Apr 11, 2024 - Things to Do

A local's guide to French Quarter Festival 2024

Big Freedia sings into a microphone while two dancers perform to either side of her.

Big Freedia headlines the opening night of French Quarter Fest in New Orleans on Thursday, April 11. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

French Quarter Festival returns to New Orleans' oldest neighborhood from April 11-14, putting on an enormous show with almost all of the city's working musicians.

Why it matters: In a city known for its festival culture, French Quarter Fest takes the crown as New Orleans' biggest free festival.

The big picture: French Quarter Fest broke its own record last year, bringing in a whopping 875,000 attendees.

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

The lineup is a who's-who of New Orleans musicians.

  • Beyond the headliners like Irma Thomas, Partners-N-Crime and Big Freedia, it's easy to bounce from stage to stage, creating a choose-your-own-adventure of south Louisiana sounds.
  • Ivan Neville, Ífé, Hasizzle, Teedra Moses and DJ Raj Smoove are among this year's 70+ festival debuts.
  • Plus, the festival launches a new stage this year dedicated to the city's DJs. Two dozen will land there over the weekend.

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.

Dig in: With the density of bars and restaurants in the Quarter, you've got tons of options for grabbing drinks and a quick meal. But anything you spend at official festival vendors helps the event continue year after year.

  • Official vendors concentrate in Jackson Square, the Old U.S. Mint and along the riverfront.
  • Favorites include praline beignets from Loretta's Authentic Pralines, Southerns' fried chicken sandwiches, Miss Linda's yakamein and pork chop sandwiches, meat and veggie pies from Addis NOLA, and anything from Heard Dat Kitchen.

Kids' programming returns on Saturday and Sunday, with STEM activities at the Natchez Wharf, and young musicians at Ernie's Schoolhouse Stage at Aquarium Plaza.

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

Go deeper: Full music schedule.

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