Things to Do This November in the French Quarter and Nearby

Photo courtesy of Treme Creole Gumbo Festival on Facebook

Fingers crossed, New Orleans truly cooled off some time in October, which is truly when our summer ends (anyone drinking anything pumpkin spice in this city before October is just fooling themselves). We measure the seasons by their temperatures, as opposed to their official starting and ending dates, the Crescent City has a short fall season, but it’s a pleasant one, usually marked by sunny, mild days and nights that get pleasingly brisk.

To be fair, not all New Orleanians would agree with this assessment. We have plenty of friends here who literally get their space heaters and winter jackets out when the thermometer dips below 70.

Whatever your feelings on fall in New Orleans, there’s a ton of events to pick from. This is the season when the New Orleans cultural calendar really ramps up: make sure to check out the websites for locations like the Civic, Joy, Saenger  and Mahalia Jackson and major museums. For example, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, located in the Warehouse District, will continue to showcase Solidary & Solitary, an exhibition that explores the legacy and work of African-American artists from the 1940s to the present.

Day of the Dead/Fete Gede Nov 1, Healing Center, 2372 St Claude Avenue

If you’re interested in voodoo as it is actually practised in New Orleans, as opposed to the more commercialized, tourist-friendly version of the faith, head to the Healing Center in Faubourg Marigny on the first of the month. This is the third annual Fete Gede celebration, and the event is a mixture of Mexican Day of the Dead regalia and rituals that draw off of New Orleanian and Haitian voodoo traditions.

Celebrants will honor those who have passed in the previous year; the highlight of the event for many is a Parade of the Dead, a take on the New Orleans street parade that is both macabre and bittersweet. Visitors can also check out altars to the dead built by local artists and voodoo practitioners, and browse a Dad of the Dead market for local arts and crafts. The event is free and open to the public – check the website for more details.

Boudin, Bourbon and Beer Nov 3, 6-10:30pm Champions Square

Boudin, Bourbon and Beer is one of the more enduring event legacies chef Emeril Lagasse has given New Orleans. The one night food and drink festival has cigars, Abita beer in copious quantities, brown liquor courtesy of Buffalo Trace, lots of live music, and – surprise! – boudin prepared by a gallery of some of the city’s top chefs. What’s boudin? Basically, one of the sausage specialties of south Louisiana (we see you there, andouille). A pork casing is stuffed with some sort of goodness – often a take on Cajun dirty rice, but other variations include shrimp, sausage meat, etc. At the end of the day,there are as many boudin variations as there are Louisiana cooks (which is a lot).

Bayou Bacchanal Nov 4, Armstrong Park, 835 N. Rampart St

Conventional wisdom says New Orleans is the northernmost city in the Caribbean. It’s certainly a city with its own sense of time and place, and there are plenty of times when it feels as if our town is barely tethered to the rest of the USA. On the flip side, the Crescent City has a long and proud tradition of welcoming migrants from all over the world, especially the nearby Caribbean islands, which has greatly influenced the city’s character.

The Caribbean islands and their influence on New Orleans is celebrated at Bayou Bacchanal, which takes over Armstrong Park in the Treme on Nov 4. Pick up some delicious food like curry goat and join the crowd for soca dancing while gawking at paraders dressed in enormous headdresses, feathered gowns and glittering regalia. The festival is free and open to the public.

New Orleans Book Festival Nov 11, Big Lake, City Park

The city of New Orleans will officially kick off its tricentennial celebrations with this book festival, which begins at 1pm. The free event, open to the public, includes a full day The festival includes a full day of programming aimed at bibliophiles, a 5:30pm performance by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and a 7pm fireworks show. The entire affair is is carefully crafted to be family friendly, so bring the kids. The neighborhood near City Park, particularly Faubourg St John around Esplanade Ave, is a particularly nice area to wonder about. Buses will shuttle attendees from library locations across the city, including the Main Library (219 Loyola Ave) in the CBD, and the Alvar Library (913 Alvar) in the Bywater.

InFringe Fest Nov 15-19, various locations

Every November, the InFringe Fest gives the world the New Orleans take on fringe theater, which is to say, independent performances that don’t get picked up at mainstream commercial theaters. We haven’t heard much about the slate of shows this year, but given this town’s penchant for creative costuming and boundary pushing, we have high expectations. Festival performances will be held at multiple venues in Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater.

Prospect.4 Nov 18, various locations

Prospect.4 is (imagine that) the fourth version of the Prospect series, a program that turns the entire city into a temporary art exhibition. This Prospect coincides with the city’s tricentennial birthday, and such, it is drawing inspiration from the natural environment New Orleans is built on. The theme is ‘Lotus in Spite of the Swamp,’ a reference to the Asian cultural conceit of the lotus flower blooming even in the midst of potential pollution and darkness. In comparison, New Orleans not only blooms from a swamp; it’s history is filled with dark episodes (disease, slavery) that has yielded beautiful human achievement (jazz, cuisine, local festivals). Small art exhibitions will kick off across the city; check the Prospect website for more information.

Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival Nov 18-19, Armstrong Park

The Jazz & Heritage foundation puts on plenty of events in New Orleans, but the Creole Gumbo Festival is a perennial favorite. It’s not just a celebration of the city’s great contribution to the genre of stew; it’s a party that commemorates great music and the creolized culture – and place (the Treme) – that produced the dish. Beyond all of that, this is a free festival that will feature a lineup of some of the city’s best musicians – really, you have no excuse not to attend.

Plan your trip to New Orleans with the official French Quarter travel site. We give you the inside scoop on where to eat, stay, and play. Join us for a good time!
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