
Plenty. The Louisiana Folklife Village is where “master craftsmen and tradition-bearers create cultural treasures by using generations-old techniques,” according to the festival’s website. At the Native American Village, attendees can enjoy music and Pow Wow performances while learning about Louisiana's rich indigenous history under a shaded canopy. Beyond the two food and music stages, the air-conditioned Grandstand will include a series of special exhibits spanning both weekends that celebrate the unique culture, food and art of Louisiana. And the Cultural Exchange Pavilion will spotlight the unique connections between Cuba and the Big Easy with “one of the largest celebrations of Cuban culture in the U.S. since the 1950s.”
Dope, can’t wait! Can I ask you a personal question?
Sure, why not.
Which headliner are you most excited to see?
Man, saving the hardest question for last I see. Personally, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were a big band for me in my formative years. Stevie Wonder is undoubtedly one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. The Roots are arguably one of the 10 most important hip-hop groups ever, and I’m very excited to see how their sound melds with the groove-heavy R&B of Usher. Lorde absolutely crushed at Coachella and it will be thrilling to see her perform brand new music ahead of her hugely anticipated sophomore album. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s also….
Naw, naw, we’re good.
Dang right we're good; Jazz Fest is almost here!
For VIP packages or to get single day tickets -- good for any of the three days of the first weekend or any of the four days of the second weekend -- visit the official website of Jazz Fest and keep it here on AXS.com for more coverage of New Orleans’ biggest and best music festival.