1. Take in the art at First Saturdays
Head downtown to the Arts District for First Saturdays for this free series from 6-9pm. First Saturday Gallery Openings is a self-guided art walk through some of the city’s finest galleries. Member galleries that open their doors include Ariodante Gallery, Arthur Roger Gallery, Beata Sasik Gallery, Stella Jones Gallery, and many more. Map out your night with the full list of participating galleries at the Arts District website.
2. Learn and remember during Black History Month
Start off the month by attending mass at or simply visiting the St. Augustine Church, historically a place of worship for the black community of Tremé and the surrounding area. For a glimpse into the lives of free people of color, visit Le Musée de f.p.c. to view paintings, lithographs, sculptures, photographs, and other historical artifacts. For a deep dive into culture, plan to spend an afternoon at the Backstreet Cultural Museum amongst colorful feathered costumes learning about Mardi Gras Indian traditions. For more ways to celebrate Black History Month in New Orleans, check out our guide here.
3. Attend Cirque de 610
The mustachioed, short-short-clad, dancing men of the 610 Stompers are one of New Orleans’ most beloved dance troops. They lend their talents to many a parade and charity event throughout the year but are associated most with the Mardi Gras season. Their ninth annual debutante costume ball on Feb. 8 at Mardi Gras World, Cirque de 610, is circus-themed. Tickets start at $40 for general admission and $100 for patron party admission.
4. Ring in the Vietnamese New Year
Every year, Mary Queen of Vietnam Church hosts a three-day bash to celebrate the arrival of the Lunar New Year, Tet, and Vietnamese heritage. All are welcome for live music, food, fireworks, games, dragon dances, and more. Dates for this year’s celebration are Feb. 8-10.
5. Unleash your inner nerd at Chewbacchus
Chewbacchus, a relative newcomer to the Mardi Gras parade scene, is preparing for its ninth year. While the spectacle of professionally-decorated floats, unlimited trinkets, and marching bands of St. Charles Avenue parades is not to be missed, Chewbacchus offers a parade of a different kind. This year’s parade, which rolls (er, walks) on Feb. 9, is themed “Space Farce” and speaks to the nerdy nature of the krewe. Catch plenty of interplanetary-themed sub-krewes, mythical creatures, Jurassic Park characters, and many more in out-of-this-world costumes.
6. Watch a Pelicans game at the arena
New Orleans Pelicans basketball games are a relatively affordable and fun way to spend an evening. Home games take place throughout the month at the Smoothie King Center, starting Feb. 4 when the Pelicans take on the Indiana Pacers. Other home games include the Minnesota Timberwolves (2/8), the Orlando Magic (2/12), the Oklahoma City Thunder (2/14), the Los Angeles Lakers (2/23), and the Philadelphia 76ers (2/25). Look out for the Pelicans’ team mascots—you’ll know them when you see them.
7. See Broadway in New Orleans with the Book of Mormon
Scratch your musical itch when The Book of Mormon returns to the Saenger Theatre from Feb. 5-10. Brought to the stage by the creators of South Park, the storyline follows a pair of missionaries as they spread the Good Word. Get ready for a good laugh.
8. Run in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon
Try your foot in one of this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll charity races, which “run” Feb. 9 and 10. There are four race length options available: a marathon, a half marathon, a 10k, and a 5k. Live music spurs runners (or walkers) toward the finish line.
9. Get your jerk chicken fix at Marley Gras Jerk Chicken Festival
Central City BBQ is back at it with the Marley Gras Jerk Chicken Festival on Feb. 9. Before the full-on Mardi Gras madness takes hold, come get you some Jamaican music and jerk chicken. Dance to Reggae, Bounce, and Brass music across two stages, browse the crafts for sale, and watch a scotch bonnet pepper-eating competition and a jerk chicken cook-off competition. Tickets start at $20.
10. Celebrate love—in the midst of Carnival season
New Orleans already has a romantic air about it, making it the perfect place to spend time with a partner or significant other. In 2019, Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday in the middle of Carnival season. Since parades are reserved for the weekend, take advantage of this brief opening to enjoy quality time with a partner or a friend (or, follow Leslie Knope’s lead and celebrate Galentine’s Day with lady friends on Feb. 13). Take a stroll along Royal Street to window shop the many art galleries. Then, if the weather cooperates, rent Blue Bikes and ride to City Park. To close out the day, make dinner reservations at one of the many restaurants offering a romantic ambiance, and then check out some late night live music. Check out our date night guide for ideas.
11. Giggle at rude satire during Krewe du Vieux and krewedelusion
Many aspects of Mardi Gras are family-friendly (believe it or not), but the irreverent duo of Krewe du Vieux and krewedelusion are not among them (though an odd child has been spotted at the parades in recent years). Both parades, with their small-scale floats and walking sub-krewes (such as the Mystic Krewe of Spermes, if that tells you anything) wind through the Marigny and French Quarter. Local musician Walter “Wolfman” Washington is Krewe du Vieux’s 2019 king.
12. Learn about the development of Jackson Square
The Louisiana State Museum at the Cabildo hosts the Tricentennial exhibition, “The Baroness de Pontalba & the Rise of Jackson Square.” The Baroness’ father, Don Andrés Almonester, funded the construction of the Presbytère, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Cabildo. The exhibit features items from the Louisiana State Museum’s own collection, the New Orleans Public Library, Tulane University, the Historic New Orleans Collection, and the Pontalba family in France—descendants of Micaela, Baroness de Pontalba. The exhibit is divided into three parts: her early life, her troubled marriage, and the transformation of Jackson Square.
13. Experience Mardi Gras with the locals
Though Mardi Gras Day is March 5, parades begin on Jan. 6 with Twelfth Night, or Epiphany. A few parades dot the calendar here and there until the city gears up, in full force, beginning the weekend before Mardi Gras weekend. This year, back-to-back parades begin on Friday, Feb. 22 with Krewe of Cork (in the French Quarter) and the more traditional Oshun and Cleopatra on the St. Charles Avenue route. Get some sleep that night because the fun continues with six parades on Saturday, starting with Pontchartrain at 1 p.m. and ending with Pygmalion. Don’t forget about the tiniest Mardi Gras parade, ‘Tit Rəx. Instead of large-scale floats, this “micro-krewe” creates shoe box size floats. Sunday is also packed with the likes of Carrollton, King Arthur, and Barkus, a parade of costumed canines.
14. Party on at Pygmalion Fest
Pygmalion is the final parade to roll on Saturday, Feb. 23. Keep the party going well into the night with Pygmalion Fest at Generations Hall. Open to the public, the evening’s musical acts include the Ying Yang Twins (“Stand Up and Get Crunk” and “Shake It Like A Salt Shaker”)—who are also the krewe’s celebrity Grand Marshals—as well as Norma Jean Wright, Alfa Anderson & Luci Martin, formerly of Chic, Boogie Wonder Band, and the Molly Ringwalds. Tickets start at $35.
15. Squeeze into the Smoothie King Center for a big act
The month of February also features several big-name musical acts coming to the Smoothie King Center. Panic! At The Disco’s Pray For The Wicked Tour is scheduled for Feb. 9. If you have not heard of Panic! At the Disco, you may be in luck—Alabama’s 50th-anniversary tour is scheduled for Feb. 15, and Fleetwood Mac takes the stage on Feb. 16. Finally, KISS ends their 45-year career with the END OF THE ROAD tour, which stops in New Orleans on Feb. 22.