Carnival is long over, but no need to cry. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is on its way and, this year, is filled with new acts, new rules, and new things to see and do. Jazz Fest is the city’s most popular festival, and people come from all over the world to experience the music, food, and culture of the one-of-a-kind event. Despite all of the fun, there are a number of stressful things that can happen during the fest, from parking problems to heat and rain. So, here are some ways to keep your cool during Jazz Fest.
The number of Jazz Fest attendees has fluctuated over the years. While the biggest boom was in 2015 when over 600,000 patrons attended, the festival has consistently maintained large crowds. Last year’s count was around 460,000, and that number is certainly expected to climb with this year being the 50th anniversary and with Widespread Panic headlining.
The fest creates walking paths, but during the bigger acts, those paths become overcrowded with patrons. If there is a larger act on your agenda, the best thing to do is to get there early and mark your territory. Once that is done, take shifts with your friends if you want to leave, get food, or see other acts. If you’re flexible, even better—bounce around from stage to stage with the understanding that you may be so far back that the artists look like dancing ants. Most importantly, have patience. Although the overcrowding may be a bit stressful, remember that the point of any festival is to enjoy yourself.
Expensive Food and Drinks
If you think the crowds are stressful at Jazz Fest, remember that going broke at a festival is no parade, either. There once was a time when festival-goers could bring their own refreshments inside the festival, but those days are long gone. Luckily, the food is amazing and comes from the best New Orleans festival vendors, who offer annual favorites and exotic treats. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy the Crawfish Monica with a strawberry lemonade or the soft-shell crab po-boy with a daiquiri, there are many tasty treats to indulge in.
There’s just one issue with buying food and drinks at Jazz Fest: It gets expensive. With $6 here and $10 there, plus a $5 dessert and a few $6 beverages, things certainly begin to add up quickly. If splurging on food is your goal, great! If not, the best thing to do is to plan ahead. We all know that most of the same dishes return each year, so make a food itinerary. Pick your favorites, jot them down, calculate your budget, and try to stick to it.
If nothing else is true about Jazz Fest, two things pretty much come with the territory: heat and rain. Okay, maybe it doesn’t rain every year, but the odds that it will rain at least once or twice during those two weekends are probably about 85 percent.
With rain comes mud, and with mud comes sinking land, muddy feet (and legs), and possible discomfort. How to prepare? The first thing is to be sure to have a poncho or raincoat on hand. We all know that umbrellas are often used for dancing. Since dancing in sinking ground is quite difficult, galoshes or old sneakers are a must-have during festival season, just in case a monsoon comes through.
Of course, if the rain doesn't get you, the sun will, so be sure to lather on the sunscreen, wear a comfy hat, stick to light colors, and stay hydrated. If you are posted at your designated concert location, those chairs with the umbrellas attached always come in handy.
Out of all of the stresses of Jazz Fest, parking is probably the worst. Getting there early seems to be the best solution to this problem—and by early, we’re talking before the festival even begins. Plan it out, arrive, park, have a morning beer at the neighborhood bar, and then walk on over when it’s time.
Other than that, you can always pay to play. Paid parking can get really pricey during Jazz Fest, but for some, it’s absolutely worth it. If you can’t do either, no worries. Just give yourself at least 30 minutes to an hour to find a spot. Who knows? You just might get lucky.
Even with all of these potential headaches, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival still remains the city’s most popular fest and will give you an amazing time, no matter what. For those easily stressed, hopefully this list will help you maneuver an anxiety-free Jazz Fest experience, so you can lie back, relax, and try not to let the stress get to you.