January is a fantastic time of year to visit New Orleans. Christmas and New Year’s are over, but here in Louisiana, we’re on to bigger and better things: Mardi Gras! The season leading up to Mardi Gras is called Carnival, and it officially begins on Twelfth Night, January 6.
On this day, New Orleanians eat their first slices of the celebrated King Cake, take down their red and green celebrations and replace them with purple, gold, and green ones, and begin the celebrations that have made the city famous around the world.
January is not just about Mardi Gras, though. It’s a big time of year for sports, with the Allstate Sugar Bowl kicking off the month, the Saints playing their final regular-season game, and the Pelicans season in full swing.
Average High: 62 F / 17 C
Average Low: 43 F / 6 C
New Orleans in January isn’t likely to be freezing (though it happens), but fair warning: 45 degrees in NOLA feels colder than it does elsewhere. There’s a certain chilling humidity that has a way of burrowing into your bones and it’s very hard to shake. So bring warm things! Long pants, a mid-weight coat, and some sweaters or hoodies for layers. A hat, scarf, and gloves will probably get used, too.
You’ll always want good walking shoes, and if you have plans to dine in the evening at Commander’s Palace or another of the finer old-line restaurants in the city, bring a dressy outfit (jackets for fellas).
January 2016 Event Highlights
1) - This major college football event takes place each year in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and pits two national-calibre teams against each other in an always-exciting game.
Joan of Arc Parade (Jan 6.) - Marching through the French Quarter, this medieval-themed walking krewe celebrates New Orleans’ French heritage on Jan.
6, the birthday of the famous Saint. At the end of the parade is a King Cake cutting ceremony, which marks the first bite of the season for devoted locals who only eat it during Carnival.
Phunny Phorty Phellows (Jan 6.) - While the Krewe of Jeanne d’Arc is parading through the French Quarter, this masked and rowdy Krewe is taking over a handful of St. Charles streetcars, riding the stretch of the streetcar route from Carrollton to the French Quarter to herald the start of the Carnival season.
Wizard World Comic-Con (Jan. 8-10) - Chris Evans, Norman Reedus, Matt Smith, and William Shatner are just a few of the big names that fans will get to meet at this convention. The daytime and early-evening hours of the show and its proximity to the party-friendly French Quarter (just zip over on the Riverfront streetcar) make for both days and nights of fun!
Battle of New Orleans Anniversary (Jan. 8-10) - Each year, Andrew Jackson’s glorious (and, ahem, not really necessary) victory at the Battle of New Orleans is reenacted at the Chalmette Battlefield. Visitors can enjoy living history events, tours of the site, craft demonstrations, period music and dance, and more.
With live music, parades, and food and drinks galore, plus more tie-dye and Hawaiian shirts than you knew existed, it’s really quite the scene.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 18) - Dr. King Day and the weekend preceding it fills with marches, gospel and jazz music concerts in churches and performance halls all over town, at least one or two parades, and more service events than you can count. Non-locals are typically always welcome, and these events (especially the service-oriented ones) can give visitors a way to really connect with the city, so keep an eye out as the date draws closer for ways you might jump in.
Krewe du Vieux / Krewe Delusion (Jan. 23) - These two satirical krewes team up for the first major parade of Carnival season, a decidedly R-rated affair which rolls through the French Quarter.
It’s a locally-oriented parade but entirely a blast for visitors, too.
More Mardi Gras Parades (Jan. 29-31) - This weekend showcases parades throughout town, from the French Quarter’s dog-themed Krewe of Barkus to Chewbacchus, a sci-fi geek extravaganza that marches through the Marigny, as well as more traditional Uptown krewes like Pygmalion.