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Things to Do in New Orleans This March

Photo provided by New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

With March upon us, expect a good slate of early-spring activities in the Crescent City. Also, the weather is warmer — hopefully just pleasantly warmer — the kind of spring sunshine that equals t-shirts and jeans, if not shorts.

Mainly, we consider this time of year an awesome window when the Carnival wraps up (or, depending on the year, is over) and the festival season is yet to begin. This is that rare time when the city settles for a very slight breather between its biggest parties and still means there’s a ton of stuff to do. Here are the highlights.

Wednesday at the Square

March 11 – May 13, 2020 (rain dates May 20, May 27, June 3)
Unwind with a cold beverage on any given Wednesday at the Square, a free concert music series held in the spring in Lafayette Park (located one block off of Poydras Street, between St. Charles Avenue and Camp Street) every Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m., in the heart of the Central Business District. From March through May, these outdoor concerts feature a variety of jazz, rock, swam pop, brass, Latin rhythms, and more.

Bring a chair or a blanket, or head to the front of the stage to partake in some dancing. You can bring your dog, and there are vendor booths surrounding the park where you can buy food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (no outside food or beverages, please).

St. Patrick’s Day

Tuesday, March 17, 2020
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 come to mind, plus a selection of our favorite Irish pubs in the French Quarter).

As such, there are plenty of Irish in this town, and thus, the weekend closest to St. Patrick’s Day is an important one for the city of New Orleans. Numerous parades kick off, including a procession that starts and ends in the French Quarter in front of Molly’s at the Market (on Friday, March 13, 2020; try the frozen Irish coffee while you mingle), and the infamous Irish Channel parade (on Saturday, March 14, 2020), where float riders pass cabbages to the screaming crowds.

The Downtown Irish Club Parade rolls on Tuesday, March 17, from the Bywater to the French Quarter, making several pit stops on its way to Bourbon Street.

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 kid-friendly as the Carnival — you’ll still see families, but these parades are more aimed at the adults.

New Orleans Wine and Food Experience

Wednesday, March 18 – Sunday, March 22, 2020
The annual New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) provides local and visiting epicureans and hobbyists an extended weekend of libations and culinary indulgence in a style that is uniquely New Orleans. NOWFE is designed to encourage participation in the full gamut of food and wine-centered experiences. The event offerings include package rates, activities, and dinners with something at nearly every price point with attire ranging from costumed to cocktail depending on the event and venue.

Top Taco Fest

Thursday, March 19, 2020
The annual culinary extravaganza will be held at Woldenberg Riverfront Park starting at 7 p.m. Top Taco NOLA features dozens of restaurants and spirit and beverage companies serving and competing in a variety of categories, including Top Creative Taco, Top Traditional Taco, Top Creative Cocktail, and Top Traditional Margarita. Past winners included some of New Orleans’ best restaurants, and the event also features live music and a VIP area. Attendees will get to sample unlimited gourmet tacos and signature cocktails from some of the top chefs and mixologists in New Orleans. Tickets are all-inclusive, with unlimited cocktails, tacos, tequila, beer, water, and soft drinks. General admission starts at $60.

BUKU Music + Art Project

Friday, March 20 – Saturday, March 21, 2020
Less than a decade old, 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 warehouse party experience (albeit a party with a ton of sweet art installations).

BUKU takes place at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World along the Mississippi Riverfront. There are four stages, two of which are outdoors. Art demos include the annual Live Graffiti Gallery and a collaborative mural by street art stars. One-day passes start at $110.

Super Sunday

Sunday, March 22, 2020 (subject to change depending on the weather)
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. If you are lucky you might see the Indians out and about on St. Joseph’s Day (Thursday, March 19), and the tribes will be out in larger numbers on Super Sunday, which usually falls on the third Sunday of March.

While the Mardi Gras Indians 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 spaces are A.L. Davis Park, at the corner of Washington and LaSalle streets; and Bayou St. John in Mid-City, at the intersection of Orleans and Moss streets, on the bayou’s banks and the Orleans Street bridge. The Indian procession usually leaves the gathering spot around 1 p.m.

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. Super Sunday has been overrun with spectators in the past few years, so please do your part to enjoy this amazing cultural event responsibly.

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 African-American 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 pounds, 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 at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the historic Tremé neighborhood.

Tennessee Williams Literary Festival

Wednesday, March 25 – Sunday, March 29, 2020
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 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. The program will also include a scholars conference, walking tours, masterclasses, theater, and more.

Note that on March 27-29, 2020, 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 and a fair amount of networking opportunities between authors, editors, and publishers.

Hogs for the Cause

Friday, March 27 – Saturday, March 28, 2020

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 local music (with some national acts in the lineup as well). The event brings awareness to pediatric brain cancer, and the founders have — at least in this city — pioneered the idea of turning a 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 massively popular regular on the city’s culinary and music calendar. Tickets start at $30.

Happy Spring!