Visiting New Orleans in January

Fun abounds as city welcomes Mardi Gras season

Mardi Gras Wreath
••• Wreaths and trees often just find themselves with swapped baubles as New Orleans transitions from Christmas to Carnival. © Megan Romer, 2015

January finds New Orleans transitioning from Christmas to the Mardi Gras season, and the city continues its revelry with a full slate of fun events. The Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras on February 13 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 make the city famous around the world.

 

Packing Tips

With an average high of 62 F and an average low of 43 F, January in NOLA feels colder than the temperature might indicate. The chilling humidity burrows into your bones and can be hard to shake. So bring warm clothes: long pants, a mid-weight coat, and sweaters or hoodies for layers. You can also make good use of a hat, scarf, and gloves.

You definitely need good walking shoes, and if you plan 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 men). 

January 2018 Event Highlights

Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic This major college football event takes place on January 1 each year in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and pits two national-caliber teams against each other in an always-exciting game. 

Joan of Arc Parade Marching through the French Quarter, this medieval-themed walking krewe annually celebrates New Orleans’ French heritage on January 6, the birthday of the famous Saint.

The parade ends with 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 While the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc parades through the French Quarter, this masked and rowdy krewe takes over a handful of St. Charles streetcars on January 6, 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 Jason Momoa, Nichelle Nicols, and Stan Lee are just a few of the big names fans might meet at this convention held at the New Orleans Eernest N. Morial Center on January 5, 6, and 7. 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 Each year, history experts in period costumes reenact Andrew Jackson’s victory at the Battle of New Orleans at the Chalmette Battlefield. Visitors enjoy living history events, tours of the site, craft demonstrations, period music and dance, and more from January 5 to 8.

Pardi-Gras Parrotheads galore flock to the French Quarter January 11 to 14 for this weekend celebration of Jimmy Buffett and all things tropical. 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 on Monday, January 15 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.

Locals typically welcome visitors, and these events (especially the service-oriented ones) can give tourists 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 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 on January 27. It’s a locals-oriented parade but a blast for visitors, too.