By Tara Bennett
With nearly 400 different festivals each year, it’s no wonder Louisiana is often called the Festival Capital of America. The Bayou State celebrates just about everything that contributes to its unique culture, including our indigenous dishes, music and even the crops we harvest. While great festivals are found year round, the best time of the year for Louisiana festivals is without a doubt springtime. Along with gorgeous weather and blooming azaleas, visitors will find some sort of celebration for weekends on end. Here are some suggestions for your Louisiana spring festival list.
French Quarter Fest
Where: New Orleans
When: April 9-12
What to expect: You never really need a reason to go to the French Quarter, but if you do, what better reason than a four-day party? Throughout the Quarter, this free-admission festival celebrates the creation of jazz and its subgenres in the historic district near where it was born. With over 1,400 New Orleans musicians on 20-plus stages, there is plenty of music to listen to, along with traditional, South Louisiana food, free dance lessons, panel discussions and more. Also, adult snowballs have been added to the menu.
Highlights: Allen Toussaint returns after a 17-year hiatus
Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival
Where: Ponchatoula’s Memorial Park and North Sixth Street
When: April 10-12
What to expect: Each April, the town of Ponchatoula puts on the largest festival in honor of the thing they know best: strawberries. And what better way to celebrate the state’s biggest export than with a huge party? The Strawberry Festival puts the land of Strawberry Shortcake to shame with all of the strawberry-themed food and souvenirs that can be found. And there are at least three strawberry eating contests to test your gullet.
Highlights: The Dominos, Chris Lee Band, and Bag of Donuts.
When: April 10-12
What to expect: This festival is reaching its third year of celebrating the history and heritage of Scott, Louisiana, known as the Boudin Capital of the World. No other city in Louisiana produces more boudin than Scott so be sure to sample every type of boudin you can imagine.
Highlights: Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, The Molly Ringwalds, and Wayne Toups.
Baton Rouge Blues Fest
Where: Baton Rouge
When: April 11
What to expect: If it’s one thing that Baton Rouge knows, it’s the blues. Each year, the city showcases the music genre and the talented musicians who have influenced it throughout the years – many who still live in BR. Don’t forget to stay for the festival’s closing after-party.
Highlights: Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, Arrested Development, and Heritage Blues Orchestra.
Natchitoches Jazz & R&B Fest
Where: Downtown Natchitoches
When: April 17-18
What to expect: The historic city of Natchitoches offers a two-day riverfront concert, highlighting a variety of local and regional music including rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, R&B, country, and soul. Come for the music, and stay for the beauty of one of Louisiana’s oldest cities.
Highlights: 38 Special, Mitch Ryder, Joey Molland’s Badfinger, PRISS, Back in Black, and Trini Triggs.
Where: Downtown Lafayette
When: April 22-26
What to expect: The name says it all for this festival as it hosts dozens of international artists each year. Art is a big focus here, along with mixing the music of French Louisiana and that of other Francophone influenced countries worldwide. With six music stages, food, art, dance, theatre, film and cultural workshops there is something for everyone.
Highlights: Angelique Kidjo, DakhaBrakha, Nomadic Massive, MarchFourth Marching Band, Givers, Buckwheat’s World, and Big Freedia.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Where: New Orleans
When: April 24-May 3
What to expect: As one of the most renowned annual music events in the U.S., Jazz Fest is a festival must. There is a huge focus on Louisiana indigenous genres such as Cajun, zydeco, and, naturally, New Orleans-born jazz music. Along with that, major U.S. touring artists are featured on multiple stages, which generates tons of visitors clamoring to see these top acts. If there isn’t someone you want to see at Jazz Fest, then you probably just don’t like music.
Highlights: Elton John, The Who, Ed Sheeran, No Doubt, Pitbull, and Lady Gaga.
Louisiana Crawfish and Gator Festival
Where: West Monroe
When: April 30-May 3
What to expect: Boasting 50,000 pounds of crawfish with tons of gator to go with it, this festival will surely leave you with a full belly. This will be the festival’s first year and is already filled to the brim with activities including alligator wrestling, fair rides, a petting zoo and appearances from the cast of Swamp People.
Highlights: The original Blues Brothers Band, Marty Stuart, and Cody Cooke & the Bayou Outlaws
Louisiana International Film Festival
Where: Baton Rouge
When: May 7-10
What to expect: With the skyrocketing number of movies filmed and produced in Louisiana each year, it’s not at all surprising there’s a festival for it. Each year, LIFF honors the creative minds involved in filmmaking, encompassing nearly every type of movie: documentary, short film, black-and-white, foreign, anime, drama, thriller, comedy, science fiction. The fest also includes a multitude of workshops, parties and expos primed for perfect networking opportunities.
Highlights: More than 50 films will be featured