Whether you’re in town for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival or you’re a local taking some time off of work to enjoy the festival without interruption, you may feel at a loss about what to do on the three days between the two fun-filled weekends. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday can be just as fun as fest days if you know where to go to find live music, delicious food, and good times.
Monday, May 2 – You’ve just spent the entire weekend at Jazz Fest, so you may be feeling pretty worn out by now. That’s okay; sleep in and get your beauty rest. When you slowly roll out of bed hungry for lunch, I suggest heading down to the French Quarter to find local fare and soak up some culture. The French Quarter may be a little less crowded than normal on this day, so you can casually stroll around and find something perfect for your palate. I would suggest looking up the restaurant menus ahead of time if you have a picky eater in your group or have a budget to consider. Also be mindful of dress codes for fancier places.
Here are my current suggestions:
- Vampire Cafe – Open Mondays 9 AM – 11 PM. Casual clothing to vampire wear. This charming restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter has a vampire theme, but it’s not spooky in the least. Perfect for the whole family. You can ready my review of Vampire Cafe here!
- Brennan’s – Open Mondays until 2 PM. Dressy casual attire encouraged. This storied, multi-roomed fine dining restaurant is THE place to dine if you want to sample some classic Creole dishes. Bananas Foster was invented here!
- Criollo Restaurant – Open Mondays 6:30 AM- 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM- 9 PM. Located in the gorgeous Hotel Monteleone, Criollo serves Creole-inspired food all day and into the night. You may want to stay after your meal to sip a cocktail at the revolving Carousel Bar. You can read my review of Criollo here!
- The Will & The Way – Open Mondays 3PM – Late. Locals were very excited when the LeBlanc + Smith Restaurant Group took over this small, cozy space after the closing of Longway Tavern. The small, yet impressive menu of bar bites, small plates, mains, and desserts can be enjoyed inside or outside on the sunny, tropical patio which I highly recommend. You can read my review of The Will & The Way here!
Tuesday, May 3 – This would be a great day to explore the far reaches of the city by traveling Uptown, all the way to the Riverbend area. Along the streetcar line, you can visit Oak Street where there are a plethora of shops and restaurants for perusing. Jacques-Imo’s Café is popular with locals, and it’s merely doors away from the famed Maple Leaf Bar. Rebirth Brass Band always plays on Tuesday nights, and tickets will be sold only at the door—first come, first served.
Magazine Street has miles of shopping, food, and fun, and there’s nothing like soaking up the sun with a drink in your hand as you pass by all the colorful storefronts. Stop by Fleurty Girl to get some unique and funky, NOLA-centric gifts before having a Caribbean/Mexican meal at The Rum House. You should certainly end your Uptown evening at Le Bon Temps Roule, the legendary old-school music venue.
Tree-lined St. Charles Avenue is also a beautiful place to be. You can take a long ride on the streetcar and back, but nothing beats sitting on the porch at the revamped Columns Hotel while sipping a cool cocktail.
Wednesday, May 4 – By now, you’re probably rested up and ready to get back to the festival, but you’ve still got another day until the stages at the Fair Grounds are filled again. This would be a great day to discover the areas near to the Fair Grounds neighborhood. In particular, you may want to find your inner peace before the craziness of the fest by taking a long, serene walk around City Park. You can even rent a small boat and take a cruise around the Big Lake or see the popular Queen Nefertari’s Egypt exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Do yourself a huge favor and have lunch at MOPHO on City Park Avenue; their fusion of Vietnamese and local flavors is one of a kind. You can take in more natural beauty by visiting the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in the afternoon, and you can end your evening along the lakefront by partaking in the fare at Landry’s, Felix’s, The Blue Crab, or Sala.
There are also several fantastic restaurants along Harrison Avenue. The margaritas and tacos are always flowing at Velvet Cactus, and the massive doors will be wide open if the weather permits.
Whatever you choose to do with your free time, you should absolutely explore eateries, bars, and other fun places that you haven’t been to before. You may be surprised by the fun in store for you once the gates of Jazz Fest close for the night.