If there’s one thing the people of New Orleans love, it’s a good festival. Mardi Gras. Jazz Fest. Essence. Labor Day weekend is, of course, the iconic Southern Decadence. These are probably the best-known annual events, but just the beginning of what the city has to offer.
There’s always something going on. So no matter the season, you will find no shortage of special experiences you can’t find anywhere else.
Check out all unique festivals and events happening year-round in New Orleans…
New Orleans Pride
The city’s annual Pride celebration has nearly tripled–yes, tripled!–in size over the past four years, making it one of the fastest growing Prides in the country. The weekend in June is composed of your usual Pride festivities–a kick-off party, family day, parade, after-party and brunch–and tends to be less rambunctious and more family friendly (but no less fun!) than Southern Decadence, which happens later in the year.
Mardi Gras Bourbon Street Awards
A tradition for more than four decades, the Mardi Gras Bourbon Street Awards held on Mardi Gras day has been heralded as “the most famous drag-queen contest in America.” Dozens of competitors dressed in their flashiest, most outrageous getups vie for such titles as Best Drag, Best Leather, Best Group and Best of Show. Always a hoot, the spectacle is staged at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann streets, in the heart of the city’s LGBTQ district.
Although not specifically an LGBTQ event, this one’s for the ladies–and their fans. Each July, the famed Festigals don their most colorful outfits, hats and feather boas for the annual summer shindig, which has been deemed “The Ultimate Girlfriend Getaway.” The weekend-long Downtown event includes everything from professional development conferences to cooking demonstrations, plus sip-and-shop parties, Bloody Mary mixers and private home tours.
Halloween New Orleans
What started as a grassroots fundraising event during the darkest days of the HIV/AIDS crisis more than 30 years ago has turned into one of the most popular and most jubilant events in the entire South. Halloween New Orleans is a volunteer-run weekend that includes a silent auction, parties and a grand costume ball, with proceeds benefiting Project Lazarus, a local non-profit organization that offers a home to people with AIDS.
Whitney White Linen Night
As one of the oldest cities in the country, New Orleans is rich in history and tradition. The Whitney White Linen Night was originally inspired by city residents of yesteryear, who wore white linen to stay cool in the summer heat before the invention of air conditioning. On the first Saturday of every August, art aficionados put on their fanciest threads and hit the Warehouse District to peruse the local art galleries and sample food and drink provided by local vendors. The block party is followed by an after-party at the Contemporary Arts Center with even more food, live music and artwork on display.
Art lovers will appreciate this annual festival that showcases over 100 different performances over the course of three weeks in November. Whether you’re in the mood for theater, opera, dance, music or literature, it’s all happening at the Faux/Real Festival. There’s also food and drink tastings, parties, after-parties and after-after-parties, making for one heavy dose of authentic NOLA culture.
Gay Easter Parade
Only could a city as creative as New Orleans find a way to turn a holiday like Easter gay. And for 17 years now, that’s exactly what folks have done. The Gay Easter Parade takes a leisurely hop through the French Quarter, passing by every gay bar and many gay-owned restaurants and retail shops. The parade typically includes hunky bunnies, drag queens in horse-drawn carriages, colorful floats and brass marching bands, with onlookers dressed in their Easter Sunday finest, bonnets and, of course, rainbow beads.
Saints & Sinners Literary Festival
Writers and book nerds won’t want to miss the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival. Each March, the leading voices in literature gather for three days of readings, book signings, panel discussions, master classes and workshops–with more than a few cocktail parties, live performances and networking events thrown in for good measure.
Of course, no list of New Orleans events would be complete without Southern Decadence, one of the most wonderful times of the year to visit New Orleans. Held annually over Labor Day weekend, the celebration attracts nearly 100,000 people from all over the world. It features block parties, pool parties, parades, drag shows and dancing.
It’s a wild weekend of celebration of community and the rainbow spirit of the Deep South.