Nestled along the meandering Mississippi River, New Orleans, or NOLA as it's affectionately known, beckons travelers yearning for an authentic taste of southern soul and charm. But when is the best time to visit New Orleans, you may wonder? Fear not, fellow explorers, for we are about to embark on a journey through the seasons of this vivacious city to help you pinpoint the optimal time to go to New Orleans.
Mardi Gras Madness: February If you've ever dreamt of immersing yourself in the chaos and color of a Mardi Gras celebration, then February is your ticket to an unforgettable experience in the Crescent City. Mardi Gras, which translates to “Fat Tuesday” in French, marks the climax of carnival season and falls 47 days before Easter. It's celebrated around the world, but in New Orleans, it's nothing short of legendary.
Picture this: streets adorned with beads, flamboyant performers in feathered costumes, and a carnival atmosphere that's nothing short of electrifying. When considering the best time to visit New Orleans, particularly if you're looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, Mardi Gras undoubtedly stands out.
The question of when is the best time to go to New Orleans for this extravaganza is paramount. In 2019, Mardi Gras will be celebrated on March 5th, coinciding with the pleasant spring weather, with temperatures averaging in the low 60s. To truly dive into the revelry, we suggest arriving in New Orleans the weekend before Fat Tuesday and staying through the big day. Keep your eyes and schedule open to catch the most famous parades, such as Endymion, Orpheus, Bacchus, and Zulu. Just be prepared to book your hotel room months, even a year, in advance, as they fill up quickly and prices soar faster than a confetti cannon.
Highly-Rated Hotels for Mardi Gras:
Hotel Monteleone: A historic gem in the French Quarter, Hotel Monteleone offers timeless elegance and a famous revolving Carousel Bar, the perfect spot for pre-Mardi Gras cocktails.
Summer Sizzles: June to September Now, if you're more of a heat-seeking explorer and looking to avoid the crowds, consider visiting New Orleans during the low season, which runs from June through September. Yes, it's the hottest time of the year, with temperatures soaring to an average of 89 degrees Fahrenheit in June, but it also offers you a chance to cool your heels and your wallet.
When pondering the best time to visit NOLA for budget-conscious travelers, the summer months provide an enticing option. During this period, prices take a dip, making your stay more affordable. But be warned, you'll need to embrace the sweltering southern heat. Yet, there are plenty of ways to stay cool while enjoying the city's offerings.
Highly-Rated Hotels for the Summer:
The Roosevelt New Orleans: A luxurious oasis in the heart of the city, The Roosevelt offers a rooftop pool, stunning décor, and a respite from the summer heat.
For a little respite from the heat and a touch of culture, head to the Preservation Hall, where the tradition of New Orleans jazz is lovingly preserved. This iconic venue doubles as an art gallery and photo studio, showcasing portraits of the city's jazz legends. If you're looking to escape the heat and indulge in some retail therapy, don't miss the Riverwalk New Orleans, a fully air-conditioned mall along the river, featuring quirky specialty shops and live music.
Highly-Rated Hotels for the Culture and Shopping:
Windsor Court Hotel: A luxurious retreat with an art collection, afternoon tea, and close proximity to the Riverwalk for shopping escapades.
And for the kids—or the kids at heart—there's the Audubon Zoo's Cool Zoo Water Park, where you can zoom down alligator water slides, frolic under giant monkey water dumps, or glide down the Gator Run lazy river. Plus, January brings the Essence Music Festival, featuring some of the world's biggest hip-hop and R&B artists. So if you're seeking savings and fun festivals, the summer months might just be the best time to go to New Orleans.
The Shoulder Season: October to January Now, let's introduce you to the Shoulder Season, that magical period sandwiched between the peak tourist season and the off-season. From October to January, New Orleans offers milder weather with temperatures ranging from around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It's akin to spring but without the Mardi Gras frenzy, making it an excellent time to explore.
When considering the best time to visit New Orleans for a balanced experience of weather, crowd levels, and cultural events, the Shoulder Season shines. In October, the city hosts the New Orleans Film Festival, a gathering of artists and film enthusiasts celebrating one of the nation's premier cinematic events. But the real treat comes later in the month: Halloween in New Orleans. Forget the notion that Halloween is just for kids; here, it's a city-wide affair. New Orleans residents embrace this holiday with gusto, and the celebrations are second only to Mardi Gras in terms of crowd size and costume extravagance. Expect swashbuckling pirates, blood-sucking vampires, and an array of ghouls roaming the “Most Haunted City in America.”
In November, you can enjoy the Voodoo Music Experience, featuring major entertainment names. Or, if you time your visit around Halloween, you can join the city's most popular festival, featuring spooky events that begin just before dark and continue late into the night. And, of course, indulge in Louisiana's classic treats like fried Oreos at the food stands.
Highly-Rated Hotels for the Shoulder Season:
The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans: A luxurious retreat with a courtyard pool and proximity to the French Quarter's vibrant fall events.
December brings warmth to the Big Easy in a different way, as the city decks its halls in dazzling lights for Christmas. The French Quarter and Magazine Street are transformed into winter wonderlands, with festivals, tree lighting ceremonies, caroling, Christmas concerts, and an infectious holiday spirit. Don't miss the Celebration in the Oaks, a cherished tradition since 1986, which raises 13 percent of the Park's Department's annual budget.
Highly-Rated Hotels for the Holiday Season:
The Jung Hotel and Residences: A modern and elegant choice near the French Quarter, offering a rooftop pool and stunning views during the festive season.
As you transition into January, you'll find a more relaxed atmosphere, marking the shift from Christmas to the Mardi Gras season. But rest assured, the city never lacks excitement. Leading up to the Carnival Season, January hosts three family-friendly parades and numerous other events, including the Allstate Sugar Bowl, a college football tradition and a raucous tailgate party at Champions Square. Other noteworthy events include Twelfth Night, the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, and the King Cake Festival, where you can indulge in bakery delights.
Highly-Rated Hotels for January Fun:
NOPSI Hotel, New Orleans: A chic and historic hotel close to the action during the tricentennial carnival event Twelfth Night and other January festivities.
The Best Time Overall In conclusion, the query of when is the best time to visit New Orleans may have multiple answers, but each season offers its own unique charm. The Mardi Gras experience is a must for anyone seeking a taste of its vibrant culture, and the best time to visit New Orleans for this extravaganza is undoubtedly in February.
However, if you've already danced down Bourbon Street during the carnival or prefer a quieter scene, the Shoulder Season is your best bet. Cooler weather, lower prices, and fewer crowds await, along with a plethora of culturally rich events that stretch from October through January.
So, what are you waiting for? Dive into the local flavors, explore charming boutiques and world-class dining, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the Big Easy. Whether you choose to don a mask during Mardi Gras or sip hot cocoa under the twinkle of holiday lights, the best time to visit New Orleans is now. Book your flight and reserve your stay; we guarantee you'll cherish every moment of this captivating city.