Apr 7, 2023 - Things to Do

Local's guide to French Quarter Festival

Irma Thomas performs at French Quarter Fest 2016, singing on stage with a white kerchief in one hand and wearing a dark blue caftan dress and sunglasses.

Irma Thomas performs at French Quarter Fest 2016. The Soul Queen of New Orleans returns to the festival as an opening headliner. Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

French Quarter Festival turns 40 this year, returning for a massive four-day takeover of New Orleans' oldest neighborhood from April 13-16.

Why it matters: In a city known for its festival culture, French Quarter Fest holds the title of largest free festival, with more than 825,000 attendees expected.

Between the lines: French Quarter Fest offers a huge boost to New Orleans' spring tourism numbers, with last year's edition contributing to an economic impact of about $250 million, according to the festival.

  • It's also a reliable gig for hundreds of local musicians and more than 60 food vendors, not to mention all the French Quarter restaurants and shops that will benefit from the extra foot traffic all weekend long.

Your playlist: The French Quarter Fest lineup is a who's-who of New Orleans musicians.

  • Beyond the headliners, which include an opening night with Irma Thomas and a Soul Rebels show featuring Big Freedia, it's easy to bounce from stage to stage all weekend long, creating a choose-your-own-adventure of south Louisiana sounds.
  • Ani DiFranco, Flagboy Giz and the Wild Tchoupitoulas, Iceman Special, Dee1, Los Güiros, Jason Neville's Funky Soul Band and Michael Doucet & Lacher Prise are among this year's festival debuts.

Pro tip: Don't miss the small stages.

  • With more than 20 stages spread around the Quarter, it's easy to get sucked into the big crowds, but you'd lose out on some of the intimate moments still possible in this popular festival.
  • Try to spread out on Saturday and Sunday especially, when crowds are at their largest.

On the menu: With the density of bars and restaurants in the Quarter, you've got tons of options for grabbing drinks and a quick meal. But make sure you also head to official festival vendors to make sure some of your dollars go toward festival production.

  • Official food vendors will be concentrated in Jackson Square, the Old U.S. Mint, the Riverfront Plaza at Canal Street and the Palm and Kohlmayer lawns on the Riverfront.
  • Best bets include praline beignets from Loretta's Authentic Pralines, Southerns' fried chicken sandwiches, Miss Linda's yakamein and pork chop sandwiches, and meat and veggie pies from Addis NOLA.

Kids' programming returns on Saturday and Sunday, with STEM activities at the Natchez Wharf, musical acts at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Kids Stage and young musicians from local programs and school ensembles at Ernie's Schoolhouse Stage at the Homer A. Plessy Community School.

The bottom line: It's going to be a busy weekend in the French Quarter, but there’s no better option — and no better pricepoint — to hear all your favorite New Orleans music, all at once.


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