New Orleans in May: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Warm Weather Plus Special Events: A Great Big Easy Combo

New Orleans, Toll bridge over Mississippi River
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It's not summer yet, but May in New Orleans feels like it. It can be very warm and muggy, day and night, so you don't need to bring a spare jacket when you go out to join the fun on Bourbon Street. In May, jazz can still be heard playing all over the city as the annual music festival continues, but country music fans can find events for them too in nearby Baton Rouge. All that said, New Orleans, is such a flat-out fun place to visit and hosts so many special events in May that you just have to dress right, mostly ignore the weather, and find an air-conditioned respite if it's unbearable.

New Orleans Weather in May

With summer approaching, daily highs get much warmer as the month goes on. The early part of May tops out around 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), but by Memorial Day, temperatures are usually reaching around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) on average. Nighttime lows are also pretty high, typically averaging between 67 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit (19 and 23 degrees Celsius) as the month progresses.

Of course, anyone who has ever spent the spring and summer months in the Big Easy will tell you that it's not just high temperatures you need to deal with, but also the humidity. May is usually a muggy month, raining frequently with many overcast days. On average, New Orleans usually gets between four and five inches of rain each May.

French Quarter, New Orleans
Jonathan D. Goforth/Getty Images 

What to Pack

With the weather being warm and humid, you'll need to bring lightweight pants or a pair of shorts, as well as T-shirts and sleeveless tops. You might want to take a lightweight wrap just in case temperatures dip below normal, or if you go somewhere where the air-conditioning is on full blast. You'll also need a pair of sandals or sneakers to keep your feet cool, but just make sure they will be comfortable for walking. Rain is inevitable, so you may want a travel-sized umbrella in your bag or a rain poncho if that's more convenient.

2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Josh Brasted /Getty Images

May Events in New Orleans

There are two marquee events in New Orleans in May plus many other fun things to experience. In 2021, some events may be canceled or postponed so be sure to check with the official organizers for the latest details.

  • Jazz and Heritage Festival: Also known as Jazz Fest, this event runs from late April through early May. It's not just jazz you'll find. The festival draws headliners in rock, pop, blues, zydeco, hip hop, and funk. Past A-list performers have included Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Harry Connick Jr., Snoop Dogg, Dr. John, and Leon Bridges. The 2021 festival has been postponed to October.
  • Wine & Food Experience: This event is a can't miss foodie experience held in either April or May. Since the early 1990s, the Wine & Food Experience has been tantalizing the taste buds of NOLA locals and visitors. Nearly 30 restaurants put on special dining evenings, and wineries go all out for tasting events, with 1,000 wines to try from around the world. Promenades through the French Quarter add to the festive scene, and seminars add culinary and wine knowledge to the event. In 2021, the event has been postponed to June.
  • Cinco de Mayo: This Mexican holiday is a great excuse to remember the colonial past that Louisiana shares with Mexico and enjoy a margarita or two. Mexican restaurants and bars go all out with fiestas, food, and drink centering around May 5th.
  • Bayou Boogaloo: Live music, art, and food draw music fans to Bayou St. John. There are fun activities like paddle boat races and a bicycle pub crawl. The event strives to have minimal impact and suggests participants ride their bikes to the party and even offers "cash for trash" to encourage the pick-up of recyclables. In 2021, this event has been postponed.
  • Bayou Country Superfest: This is a must for country music fans visiting the New Orleans area. The country music festival is held Memorial Day weekend at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, just an hour's drive from New Orleans. In 2021, the festival is on hiatus.

May Travel Tips

  • Memorial Day happens every year on the last Monday in May and the preceding weekend usually means big crowds and higher hotel rates. Try to plan your trip for earlier in the month if you can.
  • May is the end of peak season for crawfish, so make sure you order some at Frankie and Johnny's or Deanie's when you get a chance.
  • If you plan to go out for Mother's Day, you have a lot of restaurants offering special brunches to choose from, but just make sure you get a reservation as soon as you can.
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