Louisiana is a state that truly loves to have a good time. The inhabitants will find any excuse to create a street party, which ensures visitors will have something special to incorporate into their trip regardless of the season. The granddaddy of all festivals is Mardi Gras, though music plays a major role in many other premier events such as Jazz Fest. Music, food, arts and crafts, and elaborate costumes can be expected as staples at nearly every Louisiana celebration.
No other state in America celebrates Mardi Gras like Louisiana. The epicenter is New Orleans, where fantastic parades, live music and oodles of special events take place just before Lent in early February. Cajun country has their own unique version of Mardi Gras that is much more folksy than the touristy/adult hoopla the state is known for. Either way, it's a week of intense party action that must be planned well in advance. If you're lucky, try to rent a balcony on Bourbon Steet for a prime view of the bead tossing.
Rivaling Mardi Gras for top honors is the annual Jazz Fest held over two weeks at the end of April and early May in New Orleans. Its full name is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the musical line-up during this hugely popular event is mind-blowing. While jazz and traditional New Orleans-style music a definite highlight, the event also includes a myriad of other genres like Cajun, zydeco, blues, rock, and everything n between. For audiophiles, the event is a pilgrimage to do at least once in your lifetime.
Festival International de Louisiane
A cultural highlight of the festival calendar takes place for five days every April in the heart of Cajun country. Lafayette is the site of this world-famous celebration of Creole and Cajun tied to the French roots of the region. Traditional zydeco and Cajun music, food, art, and crafts are on display and taught in a series of workshops. The entire downtown district becomes a scene of street performers, buskers, food vendors, and more than 300,000 visitors enjoying the unique heritage of southern Louisiana.
Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival
Live music and perfectly smoked barbecue is the ideal way to enjoy New Orleans, which makes this annual October weekend event so popular. Lafayette Square is transformed into a huge outdoor party, with dozens of stands selling their secret barbecue recipes to a backdrop of authentic blues playing day and night. Best of all, it’s totally free to attend and the weather is generally favorable.
Krewe of Halloween Parade
Once a year is too long to wait for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras fanatics so they put on a similar spectacle every October at Halloween time. It’s the perfect holiday for this party-happy city, as hundreds of people dress up in the most outrageous costumes they can find and parade from the Elysian Fields to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.
State Fair of Louisiana
State fairs are popular family events and Louisiana's is no exception. About 70 classic carnival rides are set up every October or November in Shreveport and encircled by rows of games, food and animals. Expect plenty of live music and livestock competitions.