New Orleans in May: Hot and Hoppin'

Warm Weather Plus Special Events: Great Big Easy Combo

The Crowd at the Free Jazz Concert in Lafayette Square, NOLA
••• Jazz is central to a New Orleans experience. ubidesperarenescio/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

It's not summer yet, but May in New Orleans definitely feels like it. Afternoon highs are on a run up as the month goes on. The early part of May tops out around 81 degrees Fahrenheit, but by Memorial Day the mercury has climbed to 86 degrees on average. You won't need a sweater or jacket even if you stay up till dawn partying on Bourbon Street or getting down at the clubs on Frenchman Street -- nighttime lows average 67 to 73 degrees as the month progresses.

But anyone who as ever been in the Big Easy in warmer months will tell you that the temperature is not the whole story. One weather aspect makes a huge difference, and that aspect is humidity. The chances of it being not just warm but muggy are high in May, rising to virtually all the time by the end of the month. It's also cloudy and even overcast much of the time. And it rains a lot, too; NOLA generally gets about 5 inches of rain in May.

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 dress right, mostly ignore the weather and find an air-conditioned respite if it's unbearable.

What to Pack

The warm weather means your luggage gets a break -- no thick sweaters, coats, scarves or boots needed. You'll have lots of room for several pairs of lightweight capri pants, khakis or shorts, which should do the trick for bottoms.

Short-sleeved or sleeveless tops are the order of the day. Women should take along a skirt and cool top for dinners out if you plan on checking out New Orleans' top restaurants -- and who would want to miss all that delish Cajun and Creole food. Take a lightweight wrap just in case the temperature dips lower than normal at night while you are there.

Take sandals, sneakers or espadrilles to keep your feet as cool as possible; just be sure they can stand the walking you intend to do. Throw a collapsible umbrella or two in your bag for the inevitable rain or take a rain poncho if that's more convenient for you.

May Events

The two marquee events in New Orleans in May are the Jazz and Heritage Festival, known as Jazz Fest, and the Wine & Food Experience.

The renowned Jazz Fest runs from late April through early May each year. It's not just jazz. It draws headliners in rock, pop, blues, zydeco, hip-hop and funk. You'll hear A-list performers like Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Harry Connick Jr., Snoop Dogg, Dr. John and Leon Bridges. That's just a sample.

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. (You can't try them all or they would have to carry you home, but you won't want for variety.) Promenades through the French Quarter add to the festive scene, and seminars add culinary and wine knowledge to the event.

You can buy packages that include various events or tickets for single events.

Other May events that add a local dimension to your visit are Cinco de Mayo; Bayou Boogaloo, with lots of music, art and food; and the Bayou Country Superfest, a must for country music fans.