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Discover two of New Orleans' very best festivals

Amanda Angus / 08 January 2015 ( 24 October 2016 )

Well known for its rich and diverse culture, New Orleans is a melting pot of influences from around the world.

Terraced houses in the French Quarter, New Orleans
Terraced houses in the French Quarter, New Orleans

Here you’ll find some of the most exhilarating celebrations and festivals, and we’ve chosen two of our favourites to tell you more about…

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Affectionately known as Jazz Fest, this huge celebration of Southern music features countless jazz, blues, gospel and other musicians and bands performing across twelve tents and stages.

The very first festival took place in 1970 and featured such acclaimed performers as Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington and Fats Domino; since then it has gone from strength to strength, quickly outgrowing the original venue and establishing the city’s legacy as America’s ‘first city of jazz festivals’.

Around 350 people attended the first festival; today over 400,000 people travel from far and wide to take part in the revelry and watch musical legends like Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, The Temptations, Gladys Knight, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Lenny Kravitz and Carlos Santana perform.

And along with plenty of music to feed your soul, there’s plenty of food to feed your appetite too: here you can try delicious Southern dishes like crawfish bread, alligator pie, shucked oysters and Cajun chicken, and with a food heritage stage for chefs to demonstrate Louisiana’s culinary traditions, you can fill your belly without missing a beat!

Enjoy New Orleans Jazz on a holiday to Croatia with Saga

Mardi Gras

Held every year in the two weeks before Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras literally translates as ‘fat Tuesday’, and sees the city’s population double as people flock to the streets to watch the daily parades and take part in the countless social events that can range from lavish feasts to masquerade balls.

Unsurprisingly, Mardi Gras itself is a legal holiday in New Orleans, but the twelve days preceding it also feature over 60 scheduled parades and hundreds of private parties.

The star attraction at many of these parties is the King Cake – this brioche treat is baked in a circle to represent a crown and usually has a small trinket hidden inside. Whoever finds the trinket – usually a tiny plastic baby, to represent Jesus – is obliged to provide the next King Cake or even throw the next party.

Each cake is decorated with icing that has been dyed the three colours of Mardi Gras – purple represents justice, green represents faith and gold represents power.

You’ll also spot these colours predominantly on the masks of everyone who rides on the floats during the parade – and you’ll never see anyone on a float without a mask, as going without is strictly forbidden by Mardi Gras rule!

Experience the vibrancy of Mardi Gras for yourself on a tour of the Deep South with Saga

Regardless of which festival you choose, you’ll be treated to an effervescent riot of colour, sounds and tastes that you’ll find hard to forget…

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.