In April, I attended the New Orleans Jazzfest for the first time. I’ve now been to New Orleans in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2015! The city feels safer than ever and it’s as much fun now as it was 20 years ago. There’s a wider range of high quality food and the city residents are just the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet!
I’d never been to the Jazz Fest so I was a little worried about the logistics. But, we went with friends who’d been before and they gave us good advice. The most important advice I can impart to you is this: Bring a portable chair! There were 11 music venues, and most are out in the open with little or no seating! April is hot and humid! You’ll need that chair!
Now the good stuff.
The venues are well organized and it’s easy to get around. You can get a music schedule in advance and attempt to figure out who you want to see and when, but there are many crossovers. There’s so much amazing music, it’s impossible to see everything! Sometimes we just threw the schedule out and wandered around and stopped to listen on a whim. We caught the most amazing washboard player, EVER!!! There are a few covered venues; a gospel tent and a blues tent, for instance. Under those tents are at least 300 seats and they have water misters. Those tents were wonderful respite from the heat, humidity and sometimes rain…. The gospel music was incredible and the blues tent had one incredibly talented group after another. The music plays all day with brief breaks between sets.
The bad stuff.
The food is just “fair food” so we tried not to eat much except a snack. That way we could go out to a great restaurant in the evening! However, there are a bazillion options for food and drink. You don’t have to go hungry. But, again, the food is really ho-hum. The weather is a factor. Be prepared for the high temps + humidity as well as the possible rain.
And, the ugly.
Getting there: You can drive and get caught in the traffic and pay a premium to park. Or, take a taxi. (Again, there will be traffic.) Or the trolley! We opted for the trolley, thinking it would get us there without the street backups. Getting there was a snap. Getting back, oh man… not pretty. We waited in the longest line ever to catch a bus. I never figured out why we couldn’t get the trolley. I’m afraid that transportation is just a little problematic.
All things considered, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to attend Jazzfest and I highly recommend it…
Just remember your portable chair!
While in New Orleans, we did eat at a couple of great restaurants…
Balise for dinner
Located in the Warehouse District, so it’s a walk or taxi from most of the popular tourist hotels.
This is a new(ish) restaurant run by Justin Devillier who made his name at La Petite Grocery and is somewhat reknowned. The restaurant was casual and lively, a bit loud and had friendly, knowledgeable service. They offer a wide variety of dishes including chicken, oysters, fish, meat, vegetarian dishes… all of our dishes were either good or very good, but the best was an appetizer: Blistered Shishito Peppers. Unusual (at the time, now I see them everywhere!) and delicious! The beet salad was great, too. (I always find that chef’s do their best work with the appetizers.) There is some outdoor seating when the weather cooperates. Check them out!
The Mona Lisa for dinnerA very relaxed Italian restaurant with a fun atmosphere where the food is simple and delicious! While waiting in line outside, they served wine and while sitting inside you’re encouraged to bring out your inner artist and draw on the paper table covers. The menu is mostly pizzas and pastas, but really, really well cooked. Reasonable prices and nice service, I’d make this a regular spot if I lived there! 1212 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (504) 522-6746
The Ruby Slipper for breakfast
A local recommended this spot…it’s his family’s official get-together spot. He couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about this place in the French Quarter.
New Orleans is a breakfast/brunch town, but I’m not a breakfast/brunch gal, but we gave it a try anyways. I was very happy I did… it’s very casual, it’s got an interesting atmosphere and vibe and there’s a big menu. We had Bananas Foster Pain Perdu ($11) and the Eggs Cochon ($13). Both were absolutely delicious and (very) large dishes. They have great coffee (it’s hard to find bad coffee in NOLA!) The only negative would be the drinks. We had a Mimosa – I suggest you stick to the coffee. As I said, this is a very casual spot. The prices, however, are little more than I would have expected, but well worth it. The restaurant has several locations; we ate at the 200 Magazine St. location.
Hi Volt Coffee for breakfast
Located in the Lower Garden District, it’s a little out-of-the-way for the casual tourist walk-by. You’ll have to seek this one out, tho’ it’s not far from the mainstream.
Here you’ll find New Orleans’ 2015 version of breakfast. They offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. But, you’re not restricted to those! The food and coffee was just fantastic. They offer breakfast + lunch sandwiches, eggs, muffins, salads, and “toasts” (which were terrific!). Everything is high quality and super fresh!
Whether you go to New Orleans for music or food or culture, it’s a great city to visit. Go!