The Best Time to Visit New Orleans, According to a Frequent Visitor
You can let the good times roll any time of the year in the Big Easy, but there is a “best” time to visit New Orleans
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It’s easy to see why New Orleans consistently ranks as one of the top cities in the United States to visit. From beignets around the clock and rollicking live music to voodoo tours and street cars, plus food and music festivals and multi-month Mardi Gras celebrations, there’s always something cool happening here. I’ve visited the Big Easy nearly a dozen times, in every season, and I always find something new to amaze my taste buds and delight my eyes. But with so much going on, it can feel daunting to figure out the best time to visit New Orleans.
“New Orleans is a four-season destination,” says Walt Leger III, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company, the city’s tourism board. “And the best time to visit really depends on what you’re interested in, because we truly have something for everyone.”
Personally, I prefer the more temperate weather in the winter and the festivals that fill the early and late spring … but I can certainly appreciate the great deals being offered during the summer months too. So whether you’re heading on a quick trip or a longer vacation, here’s everything you need to know about which season to choose for your perfect vacation in New Orleans.
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What are the best months to visit New Orleans?
Unlike many other popular vacation destinations where the best weather may be limited to a few months, awesome weather in New Orleans stretches through three seasons! You’ll find pleasant skies and moderate temperatures from October through May. To get more specific, in the winter, you’ll need a light jacket for evenings that dip into the 50s, but otherwise, you’ll be treated to temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s until things start to heat up in May.
This period is also when most special events take place in New Orleans—and when the city’s iconic festivals are in full swing. Here’s a handy cheat sheet:
- LUNA Fête, a winter lights festival, takes place at the beginning of December.
- Carnival season starts on Jan. 6 in 2024 and culminates in an over-the-top, colorful Mardi Gras blowout on Feb. 13.
- JazzFest, a multi-day, multi-stage music extravaganza, will be held April 26 to May 5, 2024.
- Spring break is also a great time to visit New Orleans.
But as much as I love the Big Easy, it’s a bit easier to enjoy the city when the weather isn’t humid, hot and sticky. Translation: The summer months can be pretty brutal, so this may not be the best time to visit New Orleans if you hate the heat. From June through September, temperatures soar to the 90s, and humidity levels can reach 79%. August and September are also peak hurricane season here, so proceed with caution during that two-month stretch.
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What time of year is New Orleans cheapest?
If you can handle the heat, summer is the best time to get a deal in New Orleans. “August is generally when you can get the most value for your money in terms of lodging, as well as dining and cultural activities,” says Leger. “August also brings us COOLinary and Museum Month, where visitors can take advantage of dining deals and all-access passes to many NOLA museums.”
Another good time to get a deal is the quieter shoulder season of late fall, which is also the best time to book a flight. In addition, many hotels offer “Papa Noel” discounted rates during the winter holiday season, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. I’ve visited for the latter, and I can tell you that in addition to great weather and good prices, New Year’s is (probably unsurprisingly) a fun, all-day party in the Big Easy—complete with a fleur-de-lis “ball” drop in Jackson Square and fireworks.
What time of year is the best weather in New Orleans?
Unlike many vacation destinations in resort locations, where the peak season is either winter or summer, New Orleans really shines in the spring and fall. Spring is one of the prettiest times to visit, and in March and April, temperatures average from the low 60s to the upper 70s. Flowers are blooming, but there are occasional showers.
Fall’s crisp air and dropping temperatures make it a beloved season in New Orleans as well. In early September, temperatures remain in the upper 80s, but they begin to drop for the rest of the season. You can expect temperatures from the upper 70s to the mid-50s from October through November.
When is New Orleans the least crowded?
August through mid-September is best time to visit New Orleans if you don’t want to fight the crowds. Why? “Because there’s no getting around it—summer in the South is warm,” notes New Orleans & Company. However, that means fewer crowds and more value for your money, as well as easier access to restaurants and cultural attractions.
One highlight you’ll want to check out, especially when it’s hot outside, is the newly reopened Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium. “Plan to spend the day there, wandering through the natural habitats for sharks, rays, a cool white gator named Chompatoulous and a giant sea turtle named King Midas,” says Jody Rohlena, executive editor of Reader’s Digest, who recently visited. “And don’t skip the Insectarium—it’s not at all creepy.” Rohlena also recommends the cafe, where bug treats like cricket king cake are on the menu.
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How many days in New Orleans is enough?
The number of days you spend in New Orleans depends on what you want to experience while you’re in town. Want to stay mostly near the French Quarter, eating and drinking your way through the town and listening to live music? Three to four days will provide ample time. Add another day if you want to leave the downtown area for a swamp tour or a trip to City Park, where you’ll find the New Orleans Botanical Gardens and the New Orleans Museum of Art. If you’ve got kids in tow, you’ll definitely want to leave another afternoon free to visit the Aquarium and Insectarium.
On a recent family trip this past January with my husband and teen son, I spent three nights in NOLA. Here’s a snapshot of our itinerary:
- We spent the first afternoon exploring the French Quarter, with a mandatory stop for piping-hot beignets at Café du Monde, the best coffee shop in the state, then looped around Jackson Square. At night, we took in a live concert (good for all ages) at Preservation Hall for some quintessential New Orleans jazz.
- Sunday morning centered around a jazz brunch at Arnaud’s in the French Quarter—and an indulgent three-course meal that included gumbo, grits and even flaming crêpes Suzette! In the afternoon, we hopped on a tour bus for a trip to the bayou to see alligators (my hotel, the Eliza Jane, helped us plan our adventure). Then we had yet another amazing meal, this time in the hip Warehouse District.
- Finally, on our last day, we took a ride on a classic streetcar to visit the Garden District, with a stop at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Rohlena covered similar ground to my trip when she visited this past spring, including beignets and jazz, but she spent a day at City Park and the Aquarium and Insectarium instead of going on a swamp tour. If you’d like to do all these activities, plan on a four-night trip. For special events such as Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras, extend another day or two so you can enjoy the festivities and also see the best of the city.
Places to stay in New Orleans
Now that you know the best time to visit New Orleans, you need the perfect place to stay. From swanky luxury properties in the French Quarter to independent boutiques in the Garden District, there’s a hotel in New Orleans to fit every personality. Rohlena stayed at the centrally located, wonderfully comfortable The Westin New Orleans, which has panoramic views from its waterfront perch on the Mississippi River, as well as special perks including an elevator margarita cart on hot days. (Yes, please!)
On my most recent visit, I was immersed in history at The Eliza Jane, the former home of The Daily Picayune newspaper. It’s now a swanky hotel with a fabulous lobby bar, Print, and it’s just a block from the French Quarter.
Or you can check into one of our favorite value hotels, The Quarter House. It’s loaded with inclusive extras, such as a private Jacuzzi tub in all rooms, a pool, complimentary live jazz breakfast every Sunday and a Mardi Gras celebration every Tuesday with wine, NOLA cuisine and more music. And yep, all those perks are 100% gratis. The only issue? You’re never going to want to leave!