Best of the Fall Fests
Celebrate the season with music, food and fun
With the weather turning cooler (please?, pretty please?) it’s time to get outside, throw on some jeans and enjoy food, fun and festivities at the ever-growing list of festivals in and around the city.
From September through December, there is no shortage of events celebrating the Who Dat Nation, New Orleans film, blues and barbecue, comedy, music, art and more.
The fall menu includes festival favorites, both new and old: fried chicken and all the fixings; beignets, both savory and sweet; poor boys of all shapes and sizes; and all the cheese you can eat.
So get out your calendar; your weekends are officially booked!
Who Dat Nation Rally & Music Festival
Admission: One-day pass $30, Two-day pass $45. One-day pass ages 13-18, $10, Two-day pass ages 13-18, $15. Admission is free for kids 12 and under. Location: Jefferson Performing Arts Center Best Bet: On Saturday, classic rock stars The Guess Who and 80s new wave band The Producers are among the highlights. On Sunday, local heroes Cowboy Mouth will be performing. Lagniappe: One of the festival’s stages will be inside the Jefferson Performing Arts Center, which will allow attendees a chance to cool off if the early September weather gets too hot.
Fried Chicken Fest
Admission: Free, unless you buy a ticket to the Moet Chicken and Champagne VIP Lounge, which is $75 + fees. Location: Woldenberg Riverfront Park. Best Bet: It’s hard to pick one type of fried chicken served at the festival, so save room in your stomach to try as many different varieties of fried chicken as possible. There will be both Louisiana and out-of-state vendors. Lagniappe: The festival has grown in popularity in its short lifespan. To meet the increasing demand, the festival will be held over three days this year for the first time in its history.
NOLA On Tap
Admission: $5 general admission, $25 VIP admission (early entrance + VIP area + free koozie), $30 sampler pass (35 drink tickets), Brewmaster Pass $45 (40 drink tickets + t-shirt.) Location: City Park Festival Grounds. Best Bet: Not to be too obvious, but…beer. It’s the largest beer fest in the region and features over 400 beers. That list includes unique home-brews as well as variations on classics. Lagniappe: The proceeds from the event benefit the Louisiana SPCA, which cares for homeless animals. That means you’ll be drinking beer for a good cause!
Admission: $20 for a single-day pass, $60 for a 3-day pass, $40 for a Saturday/Sunday pass. If you buy at the gate, the price goes to $25 for a single-day pass, but remains the same for the others. Free for children 12 and under. Location: Gretna Riverfront Best Bet: As usual with Gretna Fest, this year’s event features an exciting lineup of musical acts. Eighties pop icon Rick Springfield (“Jessie’s Girl”), Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, and KC & the Sunshine Band are among this year’s highlights. Lagniappe: This year’s festival marks the debut of the Latino Village. The new addition will feature two stages of live music, dancing demonstrations, and culturally inspired craft and food vendors featuring cocktails and beers with a Latino influence. But that’s just scratching the surface of this year’s Gretna Fest. There will also be an expanded Italian Village with authentic Italian cuisine and cocktails. There will be a German beer garden with free beer from the ceremonial keg and German delicacies. The festival will feature a classic car show, rides and games for kids, and a selection of over 10 special craft beers.
Oktoberfest New Orleans
October 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Admission: Free and open to the public, but you must purchase food and beverages. Location: Deutsches Haus. Best Bet: Germans are known for their beer, and Oktoberfest will give you the chance to sample over 20 different German beers, nine different wines, and over 20 different schnapps. Be sure to get a designated driver or reserve an Uber or Lyft. Lagniappe: Oktoberfest has always been about more than the food and the beer. There’s plenty of other fun activities to enjoy, including the wacky dachshund races and chicken dancing. But the food deserves all of the attention it gets. There is bratwurst and weisswurst, brat burgers, kielbasa on a stick, french fries, chicken nuggets, corn nuggets, apple strudel, Bavarian roasted nuts, German cheeses, giant Bavarian-style pretzels, cake, and flammkuchen,a German pizza with a white, creamy sauce.
Admission: Three-day tickets are $140 for general admission, $250 for GA+, $400 for VIP, and $1,300 for platinum; 1-day tickets are $75 for general admission, $175 for VIP, and $800 for platinum. A warning: ticket prices usually increase in mid-September. Location: City Park Festival Grounds. Best Bet: Nineties alternative Beck, 80’s hard rock band Guns N Roses, and popular rap sensation Post Malone will all be performing this year. Lagniappe: For those looking to spend a little more but not splurge on VIP tickets, the GA+ tickets give you a private lounge area with seating and shade, an air-conditioned restroom, a full-service bar with cocktails for purchase, and a screen with live stage feeds.
Art for Art’s Sake
Admission: Free. Location: Magazine Street, Julia Street. Best Bet: It’s hard to pick one of the many fine art galleries and antique shops on Magazine Street and Julia Street. Art for Art’s Sake isn’t about a single place; it’s about enjoying the start of fall while sampling from a wide variety of the city’s art galleries and shops. Lagniappe: Many of the participating local businesses offer free beverages!
Admission: $5 per person. Children 12 and under get in free with a paying adult. VIP experience is $40 per person, $15 for children 12 and under. Location: City Park Festival Grounds. Best Bet: If you’re bringing children, get there for 11:15 a.m. to see the popular band Imagination Movers. Lagniappe: The VIP Experience includes a large shaded tent and viewing area (bring your own lawn chair). VIPs get complimentary Cafe du Monde beignets from 10 a.m. to noon. There will also be an Abita Amber Happy Hour from 2-6 p.m.
Louisiana Renaissance Festival
Weekends, November 2- December 8
Admission: $20 for adults, $12 for kids, free for kids under 6 Location: Hammond. Best Bet: Experience the annual Louisiana Renaissance Festival, with special experiences for all ages including: mead and beer tastings, Royal Tea with the Queen, and a unique Fairy Tea on the Friday following Thanksgiving.
Weekend themes also encourage costuming with “Heroes and Pirates,” a “Celtic Weekend,” and a “Time Travelers” experience.
New Orleans Film Festival
Admission: A variety of passes and ticket packages are available on the website, as well as the option to purchase tickets for individual films. Location: The Orpheum, The Prytania Theater, The Broad Theater, The New Orleans Advocate Building, Contemporary Arts Center. Best Bet: The lineup for this year’s festival was not available as of press time. However, the festival routinely allows New Orleanians to see top-notch films weeks or months before their theatrical release. The last two Best Picture winners at the Oscars, “Moonlight” and the locally shot “Green Book,” both played at the New Orleans Film Festival. Lagniappe: The theater’s inaugural festival in 1989 showed some of the same mixture of local fare and higher-profile films. Movies screened at the first event included the Geena Davis/Jeff Goldblum/Jim Carrey comedy “Earth Girls Are Easy” and the nuclear Armageddon thriller “Miracle Mile.” There was also a healthy sampling of films shot in Louisiana: “Belizaire the Cajun,” “Cat People,” and “Pretty Baby.” The Prytania was also one of the original theater locations.
Now in its 30th year, the festival receives a whopping 6,000+ film submissions from around the world. A team of over 60 local film buffs selects the 200+ films that make it into the festival.
Boudin, Bourbon, and Beer
Admission: $135, in advance Location: Champions Square. Best Bet: While you’re enjoying the varieties of boudin, be sure to sample the bourbon cocktails by Buffalo Trace. Lagniappe: A large portion of the proceeds support Emeril’s Culinary Garden and Teaching Kitchen, which integrates gardening and cooking concepts in a growing network of schools across the country.
Crescent City Blues & BBQ Fest
Admission: Free Location: Lafayette Square. Best Bet: Houma guitar hero Tab Benoit will be one of the headliners of this year’s fest (playing Friday, Oct.18), along with the Allman-Betts Band and Sonny Landreth (both playing on Saturday, Oct. 19) Lagniappe: Since there is no cost to get into Lafayette Square, spend some of your extra money on delicious BBQ from a dozen vendors from around the region.
Country Smooth Festival
Admission: $50-200 depending on the package you choose (military discount available for servicemen, servicewomen, and their immediate families). Location: NOLA Motorsports Park. Best Bet: There are fun options on both days of the festival, but Saturday, October 20 features headliners Hunter Hayes and Joe Nichols. Lagniappe: In addition to the great country music, attendees will be able to enjoy go-carting and mechanical bull rides.
Oak Street Po-Boy Festival
Admission: Free admission; food and drink are available for purchase Location: Oak Street. Best Bet: It’s almost impossible to pick just one. There are lobster poor boys, crabmeat boudin balls poor boys, shrimp remoulade BLT poor boys, and many, many more. Varieties range from the classic to the exotic. It’s often a good idea to share poor boys with friends so you can get a taste of multiple varieties before your stomach completely fills up. Lagniappe: This year, there will be an opening second line featuring the One Love Brass Band, the Merry Antoinettes, Ritmeaux Krewe, and the Krewe of Condiments.
Hell Yes Fest
Admission: $10-23, depending on the show Location: The New Movement (2706 St. Claude Ave.) Best Bet: The Wheel of Improv show has performers spin a wheel with names of different improv games/scene suggestions. Wherever it lands, the performers must do whatever it says. It’s a way for audiences to see just how talented improv comedians are at coming up with new material on the spot. Lagniappe: In the past, performers at the Hell Yes Fest have included Sarah Silverman, Nick Swardson, James Adomian and Amy Heckerling.
Fete des Fromages (New Orleans Cheese Festival)
Admission: Prices vary depending on the day of the event. For Saturday (the main day of the festival) $30 is the early bird ticket for adults ($10 for children.) For $65, you will get early access at 11 a.m. and beat the crowds, plus get three free drinks. Location: New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Mint. Best Bet: Saturday, November 16 features the main event. Festival-goers will be able to taste more than 150 cheeses and meet over 2 dozen cheesemakers from around the globe while listening to local bands. Lagniappe: On Wednesday, November 13, try “Cheese & Cocktails: A Class for the Serious Gourmand.” Author and leading cheese expert Liz Thorpe will teach you everything you need to know about pairing cheese and cocktails. Attendance is limited to 50 people.
NOLA Christmas Fest
Admission: $20 on weekdays, $25 on weekends Location: Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Best Bet: If you have ever wanted to try skating on a real ice rink, then lace up your skates and give it your best shot on NOLA Christmas Fest’s genuine ice rink. Lagniappe: The ice skating rink is just the tip of the iceberg. There is an ice slide, a carousel, a sleigh ride, a Christmas market, and much more. For attendees who are not afraid of heights, the Vixen’s View is a gondola that allows attendees to view NOLA Christmas Fest from 50 feet above the festivities. Each car comfortably holds four adults. The more physically fit can try the “Candy Cane Climb”, a holiday-themed rock climbing wall.
Other Festivals, Near and (not too) Far
Lil Weezyana Fest (UNO Lakefront Arena)
New Orleans Burlesque Fest (Civic Theatre and House of Blues)
New Orleans Improv Festival (AllWays Lounge & Cabaret)
Crescent Chamber Music Festival (Various locations in NOLA)
Gentilly Fest (Pontchartrain Park)
NOLA Mac ’n Cheese Fest (Armstrong Park)
Harvest Wine & Food Festival (Watercolor, FL)
Acadia Music Festival (Thibodaux)
Fairhope Film Festival (Fairhope, AL)
Treme Creole Gumbo Festival (Armstrong Park)
Nov. 29-Jan. 1
Celebration in the Oaks (City Park)
Luna Fete (Lafayette Square)