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Get Outdoors and Get Active with New Orleans Summer Festivals

New Orleans is a historic city full of rich culture, heritage, music, and, of course, unbelievable food and drink. It comes as no surprise that people come from all over to experience the city and its diverse culture. New Orleans also knows how to have a good time, so why don’t you grab some friends and join in? Here are some of the many great festivals and celebrations happening this summer in New Orleans.

Coming up, the annual Independence Day weekend will be filled with special events, fireworks, and great food and music as usual. Kick off the festivities with Go 4th on the River celebration, a free Dueling Barges fireworks show over the Mississippi River at the Riverfront.

On the same weekend, gear up for the best in R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and blues with the 25th ESSENCE Festival (July 5-7), held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Convention Center. Beyond the concerts held each night of the fest at the Superdome, the free daytime activities at the Convention Center include motivational seminars, beauty and style presentations, celebrity interviews, cooking demos, and lots more. Brandy, Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Nas, and Pharrell Williams are all scheduled to perform. One of the keynote guests this year is the former First Lady and the author of a bestselling memoir Michelle Obama.

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You can also celebrate the French National Day in America’s most French city on the same weekend at the annual Bastille Day Fête at the New Orleans Museum of Art (June 12-14). Another popular Bastille Day event is the annual block party held in the 3100 block of Ponce de Leon Street in the city’s historic Faubourg St. John neighborhood, adjacent to Esplanade Avenue. Dozens of local vendors present their food and drinks, many with a French flavor, and live music and kid-friendly events abound.

Some of the world’s most famous cocktails were invented in this city (Sazerac, anyone?), and New Orleans loves to celebrate its drinking culture. If you and your friends are interested in cocktails and drink-mixing, you may want to check out Tales of the Cocktail (July 16-21), a six-day festival packed with tastings, seminars, and special events that are centered around exchanging ideas and techniques in the cocktail world. This lively festival is perfect for passionate mixologists, professionals and enthusiasts alike.

The Tales’ schedule is packed with over 300 seminars, workshops, tastings, book signings, bartender contests, networking, and much more. The festival’s signature annual blowout, the “best of” Spirited Awards, will be held on Saturday, July 20, followed by the always-popular after-party. 

satchmo festSatchmo SummerFest (August 2-4) started as a tribute to Louis Armstrong over a decade ago, on his 100th birthday. The three-day festival is held at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint, and will have music all weekend on its two outdoor, tented stages. Other events will include a Sunday morning Jazz Mass at the historic St. Augustine Church in Tremé, seminars and film screenings, kid’s activities, and a second-line parade.

The White Linen Night (Saturday, August 3) is a free block party and an open house for galleries on the 300-700 blocks of Julia Street in the Warehouse District, with three stages for live music and dozens of food and drink stands. About 20 galleries on and around Julia St. will be open to the public, with an after-party traditionally held at the Contemporary Arts Center. As the name suggests, participants are invited to wear white.

The Dirty Linen Night (Saturday, August 10) riffs off the White Linen Night, so it’s similar in format, though looser in structure and spanning a different territory. It wasn’t created to compete with the Warehouse District event, however, but to promote the galleries and shops of Royal Street. The multi-block party takes over the 200-1000 blocks of Royal Street and some cross streets and adjoining areas in the French Quarter, including Jackson Square and Dutch Alley.

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Experiencing New Orleans’s Best

You’ll need a red dress for this next New Orleans summer festival. The Red Dress Run is also held on Saturday, August 10. Both women and men are required to wear red dresses while partaking in this pub crawl-like run that doubles as a fundraiser. The run traditionally starts at Crescent Park, but the route will not be publicized until the day of the run.

Running of the Bulls brings Encierro to New Orleans on August 23-25, except the bulls are the Big Easy Rollergirls. San Fermin in Nueva Orleans pays annual homage to the world-famous Encierro of Pamplona, Spain, running through the CBD starting at the Sugar Mill on Saturday, July 13. The annual opening and closing parties happening that weekend will be also filled with food and drink, raising money for good causes (check out the schedule on the event’s website).

The fabulous and massive Southern Decadence festival (August 29 – September 2) is traditionally held on the Labor Day weekend. This four-day festival celebrates LGBT culture and attracts participants from all over the world. Every year, most activities are centered in and around the French Quarter, with lots of block parties and dance parties at bars and clubs on Bourbon Street, plus two parades.

There’s no better time to try out an award-winning restaurant or revisit the old favorite than August, thanks to the annual COOLinary program. COOLinary was conceived over a decade ago as a promotion to lure diners to local restaurants in the slower summer months, during which the restaurants all over the city offer discounted dining deals. This year, the deals follow the same format as in the previous years, with the prix fixe three-course dinner and brunch menus under $39, and the two- to three-course lunch menus not exceeding $20. Over 100 restaurants are expected to participate.

Stay in the Historic French Quarter

If you are planning a trip to the Big Easy this summer, make sure you select a hotel that is close to everything you want to do. Hotel St. Marie is conveniently located in the New Orleans French Quarter, minutes away from the many landmarks, restaurants, bars, and other destinations. Also, be sure to try some delicious authentic Cajun cuisine at Vacherie Restaurant & Bar, located on the hotel’s first floor. Book your stay at Hotel St. Marie today and kick off your summer the right way!

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