Best Time to Visit New Orleans, LA
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There is never a dull moment in the festive city of New Orleans, Louisiana, where music, food, and entertainment happens year-round. The best time to visit New Orleans is really anytime, but depending on your vacation wishlist, some months are better than others for different kinds of events and activities.
If your goal is to experience Mardi Gras, then you want to go early in the year. If a family-friendly vacation beckons, then the summer is a popular time for New Orleans' main attractions. Looking to escape the crowds in the French Quarter and find hotel bargains? Then, late summer is your target.
There are some details to navigate to determine the best time to visit New Orleans for you. Review some of the top attractions at various times of the year, the heavy tourist seasons, and the weather, and you will be able to narrow down your options to create the most memorable New Orleans vacation.
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Best Time of Year to Visit New Orleans
The best time of the year to visit New Orleans is February through May, when Mardi Gras festivities are underway, and temperatures are comfortable. If you do plan to visit during this popular time of the year, you will want to book hotel rooms up to a year in advance. Mardi Gras events take place several weekends from February to early March, with specific dates changing each year. This is the best window to see the elaborate parades, floats, and festivities surrounding this annual event.
Mardi Gras is the most exciting time of the year to visit New Orleans, but if the steep prices are a deterrent, you can travel at the end of January, when rates for hotels are lower, and Carnival season is already underway. You can still see parades heading through the streets in January and enjoy the celebrations without the crowds and high prices that tick up in February.
Worst Time to Visit New Orleans
Weather-wise, July and August are the worst times to visit because of the unforgiving heat, rain, and muggy conditions. New Orleans is a 100-percent humidity city and combined with sweltering heat, the weather conditions can make it tough to enjoy outdoor activities. If you are interested in taking any walking tours, you will want to avoid the mid-summer months.
The worst times to visit New Orleans for crowds are the weekends between February and May. This time sees the largest number of tourists because of Mardi Gras and popular festivals like the Jazz Festival that draw many tourists. The specific dates for these events fluctuate from year to year, but the general time frame remains the same.
Cheapest Time to Go to New Orleans
If you are looking for the cheapest time to hit the Big Easy, August and September are the months to target for the best deals. Hotel and airfare rates drop significantly in August, so you can end up with an inexpensive vacation. Even high-end resorts and hotels offer steep discounts and added incentives, like free breakfast or tour tickets, which save you even more. The trade-off for the discounted August rates is the summer heat, but if you do not mind it, you can save big.
September is also a great month to find cheap travel rates for hotels and airfare, and the weather is starting to cool from the summer highs. There is also less rain in September, and it's a more comfortable time to enjoy outdoor activities. Many local restaurants offer discounts during August and September, so you can try more of the local fare for less money.
Best Month to Visit New Orleans
By many tourists' standards the best month to visit New Orleans is February when there are several weeks of parades, celebrations, masquerade balls, and festivals surrounding Mardi Gras. It is just a festive time in the city and the month when true New Orleans culture shines through.
February is one of the most expensive months to visit, but if Mardi Gras is a bucket-list experience for you, this is the time when you can be in the center of the action.
Best Season to Visit New Orleans
Each season in the Big Easy brings a different kind of experience. The season that fits best with your vacation style will depend on whether you want to be a part of the revelry in the early part of the year or take advantage of a more low-key kind of trip to New Orleans.
Spring: The spring months are a lovely time to visit New Orleans, after the rush of Mardi Gras season and before the summer tourists arrive. It is an expensive time to visit the Big Easy, so be prepared to pay. The weather is ideal, festivals are happening around the city, and the landscape is coming into full bloom. Temperatures are comfortable in the spring, and you can enjoy many outdoor music and food events celebrating the New Orleans culture.
Summer: The summer months in New Orleans are heavy with tourists, but beyond the crowds, the temperatures are tough to endure. The hot and humid conditions that are common in July and August can make it challenging to stay outside for long periods of time. These are also the months with the most rain, so you will want to pack an umbrella and a raincoat. Rain could also hinder the outdoor festivals.
Fall: Fall weather in New Orleans is nice, so you can enjoy strolling along the neighborhoods without the stifling heat and muggy conditions that come with summer. Crowds are light in October and November, so you can enjoy the city at your leisure. The only downside to traveling in the fall is that it lands during hurricane season. While the likelihood of a major storm or hurricane is rare, there is always the potential, so you will want to keep that in mind.
Winter: The winter months in New Orleans can net you some incredible off-season rates for hotels and airfare. December and January have the fewest tourists. You will have more space to explore the top attractions with breathing room, like the jazz venues on Bourbon Street and beignets at coffee shops in the French Quarter. Temperatures are cooler in the winter, but still comfortable compared to the northern United States.
Things to Do in New Orleans by the Month
Some of the most popular attractions in New Orleans, like visiting the French Quarter and the National World War II Museum, are open any time of the year, but there are specific things to do by the month that might make a difference in your planning.
January: This is a great month to visit the Big Easy, just after the holidays and before the onslaught of Mardi Gras tourists. Some of the best things to do in New Orleans in January surround the beginning Carnival season. Street parades and carnival masquerade balls begin, and king cakes show up at local bakeries.
There is a King Cake Festival every January that features unique varieties of this favorite delicacy. The Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Superdome is another popular January event.
February: February in New Orleans is all about Mardi Gras. Join the locals in the revelry to enjoy parades and events throughout the city. If you are looking for some of the best things to do in New Orleans in February outside of the celebrations, there are plenty of options. You can learn about the cultural side of the city and see costumes and exhibits at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, or soak in the culture as you stroll along the less-touristy Frenchman Street.
March: New Orleans begins to bloom in March, so it is a great month to get outdoors to walk the local neighborhoods and visit some of the historic mansions like Longue Vue House and Gardens. Another way to enjoy the Big Easy in the spring is to take a guided kayak trip along Bayou St. John, where you can see local wildlife and the historic Magnolia Bridge.
April: The month of April is when New Orleans festivals start kicking into high gear, like the popular Jazz & Heritage Festival, which continues into May and brings in known jazz musicians and tourists from around the country. You can spend time outdoors with downtown concerts at Lafayette Square featuring musical acts that change weekly from March through May.
Visit the City Park Botanical Garden and enjoy the annual garden show or take a bike trip along some of the more than 100 miles of bike trails around New Orleans.
May: May is a great month to explore New Orleans on foot since the weather is nice and summer tourists have not yet arrived. Take a walking tour of the stunning Garden District, which features some of the most beautiful homes in the city. Walk around the French Quarter to see the St. Louis Cathedral and The Cabildo, which are two important pieces of historical architecture in New Orleans.
June: Sightseeing tours are among the best things to do in New Orleans in June and there are so many to choose from. The plantation tours can take you to some of the most impressive and preserved properties in the area where you can learn about the lives of slaves and plantation owners. Some of the top ones to see are the Whitney Plantation, Oak Alley Plantation, and the Houmas House Plantation. There are great food tours in New Orleans and various cemetery walking tours in the city.
July: One of the best things to do in July in New Orleans is take a swamp tour, where you can see the local wildlife and learn more about the natural history of the city. July is one of the months when you can take a night swamp tour, which adds an extra element of excitement.
To cool off from the stifling summer heat, take a River Boat Cruise on the Mississippi River or plan a Sunday brunch or jazz dinner cruise on board the Steamboat Natchez, an original 1975 stern-wheeler steamboat.
August: Some of the best things to do in August include visiting the centers that make up the Audubon Nature Institute. The four centers include the Insectarium and Audubon Butterfly Garden, the Audubon Aquarium, the Audubon Zoo, and the Louisiana Nature Center.
August is also museum month in New Orleans, so it is a good time to visit some of the notable museums in the city, like the National World War II Museum, the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. While you are visiting in August, you may also want to visit the Hurricane Katrina Memorial honoring the victims of the 2005 natural disaster.
September: If you are food-focused on your trip to New Orleans, September is a great month to visit. There are a number of food festivals in September, making them some of the top things to do this month in the city. Try local cuisine, from baked goods and boudin to gumbo. You can also take a food tour in the French Quarter.
Want to take in a New Orleans Saints NFL football game? Check out the September schedule and plan a day to sit in the stands at a home game.
October: As the temperatures begin to cool, some of the best things to do in New Orleans in October include enjoying the neighborhood scenes and local culture. Take a stroll along Royal Street to shop at the small galleries and boutiques.
Another fun fall excursion is to ride the New Orleans Streetcar up St. Charles Street and enjoy the people-watching and local scenery. It is the oldest streetcar line in the country. To commemorate Halloween, October is a great month to take a local ghost tour or cemetery tour.
November: As winter draws near, November is the month to savor the local gumbo that will be offered in many local restaurants. You can enjoy the comfortable temperatures and fewer tourists and visit some of the lesser known and unique museums in New Orleans, like the Pharmacy Museum; Backstreet Cultural Museum; and Mardi Gras World, where you can get a close-up view of the extravagant parade floats that are used during the annual festivities.
December: Some of the best things to do in December in New Orleans involve the festive feel of the holidays, as the city is decked out with decorations. Visit The Roosevelt New Orleans historic hotel for one of the most stunning light displays. With more than 50 Christmas trees and thousands of lights decorating the property, it makes for a nice evening out to get into the holiday spirit.
Other festive spots to visit are Lafayette Square, decorated with lights and art, and City Park, with holiday displays. Be sure to stroll the shops along Magazine Street to pick up gifts and local products.
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Where to Stay in New Orleans: If you need suggestions on where to stay during your New Orleans vacation, check out our guides on the top hotels in New Orleans and the top resorts in the area that offer extra amenities.
Exploring Louisiana: There is more to this state than just New Orleans. If you have time to extend your trip in Louisiana, you might consider one of the top weekend getaways to Plantation Country, located just outside New Orleans, or the capital of Baton Rouge.