'I remember when you could take an ice chest filled with sandwiches, Dixie Beer and Barq's Root Beer inside the Jazz Fest.' If you've gone to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the last 10 to 15 years, you've likely heard something similar to this several hundred times from the seasoned veterans. While quaint, that Jazz Fest is long, long gone. Rather than lament the loss of the past, we offer the following for enjoying the bounty of Jazz Fest on a (relative) budget.
Step 1: Tickets
Volunteering at Jazz Fest is a surefire way to get in for cheap, i.e. free, though it must be done early in the year and requires working part of the day.
If you do buy tickets, buying them before you go the the Fair Grounds is essential to save the most money, though the savings get smaller and smaller each year.
The tickets for individual days go up on festival weekends. Currently, they are $58, not counting the service charges, and must be bought at the Mercedes Benz Superdome Box Office. The most expensive tickets are bought the day of the Fest at the gate -- $70 this year.
To save money, buy your tickets ahead of time at the box office. Further, pay cash for the tickets. Tickets will be sold for $58 at the arena box office. They are $63 if you pay in cash, $64.90 if you use a credit card. Buying them on-line via Ticketmaster adds $9.20 per ticket.
If you are taking children, remember that tickets for children age 2 to 10 are $5, but they are available only at the gate.
The discounted tickets must be purchased ahead of time or in-between the two Jazz Fest weekends.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome - Dates & Hours – First Weekend
April 20 – 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
April 21 – 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
April 22 – 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
April 23 – 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM
*Ticket prices will rise to $70, plus applicable charges, after 8:00 PM on the 23rd for the first weekend of Jazz Fest.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome - Dates & Hours – Second Weekend
April 27 – 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
April 28 – 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
April 29 – 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM
April 30 – 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
*Ticket prices will rise to $70, plus applicable charges, after 8:00 PM on the 29th for the second weekend of Jazz Fest.
Another thing to consider if you go to all or many of the days is a WWOZ Brass Pass. The 2015 cost is $500. Some of the perks: You are allowed re-entry; brass passes are transferable, allowing a different person to use the pass (Some people use this perk to share or split the pass between weekends or days); and the pass gives you access to the WWOZ VIP Tent, which offers shade, tables and chairs, free fruit, free iced coffee, misters and separate bathrooms. And you're donating to keep one of the world's great radio stations alive and on the air.
Step 2: Packing the Essentials
Next to a hat, comfortable shoes and sunglasses, a backpack is indispensable for a day at the Fair Grounds, and there are several things that should always be inside said backpack:
- A small, six-pack size soft-sided cooler.
- Water and food. Jazz Fest allows a one-liter bottle of water, which must be sealed. Inside your cooler should be that bottle, a bag of ice in a sealed bag to prevent the ice from leaking and keeping your water cold, and a couple pieces of fruit. Oranges and bananas are perfect.
- An empty water bottle can also be brought inside. There two water stations at on the track. One near the Acura stage and a second near the Gentilly stage. Water can also be found inside the Grandstand.
- Sunscreen. A must.
- Should it rain, or if rain seems remotely likely pack a re-sealable plastic bag -- this is what your wallet, camera, cell phone, etc. goes inside to stay dry -- and a small foldable raincoat or poncho.
- A small, emergency supply of toilet paper. Crude, yes, but also a possible life-saver or a stand-in for a napkin if needed. A pack of wet wipes can also serve here as well.
Don't bring a chair. Controversial, but a fact. They're laborious to carry around unless you want to camp at one stage for an entire day. (If you have trouble standing, a portable, compact stool makes life a whole lot easier, but don't forget the seats in the tents and inside the Grandstand. Those can be an oasis for your weary legs.)
Step 3: Don't drive there
Don't drive there, unless you plan on parking on the opposite side of Esplanade Avenue from the Fair Grounds and getting there before noon. This goes for locals and tourists alike. There is next to nowhere to park, and it costs a pretty penny if you do find a spot.
(Lagniappe tip for out-of-towners: Don't pay locals to park on the street near the Fair Grounds. This common practice is illegal, a scam; it is public parking on the street. Also, don't park illegally. You will get a ticket or get towed.)
Also, forget trying to get a cab. Besides the expense, you're competing against thousands all trying to get a cab at the same time and all trying to get to Jazz Fest.
If you can, ride a bicycle or take the bus.
Here's the RTA info for public transportation to get to near Jazz Fest, requiring a walk for a couple of blocks:
- Coming from the French Quarter: Canal Streetcar Line - Stops 4 blocks from Fair Grounds' Gate
- Coming from Uptown:Bus Line 27-Lousiana - Stops at City Park
- Coming from Irish Channel / Garden District / CBD / Esplanade: (Cemeteries Transit Center, Delgado Community College, City Park, Museum of Art, Fairgrounds, Canal Street, Canal Streetcar, St.Charles Streetcar, Wal-Mart) Bus Line 91-Jackson/Esplanade - Stops 2 blocks from Fair Grounds' Gate
- Coming from New Orleans East: (Village De L'Est, Winn-Dixie Supermarket, Chef Menteur Highway, Fairgrounds, Dillard University, Canal Streetcar) Bus Line-94 Broad - Stops 2 blocks from Fair Grounds' Gate
- The RTA suggests pre-purchasing a boarding pass, arriving to the bus stop early, and being courteous to other riders and patient with the increase need for service. Fare is $1.25 per ride.
- The RTA 'Jazzy Pass' is valid for unlimited rides and transfers on the entire RTA fleet.
For more information how to create your transit itinerary and where to purchase a Jazzy Pass, visit www.norta.com, find NewOrleansRTA on Twitter and Facebook or contact the RTA Customer Care Ride Line at 504-248-3900.
A listing of some bicycle rentals places: http://www.neworleansonline.com/tools/transportation/gettingaround/bicycling.html
If you ride a bike, there are racks at both entrances -- Sauvage and Gentilly -- but they fill up fast, and you'll need to bring you own lock.
Step 4: Pack some food and forget drinking alcohol
This isn't the easiest rule to abide by as a cold beer is delightful at the Fest under the Louisiana sun and as is a tall Strawberry Lemonade. The problem is either isn't cheap, beers start at $5, sodas run $4, and bottled water is $3.
The food at the Fest likely the hardest to skip in fact, it's probably impossible, which is why the suggestion is to skimp on the food, not skip. Bringing in some snacks like fruit or a granola bars helps in that department. When you do decide to grab a bite, look for the food that delivers the biggest bang for your buck, like BBQ ribs or turkey leg plate near the Jazz Tent.
When you finish with the water bottle you brought in, don't throw it away. There are several places to get free water inside the Fair Grounds: Water fountains inside the Grandstand and three water stations, which are marked on the Jazz Fest map.
Step 5: Bring cash
Even with these tips, you'll likely need cash. The Fest does have several ATMs, but if these aren't your bank, you'll be hit with the service charges, and the lines for them can get long. Would you rather see music or stand in the ATM line? (If you do need to bite the bullet and use an ATM, go early in the day when crowds are smaller and the lines are still short.)
Step 6: Have fun