The Big Easy

6 Fun Festivals in New Orleans That Aren't Mardi Gras

From cocktail parties to French fireworks, New Orleans has a summer soirée for every situation.

By Miranda Proctor June 21, 2016

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Esperanza Spalding was one of dozens of artists at last year's at the ESSENCE Festival.

Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest may be the two biggest festival events in New Orleans each year, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the best—just the busiest. If you'd rather have a more easygoing time in the Big Easy, check out these six smaller festivals coming up throughout the next month: 

ESSENCE Festival
June 30 to July 3

Dip into some 90s nostalgia courtesy of Mariah Carey’s, experience the raw power and emotion of Rapper-of-the-Year Kendrick Lamar, or find a slew of other sets to enjoy among the 40-plus artists spanning genres like R&B, hip-hop, jazz, blues, and more. Music isn’t the only thing you’ll find at this festival; you’ll also find African American artists showcasing their talents at various displays set up all around the Superdome. The ESSENCE Festival is the nation’s premier showcase for contemporary African American music and culture for a reason.

Independence Day French Quarter Fireworks
July 4

If you want a change of scenery for your 4th festivities, you can plan ahead and spend a three-day weekend (cough cough, ESSENCE Festival, nudge nudge) to get the most out of your Independence Day. A staccato barrage of fireworks will be set off from “dueling barges” on the Mississippi River at 9 p.m., which typically lasts for about 20 minutes. You can lay out some blankets and watch from either side of the river, or reserve a spot on a steamboat cruise and enjoy dinner and music to go along with your fireworks.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
July 7 to 10

Come one, come all! There’s nothing quite like being dazzled by electrifying acts under the big top. Not only are they the legends of the circus ring, but the Ringling. Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be presenting their Legends tour at New Orleans's Smoothie King Center.

Bastille Day Fête
July 14 to 15

Thanks to its deep French roots, New Orleans holds the world's third best Bastille Fête, which commemorates the Storming of Bastille in 1789. Immerse yourself in the French culture with local musicians, French and English museum tours, French cooking demonstrations in Café NOMA, French inspired kids’ activities, and mini French language lessons by Alliance Française teachers.

Tales of the Cocktail
July 20 to 24

Who says you have to hit up Bourbon St. to quench your thirst on an array of spirits? Thanks to this annual event, you can mix things up—or let the best of the best do it for you. Only the most talented mixologists are invited to Tales of the Cocktail, offering seminars, tastings, and special events for every kind of spirits enthusiast. With five full days of cocktail-lovin' good times waiting, this is every drink nerd's dream event.

July 28 to 30

Hey ladies, this one’s for you. Literally, just like it sounds, it’s a festival for us gals, and an opportunity to have a ladies’ weekend out (yes, we deserve a whole weekend, not just one night). You get the best of both worlds by letting loose with some shopping and drinks, or getting in touch with your inner feminist and attending an empowering Festigals seminar or two.

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