And then this town stages what has become a truly grand and impressive music gala, The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, two weekends and then some, with an almost constant staging of music from around the world and honoring our own heritage of music and crafts. April 25-May 4. www.nojazzfest.com.
Along the way, we toss into the mix the French Quarter Festival, billed as the largest free music festival in the South, with more than 800 musicians and more than 60 local restaurants participating. April 10-13. www.fqfi.org/frenchquarterfest.
Dare we mention the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival (March 19-23, www.tennesseewilliams.net); the multiple parades of St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, and the combined Irish-Italian mishmash of parties, balls, and just general celebrations?
Is it any wonder that leaving town forces us to make hard choices about attending what’s happening here and wonderful events unfolding elsewhere?
As a public service, and you will thank me for this, or curse me for complicating the situation, let’s review some other events staged in other places which welcome us with open arms.
March 20-22, www.savordallas.com
The event is ten years old this year, and hitting a very good stride. Savor Dallas not only features some excellent cultural destinations in one of America’s largest urban centers, but also brings in wines and food from near and far. It’s an impressive staging featuring the finer sides of Big D.
It all begins on Thursday with a visit to the Dallas Arboretum for a “private” showing of their big annual event, Dallas Blooms, complete with food, wines and, I am told, some incredible blooming plants. Dallas, too, has had a devastating winter so this should be darn interesting to see what’s happening with their gardens.
On Friday, in the Arts District downtown, there will be a stroll and wine tasting to include the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Meyerson Symphony Hall, and the Cathedral Plaza. Think Royal Street Stroll from New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. Saturday during the afternoon are a series of seminars, and on Saturday night is an International Grand Tasting, with great wines and proper offerings by some of Dallas’ finest restaurants.
Sandestin Wine Festival
April 10-13, www.sandestinwinefestival.com
For 28 years the Sandestin Wine Festival has served as the official opening bell of the summer beach season. The event opens noon on Friday with a Champagne and Seafood Cruise aboard the yacht Solaris which flows nicely into the Grand Tasting Friday evening at The Village of Baytowne Wharf. I think the idea of a night-time strolling grand wine tasting is stunning.
The tasting will be repeated on Saturday afternoon, same place, and the whole affair closes on Sunday with a Champagne Brunch at the Marina overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay. Classy.
South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival
April 24-27, www.sowalwine.com
Unfolding in the practically brand-new, always growing Town Center area of Grand Boulevard, just to the east of Sandestin, this thing has set a good tone in only its second year. Small tents are scattered around the dramatic fountain in the center of the multi-block development and once again, attendees are encouraged to walk, not ride.
South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival starts with a very casual, unstructured Friday evening tasting event at Chan’s Wine World, followed by a Craft Beer and Spirits tasting. No one gets left out. Saturday will be wine tastings, seminars, the famous Destin Children’s Charities Wine Auction, and a Nashville Songwriters’ Showcase performing all day. At night everyone pretty well gathers back around a food truck or two and enjoys wines, spirits and beers.
Sunday is a repeat of all the good times from Saturday with all the same cast, giving you an opportunity to enjoy those experiences you could not get in from the previous visit.
New Orleans Wine and Food Experience
May 21-24, www.nowfe.com
Since none of us in New Orleans ever learned the meaning of the word, “moderation,” NOWFE takes its cue from our lack of understanding the concept.
Beginning on Wednesday night with a ton of dinners at fine restaurants all around town, presided over by great chefs and fine vintners, the weekend rolls on to seminars, grand tastings, Royal St. Stroll, Vinola, and The Big Gateaux Show.
It’s all a bit crazy, in a proper New Orleans kind of way.
Tales of the Cocktail
July 16-20, www.talesofthecocktail.com
Just in case you miss the Tales of the Cocktail event in Buenos Aires, Argentina (April 26-29) you can correct that oversight with the New Orleans version of what has now become the premier spirits festival in the world. And it’s all right here.
Tasting rooms and educational seminars abound throughout the entire festival. In the evenings, grand blow-out experiences are staged throughout the area, but mostly in the CBD, Warehouse District, and French Quarter. You can try to go to everything but, and I speak from experience here, you need to pick and choose carefully. This is a siege second only to Carnival and Mardi Gras, but more compact.
Go now and make some choices about events. The darn thing sells out every year and if you wait, you will be outside while the fun is unfolding inside. That will not fly.
There you are, a somewhat complete lineup of fun festivals and cool events happening very nearby, if not in your own backyard.
Just in case you are heading to Las Vegas, April 5, check out the Chocolate Festival and Pastry Show (www.sincitychocolatefestival.com). Just tossing that in because I have never met a wine lover who did not also like sweets.
Shameless plug: at most of the festivals mentioned, I will be broadcasting The Wine Show from somewhere on site, Friday, 5 p.m., WGSO, 990 AM. If you can’t be there, tune in. If you are there, stop by and let’s do what New Orleanians do best: socialize and party.