The best time of year to visit New Orleans depends entirely on what you want out of a vacation. While the Big Easy is enjoyable any time of the year, the best time of the year to visit New Orleans is November through December. Temperatures are plenty warm for most visitors, the city is dressed up in holiday decorations, and there are no crowds—which means cheaper rates for travel and accommodations.
Read on for more about the weather, the seasons in New Orleans, key events and festivals, and more information to help you plan your perfect trip.
The Weather in New Orleans
In New Orleans, expect long, hot, and muggy summers, with winters that are short yet sometimes surprisingly cool. The temperature in New Orleans typically ranges anywhere from 45 degrees Fahrenheit to upwards of 90 degrees, but rarely below. Mid-July is usually the hottest, although summer heat can last well into September. Rain is also more common during the summer months, contributing to the oppressive temperature and humidity.
If you're hoping to escape scorching summer temperatures, October and November and February and March tend to be the best bets. The early spring months are particularly nice when you're avoiding icy winter conditions up North and the fall months are great for cozy, homey neighborhood street fairs and a touch of holiday festiveness. Fall is also the driest time to visit.
While Mardi Gras is among the busiest times to visit, the weather tends to be nice, making it a great time to plan a trip incorporating other activities too, such as a day trip to the Tabasco factory or even a swamp tour.
Peak Season in New Orleans
Go ahead and come to visit at Mardi Gras, remembering that the Mardi Gras season, called Carnival, runs for several weeks before the big event, which is usually in mid-February or early March. Parades, parties, balls, and general entertainment take place from January 6 until Mardi Gras itself. You'll need a slightly higher budget to visit during this time of the year, but if you enjoy the festive, bustling nature of the festival, this is the ideal time. If you visit for the French Quarter Festival (early April) or JazzFest (late April to early May), expect large crowds but plenty of music, food, and fun.
If you're on a budget, consider visiting during the summer. July and August are hot, yes, but hotel deals are abundant and August brings COOL-inary New Orleans, a month of special restaurant deals designed to lure tourists on a budget. Take advantage! You'll find that the heat makes outdoor activities challenging, but there's plenty to do indoors, and if you take it slow and drink lots of fluids, you can survive just fine outside, too.
Key Events and Festivals
Louisiana—and New Orleans residents in particular—love celebrations. With 400-plus festivals held in the state each year, there's undoubtedly something to do year-round. The most well-known festival is Mardi Gras, which spans two or three weeks in February or March. Festive "krewes" take to the street of New Orleans and surrounding cities, complete with floats, marching bands, and dance groups. Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is the most popular day for celebrations.
Other popular events throughout the year include the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the French Quarter Festival, the Voodoo Music & Arts Experience, and the New Orleans Oyster Festival.
Spring is New Orleans' peak travel season, which isn't surprising given the mild weather and full events calendar. You'll want to book your hotels early—up to a year in advance if you're planning on visiting during Mardi Gras—and expect crowds at restaurants and other popular establishments.
Events to Check Out
- The Mardi Gras season runs through March, although the exact time frame varies each year. Locals and tourists alike flock to the city's streets to see parades and catch the famed beads.
- New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival runs from the last weekend in April and the first in May. Local musicians, as well as world-renowned artists, come to perform.
Summer can be brutally hot, but if you're hoping to avoid crowds and maybe save a few bucks, a summertime visit isn't a bad idea. July and August are the hottest months, with average temperatures of 91 degrees, but June and September are quite warm too. As a perk, however, the crowds are smaller and you'll pay less for accommodation then you will in other months.
Events to Check Out
- On Fourth of July, New Orlean's hosts Go 4th on the River, a celebration with fireworks shot off from dueling barges on the Mississippi River.
- The annual Essence Music Festival, held in July, showcases performances from some of the most popular R&B and hip-hop artists.
While New Orleans can still be hot in September, October and November are squarely shoulder seasons that have great weather, small crowds, and reasonable hotel rates. While you won't find as many exciting events as winter or spring, it's a great time to visit.
Events to Check Out
- New Orleans Film Festival, one of the nation's premier film festivals, takes place in October.
- The Voodoo Music and Arts Experience is held at the end of October. The event features hundreds of performers, including some of the biggest names in music entertainment.
Winter is a sweet spot for a New Orleans visit. Temperatures are still pleasantly balmy (average highs are usually around 60 degrees) and bargain hotel rates can be found. Plus, if you visit around the holidays, you'll get to catch the city dressed up in Christmas decor.
Events to Check Out
- Celebration in the Oaks is an annual holiday attraction in New Orleans. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, the city hosts one of the best holiday light shows in the country.
- On Christmas Eve, don't miss bonfires on the levee. This Cajun tradition consists of fires erected on the river levees, intended to light the way for "Papa Noël," the Cajun version of Santa Claus.