Things to Do in New Orleans This March

BUKU New OrleansPhoto by aLive Coverage

Given that February is Mardi Gras month, it’s easy to think that the city takes a break come March. Wrong! Folks, c’mon. This is New Orleans, and there’s always something to do.

With March upon us, expect a good slate of early spring activities in the Crescent City. The weather is going to get warmer, but (hopefully) just pleasantly warmer, the kind of NOLA spring sunshine that equals t-shirts and jeans, if not shorts. Mainly, we consider this the awesome window between carnival and festival season, when the city settles for a very slight breather between its two biggest parties, although in this case, ‘breather’ still means a ton of stuff to do.

BUKU New OrleansPhoto by aLive Coverage

BUKU Music + Art Project

A mere seven years old in 2018, BUKU has already established itself in the firmament of can’t miss New Orleans festivals. It’s the youngest major musical event of the year on several levels – not just by dint of its age, but by dint of the people attending the shows. Few other New Orleans events attract such a heavily millennial crowd, although we don’t want to give the impression it’s only under-30s at these shows; BUKU is for all ages. Still, said ages better appreciate electronica, EDM, hip-hop and indie music – BUKU doesn’t try and loop in every act in the world, and instead focuses on the music it loves, plus creating a curated underground house party experience (albeit a party with a ton of sweet art installations).

This year, the BUKU Music + Art Project kicks off March 9-10.

St Patrick’s Day

It often comes as a surprise to first time visitors to New Orleans that this city has a deep Irish heritage, which traces back to its history as a Catholic port of call that was one of the main entry points for the USA. There’s an entire neighborhood in this town called the Irish Channel, plus a plethora of fantastic pubs that eschew cheesy emerald green Irish stereotypes for rough hewn hospitality (Finn McCool’s and Erin Rose comes to mind).

As such, there are plenty of Irish in this town, and thus, the weekend of St Patrick’s Day is an important one for the city of New Orleans. Numerous parades kick off, including a downtown procession in front of Molly’s at the Market (don’t forget to get a Bailey’s iced coffee), and the infamous Irish Channel parade, where float riders pass cabbages to the screaming crowds. How much you enjoy all of the above is linked to your tolerance for public drinking and green beer. St Patrick’s Day in New Orleans is not quite as innocent as Carnival – you’ll see families, but these parades are more aimed, shall we say, at the adults.

Super Sunday

The annual gathering of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes is perhaps the most open means of accessing this unique element of New Orleans backstreet culture. While Mardi Gras Indian have their set routes and parade areas, no one event packs the tribes into one public space like Super Sunday. In this case, said public space is A.L. Davis Park, at the corner of Washington and LaSalle streets. The Indian procession usually leaves the park at 1pm. We can’t stress this enough: be respectful if you go. Take pictures at a distance, and don’t get in the way of marching Indians or their friends, family and attached bands.

Some background: The Mardi Gras Indians are the most vibrant, visible and conversely mysterious expressions of African American New Orleans culture. To distill them into an extremely simplistic sentence: Mardi Gras Indians are black New Orleanians who dress up (or in local lingo, ‘mask’) as stylized Native Americans. They take to the streets in fantastic costumes made of beads, feathers and sequins that cost thousands of dollars, weigh hundreds of pound and require hundreds of days of painstaking labor; no element of costume creation is automated.

On Mardi Gras day, Super Sunday, St Joseph’s Day and a select few other special occasions, the ‘chiefs’ and their tribes parade through the city, chanting, shouting and challenging each other to determine who is “the prettiest.”

There’s a ton more background on this fascinating subject here at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the historic Tremé neighborhood.

This year, Super Sunday falls on March 18. Mardi Gras Indian Tribes will gather in A.L. Davis Park (Washington Ave & Lasalle St) throughout the day.

Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival

The musical heritage of New Orleans follows a line that can be traced all the way back to Africa, where the black diaspora begins. The music of that continent evolved here and in the Caribbean, influenced by Europe and indigenous music, into the forms and traditions that are the core of today’s New Orleans sound.

This vital legacy is celebrated in Armstrong Park, on the grounds of Congo Square, where local slaves were once permitted to practice the musical traditions of Africa and the Caribbean. The New World Rhythms Festival will be a celebration of global and local music, and will feature both amazing food and a fantastic lineup of music. Plus, it’s free – you have no excuse not to go!

The Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival goes on March 3-4, at Louis Armstrong Park.

Tennessee Williams Literary Festival

Writers have always been drawn to New Orleans. Few cities in America (or the world, really), can match this town for its atmosphere, sense of place, or penchant for fun and pathos (all good elements of a writing life).

The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival celebrates this city’s love affair with the written word, as well as writers’ love affair with New Orleans. Notable authors, including Patricia Brady, Jack Bedell, and Jericho brown, will be in attendance, hosting seminars, workshops and lectures. Plus, this being the Tennessee Williams Festival, there is, of course, a ‘Stella’ and ‘Stanley’ contest, which involves folks screaming out the iconic scene from A Streetcar Named Desire to appreciative crowds on Jackson Square.

Good times.

Note that from March 23-25, the city will also host the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival, an alternative literary event that celebrates LGBTQ authors. The three day festival will include panel discussions, master classes, and a fair amount of networking opportunities between authors, editors and publishers.

The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival will be held March 21-15 in the French Quarter.

Hogs for the Cause

In late spring, the hot scent of BBQ will once again mix with the twang of electric guitars at the UNO Lakefront Arena. Hogs for the Cause is an annual celebration of whole hog roasts and southern rock. The event brings awareness to pediatric brain cancer and raises money to provide aid and relief for the expenses and economic burdens families routinely face while their child goes through treatment.

The founders of the event have – at least in this city – pioneered the idea of turning a whole hog roast into a charity event. The goal was to have a good time for a purpose – the more you drink, the more you eat, the more you help.

The event began modestly in 2009 at The Fly at Audubon Park with maybe 200 people, and has now expanded into a blue chip event in the city’s culinary and music calendar.

This year, Hogs for the Cause kicks off March 23-24.

 

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