Making the Most of Jazz Fest

Jazz Fest 2014 has recently announced the 2014 lineup. Rest assured, the well-rounded New Orleans Jazz Heritage Society has programmed something for everyone.
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Jazz Fest 2014 has recently announced the 2014 lineup. Rest assured, the well-rounded New Orleans Jazz Heritage Society has programmed something for everyone.

Headliners include Bruce Springsteen, Chaka Kahn, Branford Marsalis, Phish, Eric Clapton, Santana and Aaron Neville. Dozens of additional nationally known and local New Orleans acts will perform over two long weekends starting April 25.

So much more than a music festival, Jazz Fest is a celebration of the Bayou, of native cultures, customs, food and dress. The festival -- technically the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival -- is a deeply rooted Louisiana cultural event. All ages are invited.

Whether your passion is for the blues, gospel, country, pop, classic, acid or fusion jazz, you will find acts to love at Jazz fest. Buying tickets online allows you to design and plan a festival line-up but... allow for spontaneity!

Parades will stop you in your tracks; a compelling voice will call to you from a tent you had not planned on visiting. Let the spirit move you! Diehard jazz fans that could have camped out in the Jazz tent for the entire weekend, we were surprised and inspired at the country stage and gospel tent. Jazz Fest is a goldmine -- an opportunity to listen to and discover music that you thought you knew!

Tip: While standing on a food or music line, while in the venues and walking around, chat it up with fellow festival-goers. Jazz Fest is a great chance to meet fellow music lovers, learn about local area favorites and also get tips on good bands. The festival draws tourists from around the globe. I encountered travelers from England, Japan and all over the U.S. Friendly people will let you in on their local secrets and favorite clubs in their cities too!

Tip: Be prepared for large crowds at some venues. The Acura stage, where the top headliners perform, is an open area accommodating thousands. If you don't arrive at the stage early, you will be watching the show on the Jumbotron from quite a distance and the sound does not travel well to the further reaches of the field.

Transportation tips:

Bikes vs. bus vs. taxi: Bikes are easy to rent and New Orleans is a relatively flat city. Many festival-goers eschew vehicles for the pleasure biking.

Jazz Fest Shuttle: If you are staying in town, anywhere near the French Quarter or downtown, you can buy tickets for the Jazz Fest Shuttle, the coach bus that takes you to the fairgrounds. No hassle with parking, you step off the bus right to the fairgrounds.

The bus costs about $18/day r/t.

Jazz Fest Express/Shuttle offers continuous round-trip service to the Fair Grounds Race Course from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm. A special entrance is available to the Jazz Fest Express buses to avoid traffic. Buses depart from many locations.

Tip: Be prepared to queue up in a long line to get back downtown. The line moves but not as quickly as in the morning.

Weather tip:

Heat -- probably and most likely the sun will be strong. Many venues are tented -- Jazz, Gospel, Blues -- but many stages are open air. Hat, sunscreen a must.

Rain? Not usual in April or May, but with the recent erratic weather patterns, be prepared. Consider waterproof shoes or rubber boots.

Comfort Tip:

Bring a chair! A light folding chair that can easily tote around on your back can be set up in front of the smaller stages or outside some of the larger stages like Blues and Jazz.

To VIP or not to VIP:

Three levels of VIP passes are available with costs ranging from $550 for exclusive viewing of the Acura stage to $1,100 with a myriad of complimentary services and perks.

Food tips:

Jazz Fest Food is fabulous, plentiful and features local cuisine. Shrimp, oysters, crawfish and vegetarian options are available at many locations around the fairgrounds. Specialties include:
Creole-stuffed bread, pecan catfish Meniere, fried eggplant with crawfish sauce, smothered pork chops with greens and cornbread, alligator sauce piquant, shrimp and sausage macaque choux, and the unmistakable pheasant, quail and Andouille gumbo.

Jazz Fest Crafts:

Make some time to visit the juried arts fair. You will find one of kind clothing, glass art, wood pieces, paintings and watercolors and more, all created by local artists.

Up all night?

Maximize! A friend organizes her trip to see the bands she wants and buying tickets for the ones she can't (if two bands are at the same time) that are often playing in town in the evening.

Local Eatery Favorites:

In town: Fat Hen Grocery, Root, Dick & Jenny's, Acme Oyster House, Grand Isle Restaurant.