Is French Quarter Fest Family-Friendly? 5 tips if you go.
Updated: May 9, 2019
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music. ~ Psalm 98:4
This is the question we were asking after planning a quick 2 day trip to N'Awlins on our way to Dauphin Island. When we originally decided to take a little detour to the Big Easy, I didn't see any festivals going. We planned a nice, relaxing 2 day stroll through the French Quarter and Garden District with our kids. While Curt and I have been to New Orleans 1/2 dozen times, our daughter hasn't been since she was 3 and our son hasn't been at all. About 2-3 weeks before our trip, a sponsored ad popped up on my Instagram feed about French Quarter Fest. I clicked on it to see what it was and saw it was actually starting on our 1st day in New Orleans. What the what? This could be bad...I've been to Mardi Gras, I've seen firsthand how crazy people can get down there!
We went online to get some information about the Festival and what to expect. Basically, it's a huge music festival with about 20 stages set up all around The Quarter showcasing different kinds of Louisiana Music. Food tents from restaurants in The Quarter are set up around each stage so you can sample all of the amazing New Orleans cuisine. Ok, this sounds kind of fun. A little more research told us that the French Quarter Fest crowd would be an older, more laid-back crowd than Mardi Gras. At this point, we're thinking that it will be kid-friendly and our kids won't be scarred from the experience. We also read that Thursday is a lighter day for crowds so we flipped our itinerary and planned to be in the French Quarter for the 1st day of French Quarter Fest and then spend our 2nd day in the Garden District. We were all a little disappointed that it wouldn't be the trip we had originally planned but at the same time, we were excited about sampling lots of Louisiana music and food. So, how did it go?
We made it to the French Quarter a little after 10 so we were able to see the parade that kicked off the festivities as it ended in Jackson Square. There were so many people that it was really hard to see what was going on. The music was set to start at 11 so we decided to walk around The Quarter for most of the morning then come back to listen to music in the afternoon.
We ended up back at Jackson Square around 2pm and it was packed! We walked around the square to check out what food tents were set up and were lucky enough to find a few seats, mostly in the shade, so we could sit down and listen to the music for a while. The kids went up to get some crab cakes to try, they were mediocre at best, as was the music at Jackson Square so we decided to head up the street and find a different stage to try out. The Jack Daniel's stage was a little better but we went up the block to the Chevron stage and finally found the Cajun music we were looking for.
I'm going to be honest, I wouldn't plan a trip to French Quarter Fest on purpose, but if I did, I would follow these tips:
1. Make sure to take chairs. Bag seats would be the best option but if nothing else, you should bring a blanket to sit on. People were sitting everywhere; in chairs, on blankets, on every bench, curb and the side of the fountain. It would also be a good idea to bring an umbrella in case you can't find a place in the shade and it should go without saying but make sure you put on sunscreen; that New Orleans sun can get pretty hot!
2. Bring a cooler with bottled water. It was hot and I was so thirsty all afternoon! The bottled water there was expensive and not very cold. I wanted a glass of iced water so badly but I had to settle for a glass of sweet tea, which did hit the spot.
3. Research the music playing on each stage. We didn't look at the music at all beforehand. We just figured, Louisiana music, that will all be good. That wasn't the case at all and we ended up spending too much time at a stage with music we didn't like, with no game plan.
4. Look at the food line-up and have a plan for what food you want to try. Again, we did not plan for this at all and we were just left wandering around, not knowing what foods were even available. We didn't end up getting any food to write home (or a blog) about. I think if you spent some time up front, you could actually sample a lot of different New Orleans cuisine. Be prepared to spend some money on this though, each item ran about $8. Before the Festival popped up, we did have a dining plan. We had a list of restaurants we wanted to eat and foods we wanted to try but then we saw there would be food vendors everywhere so we decided we would just wander around and try different stuff. We really wish we would have stuck with our original plan because we missed out on some really good food! I would recommend, despite all the food vendors, planning to eat at the restaurants if food is high on your list of New Orleans experiences.
5. Don't go expecting to "experience" the French Quarter. Along with the crowds, there were delivery trucks and service trucks parked everywhere. It was impossible to appreciate and photograph the amazing architecture in The Quarter. You will not get to fully enjoy and experience The Quarter if there is any kind of festival going on down there, it is just too packed with people. New Orleans is normally a busy city but Festivals take the crowds to another level.
So, to sum up our experience, I would not recommend planning a trip to French Quarter Fest if it is your first trip to New Orleans. If you are looking for a way to take in a lot of different Louisiana music and cuisine but don't really care about the New Orleans experience then I think you would probably have a great time. As far as it being family-friendly, it certainly was for the time that we were there, which was from about 10 am to 4 pm. It was as family-friendly as Bourbon Street is on any given day. On any trip to New Orleans, you will, undoubtedly, see and hear some things you'll wish you hadn't but French Quarter Fest seemed to be pretty tame.
Aside from the afternoon actually spent at the French Quarter Fest stages, we were able to experience some of the wonderful things New Orleans has to offer. Check out my 3 blog series to learn about the rest of our whirlwind New Orleans trip.
Have you ever been to French Quarter Fest? I would love to hear about your experience.