Far from the madding crowds, there are plenty of options for those who aren’t terribly festival when it comes to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, or maybe not even the ancillary musical shows around the city over a two-week period.
And truth be told, it can often feel like Jazz Fest sucks the oxygen out of the cultural air even if New Orleans somehow continues to motor along outside the of the Fair Grounds. Not unlike Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest has its own rhythms, its own allure, its own vibe. And it’s not for everyone. There are other options.
“Jazz Fest is a premier music and cultural celebration in the City of New Orleans. Every year residents and visitors from across the world gather for two weekends of music, food, and fun,” said NORD CEO, Vic Richard. “What many don’t realize is there are lots of other fun things to do across our city, and NORD plays host to several family-friendly events.”
Other options have their own festive vibe.
“It may come as a surprise to some, but Jazz Fest is not the only place to enjoy great music and mouth-watering New Orleans food on the first Friday in May,’’ said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “For four decades, Audubon has presented what’s now known as Whitney Zoo-To- Do on the picturesque grounds of Audubon Zoo. We like to call our black-tie fundraiser a party with a purpose because it has helped Audubon build and expand countless animal habitats and other Zoo projects over the years. And since the festivities don’t get going until 8 p.m., the young at heart can take in Jazz Fest and still have time to head on down to the Audubon Zoo for a little after-hours partying.’’
Here’s a little roundup to give you some ideas.
Zurich Golf Classic
TPC Louisiana, Avondale
The Zurich Classic is like Jazz Fest for golf fans; each of the 18 holes sets a stage for some of the best the PGA has to offer, most notably Masters champion Sergio Garcia and two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson. The tournament, in an attempt to boost attendance, agreed to create a two-man team format in 2017 and the results (beyond an attendance spike) included Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith taking the title in a playoff. The tournament also features an Executive Women’s Day, Celebrity Shootout, a Pro-Am, and a performance by Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & The Zydeco Twisters following the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday evening. Single-Day Grounds Pass: $35; Weekly Badge: $85.
International Jazz Day
Treme Rec Center
NORD sponsors this opportunity to connect with music and community in the heart of Tremé. There will be a jazz concert in celebration of International Jazz Day in the birthplace of jazz, which will include a special performance from New Orleans Jazz singer Charmaine Neville.
NORD’s Movies in the Park
“The Princess and the Frog”; April 27, Lafitte Greenway
“Ghostbusters”; May 4, Behrman Playground
While the weather holds, movie-goers can enjoy family-friendly outdoor screenings at NORD playgrounds throughout New Orleans. In keeping with the organization’s mission, all are to participate in fitness activities with Fit NOLA Parks instructors. Admission is free; lawn chairs, blankets and picnics are encouraged. Showtime generally is at sunset, (6:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.), with indoor options available in case of rain.
Zoo-to-Do for Kids Presented by Tulane Pediatrics (April 27) and Whitney Zoo-to-Do Gala (May 4)
One of the splashiest fundraisers of the season, the 41st Annual Whitney Zoo to Do offers supporters a chance to put their money where their lions are and have outdoor fun while doing it. Music will be provided by The Big Beyond; for those feeling lucky, there will be $100 raffle tickets available to purchase for a chance to drive off with a Lexus NX300, not to mention a silent auction. The event will celebrate (also marks) the return of lions in 2019 after being absent for several years, and will include a new space that is being created for the animals; that space should be completed in spring 2019. A Sponsor Party will be hosted at the Jerome S. Glazer Audubon Tea Room, Garden and Patron Lounge at 7 p.m.; the Patron Party will be held at the Patron Lounge and Patio at 7 p.m., followed by the gala on the zoo grounds at 8 p.m. (Zoo-to-Do for Kids Presented by Tulane Pediatrics precedes the gala, on April 27, complete with more than 100 entertainers, snacks from 45 restaurants, and a variety of kid-friendly activities.)
Loyola Choirs: Spring Fling
April 29, 3 p.m.
Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall
The spring semester is winding down for college campuses across New Orleans as everyone prepares for commencement, but before everyone scatters for the summer, The Loyola Choirs present musical selections that speak to the season of renewal. This annual event is free to the public.
NOLA Crawfish Festival
April 30-May 2
Central City BBQ
Few would argue that Jazz Fest is an amazing place to be for great music and food, but it’s not the only place for great music and food. Central City BBQ rolls out three days of boiled crawfish, music and beer from several local breweries including Port Orleans Brewing Co. Musicians include Walter “Wolfman” Washington, the Jon Cleary Band, Samantha Fish, and headliner Tab Benoit and Whiskey Bayou Records Revue featuring Jeff McCarty and Eric Johnson. Mudbug highlights include a crawfish cookoff and a crawfish eating contest. Tickets $35-$45 single-day general admission, $125 three-day pass, $150 single-day VIP, $325 three-day VIP, and $500 Crawfish King Super VIP (three-day).
International Jazz Day
New Orleans Jazz Museum
The New Orleans Jazz Museum will off free admission all day, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be a 2 p.m. by from the Arrowhead Jazz All-Stars, followed by performances by local New Orleans high school bands, on the third floor. Following the performances, Music Curator David Kunian will showcase rare jazz artifacts in the collection at 3 p.m.
2nd Annual GiveNOLA Fest
GNOF’s Center of Philanthropy
In just a few short years, GiveNOLA Day has become one of the top charity fundraising moments of the year for area nonprofits. The GiveNOLA Fest will help highlight the day, helping more than 750 organizations that have signed on for the day. Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, and The Soul Rebels serve as the music headliners. The festival will have plenty of food and drink from area restaurants, including Blue Oak BBQ, Company Burger, Pressed NOLA, Ralph Brennan Catering & Events, and Taceaux Loceaux. Some proceeds will benefit the GiveNOLA Day Lagniappe Fund, a local pool of incentive dollars raised by sponsors that will be proportionally shared with every participating nonprofit.
“Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream”
UNO Lakefront Arena
An indoor event complete with air-conditioning and on ice, to boot? It’s difficult to imagine a more antithetical event to Jazz Fest than this family-friendly ice-skating show. “Dare to Dream” has a decidedly female empowerment theme to it, with a debut by the incredibly popular “Moana” title heroine but also featuring appearances by Elsa and Anna from “Frozen” along with Rapunzel, Cinderella and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.” Tickets range from $15-$65.
“Little Shop of Horrors”
Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts
The classic Broadway musical comes to Rivertown, directed by Gary Rucker; musical direction by Jefferson Turner; choreography by Lindsey Romig; and starring Bob Murrell, Sara Ebert, Earl Scioneaux, Bryce Slocumb, Christina Early, Nachelle Scott, Drew Johnson, and Bryan Williams and Scott Sauber as Audrey II. (Check out the essay by Bob Murrell here.)
Jammin’ on Julia
Warehouse Arts District
This is the annual fundraiser for Arts District New Orleans. From 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., there will be access to 12 contemporary art galleries and three museums/institutions along with cafés, bars and restaurants. So there will be plenty of art, food, drink and schmoozing in the name of supporting and reinforcing the charm of the Arts District.
Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts
A rising comedian, Blackson (self-dubbed The African King of Comedy”) draws inspiration from Eddie Murphy after spending years in the Philadelphia comedy scene. He’s been seen on BET’s “ComicView, HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and “Showtime at Harlem.”