March is an action-packed month in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is usually over, and after a week or two of recovery, all but the strictest Lenten fasters are ready to get rocking again. Because Mardi Gras is particularly early in 2018, Easter and all of its festooned glory will fall on April 1, so expect parades, Easter egg hunts, and decorations galore all March long.
A handful of other holidays also fall throughout March, including St. Patrick’s Day, which finds paraders tossing cabbages and potatoes off floats in the Irish Channel neighborhood, and St. Joseph’s Day, which includes special celebrations for New Orleans’ substantial Sicilian/Italian community.
During this busy holiday month, the nice weather starts to make a comeback. The sun comes out, flowers of all kinds bloom, and the front end of the festival season begins to pick up. March also marks a bit of a dip in the tourist season. Mardi Gras tourists are long gone and JazzFest tourists are still a month away, so locals get a chance to boogie down on their own terms at some of the smaller festivals that take place during March.
The middling and changeable temperatures of March in New Orleans mean that your best bet is to bring lots of layers: Pack jeans or lightweight longer pants or skirts, short-sleeved shirts, and cardigans or hoodies. If you plan on attending any Easter services or parades, pastel finery and a big hat are de rigueur! As always, good walking shoes are a must.
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On March 8 and 9, 2018, the Buku Music + Art Project festival takes place at Mardi Gras World, featuring indoor and outdoor stages, art exhibits, local food, plenty of drinks, and thousands of neon-clad young people enjoying the festivities. Although the festival is only a few years old, it has established itself as a major boutique destination festival for fans of electronic dance music, hip-hop, and indie rock.
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Head to the grounds of the stunning Audubon Zoo to catch some of the most spectacular African-American music in the region. Each year in early March, the Soul Fest at Audubon Zoo brings R&B, jazz, brass bands, and even zydeco artists onto the stages of this event, which is free with zoo admission. Authentic soul food will also be available for purchase on-site during the festival.
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New Orleans hasn’t been well-known as a major fashion capital for well over a hundred years, but things are changing for the better in that regard, and Fashion Week serves to prove it. Runway shows, retail events, and an awards ceremony are all part of this celebration of the burgeoning Gulf Coast style industry. Events take place from March 18 to 24 in 2018, and you need to get tickets in advance to attend most engagements. However, heading out to the bars in New Orlean's fashion district is a great way to mingle with the fashion elite of the city.
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St. Patrick’s Day takes place on March 17 and brings the Downtown Irish Club’s foot parade through the Bywater and Marigny and into the French Quarter, straight down Bourbon Street. Each year, partiers swarm the city to enjoy this drinking-centric holiday, and since you can drink in the streets, you're likely to see a lot of partying all day long no matter what part of the city you visit.
There are lots of St. Patrick’s Day (and St. Patrick’s week) events throughout the city, but the most boisterous is the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which finds green-clad riders on redecorated Mardi Gras floats rolling through NOLA’s historic Irish neighborhood (adjacent to the more famous Garden District). Along with beads, riders throw fixings for boiled dinner from the floats: cabbages, onions, potatoes, and other veggies.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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The Feast of St. Joseph is celebrated by all Catholics on March 19, but in New Orleans, it's a particularly big deal for Italian and Sicilian-Americans, of which New Orleans has an enormous population. Traditionally Italian Catholic parishes all over town set up St. Joseph’s altars: giant display offerings of baked goods, dried beans, and fresh produce, thanking the saint for relieving hunger. Often, a free meal is served to visitors. In the evening, a parade of tuxedoed gentlemen marches through the French Quarter and distributes beads and good-luck fava beans. The altars are later broken up and the food is distributed to the hungry.
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Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival
Put on by the same folks who throw the much-larger New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Congo Square Festival is a free event that takes place annually in Armstrong Park, just across the street from the French Quarter. The festival celebrates the traditional cultures that came together to create New Orleans, so expect to hear African music, Caribbean music, Cajun and Zydeco, jazz, and more. It’s an intimate, locally-focused festival, so while there are rarely big-name headliners on the bill, it’s a carefully-curated lineup that guarantees a great time for serious music fans. The New World Rhythms Festival takes place on March 3 and 4, 2018.
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Super Sunday is the second most important day of the year for the Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans’ homegrown “tribes” of African-Americans who deck out in intricately reimagined Native American regalia, complete with enormous feathered headdresses and beaded outfits, and sing and dance while marching through the streets in a (mostly) friendly competition to see which Big Chief is the “prettiest.” This peculiar masking tradition has uncertain roots, but it’s been happening for well over a century. Super Sunday finds tribes marching all over the older parts of town, but particularly in the Tremé neighborhood, and events take place on March 25, 2018, after an expected rainstorm delayed it from March 18.
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On March 24, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Audubon Zoo invites guests to celebrate the environment at this one-day family-focused event. Non-profit agencies of all sorts are on hand to help visitors learn about various environmental issues and lead kids in crafts and games that help them understand conservation efforts that help some of the animals found in the zoo. Part of the proceeds from the event will also go toward expanding and improving certain habitats at the Audubon Zoo.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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The Crescent City Classic takes place on March 31, 2018. Over 20,000 serious (and sometimes very-not-serious) runners alike flock to New Orleans for this nationally-televised 10k foot race. It all ends at City Park, where music, food, and drink will greet the runners in classic New Orleans fashion. Whether you're in town to participate in the race or just want to enjoy the day's festivities, head over to City Park after for a true New Orleans party.
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A celebration of Tennessee Williams and all things literary, the Tennessee Williams will take place on March 24 and 25, 2018. This festival features, among other things, poetry and play readings, book signings, workshops that cater to both the literati and the public, and the ever-popular Stella-screaming contest, where would-be Stanleys rip their shirts off and wail forlornly for their lost love.
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Although Easter technically falls on April 1 in 2018, New Orleans will play host to a number of holiday events throughout the second half of March, especially on the last two days of the month.
The Easter Parades in the French Quarter, for instance, invite guests to put on their finest Easter bonnets and head to the French Quarter to see a dazzling Easter parade. The hostess is, as always, legendary Bourbon Street performer Chris Owens, who leads a merry band of burlesque princesses and merry men through the streets. Her parade is followed by the annual Gay Easter Parade, which largely features men and women in drag and beribboned folks of all persuasions (and which raises thousands of dollars annually for charity). It’s a great way to celebrate the holiday!
Kids can hunt for eggs, pet farm animals, and get their faces painted all among the stunning natural and human-made scenery of the Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The annual NOMA Egg Hunt and Family Festival takes place on March 24, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.