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Best Time to Visit New Orleans | When to Go

Best Time to Visit New Orleans | When to Go

Planning a visit to New Orleans? Get excited, because this city down south is packed with fun things to do, sights to see, and festivals to attend year-round.

The Big Easy is known for its incredible food, lively music and arts scene, and rich cultural history told through architecture, language, and events. And making the most of your NOLA stay starts with knowing the best time to visit New Orleans!

You’ll learn the best time to visit New Orleans for your personal trip goals. whether that’s being at the heart of the Mardi Gras action, enjoying the most affordable NOLA getaway possible, or visiting when the city is at its most laid-back and relaxed with fewer crowds.

Find it all here in our quick travel guide, along with tips for your stay and the worst time to visit. 

Why You Should Visit New Orleans

Live music played by a band on the street during the overall best time to visit New Orleans

Lensw0rld/Shutterstock

New Orleans is a true cultural melting pot with rich history that spans all the way back to 1718.

Originally built and designed by French colonists, New Orleans — also called NOLA and the Big Easy — has been collecting bits and pieces from French, Spanish, Haitian, African-American, Creole, and Anglo-American cultures over the centuries.

Today, these cultural “ingredients” season the simmering gumbo that is New Orleans’ food, music, art, architecture, religion, and traditions. When it comes to why you should visit New Orleans, the list is long.

  • Big music fan? You’ve got to come see the birthplace of jazz, blues, and zydeco. Take in some live music on Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street, or Preservation Hall to get a taste of the local talent and big names! 
  • Foodie? You haven’t lived until you’ve sampled the spicy-savory NOLA dishes like authentic gumbo, crawfish étouffée, fried shrimp po’ boy on the street, or sugar-dusted beignets and coffee at the famous Cafe Du Monde.
  • Appreciator of the arts? The city’s diverse architectural styles and numerous art galleries and museums make it more than worth a visit. Walking tours of the Garden District’s impressive, historic mansions are highly recommended. 
  • History buff? You’ll appreciate the National WWII Museum, touring the historic cemeteries and museums, visiting old cathedrals, plantations, landmarks, and more. 
  • Just here for a good time? The city’s numerous bars, restaurants, parades, parks, walking tours, festivals, and events make it the ideal place for anyone who wants to party. The good times are always rolling in NOLA!

When you’re planning out your New Orleans trip itinerary, you won’t run out of ideas for things to do. This city is extremely walkable with tons of landmarks, museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, and hotels conveniently located.

From catching live music and brews on Bourbon Street to exploring the French Quarter (the oldest section of the city) and taking unique walking tours (voodoo tours, the impressive Garden District, pub crawls, and more), only the boring get bored in NOLA. 

Photo of the outside of Cafe Du Mode during the best time to visit New Orleans

Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

And let’s not forget the annual event the Big Easy is most famous for: Mardi Gras, or Carnival. This  2-week+ springtime festival brings out the fun-loving, party side of NOLA residents and visitors for a truly unique experience in the city.

Revelers arrive to eat, drink, and be merry in droves. Wearing costumes, tossing beads, sharing king cakes, viewing amazing parade floats, and attending masquerade parties is what visitors have in store when visiting during the early spring.

It’s an event you need to experience at least once in your lifetime – if raucous, city-wide parties are your thing, of course.

As far as the weather goes, New Orleans’ ranges from mild and moderate (most of the year) to intensely hot and a little scary (summer and hurricane season). Winter and springtime is mild for this deep-south city, but summers are very humid and hot.

The annual hurricane season (which runs from summer through the late fall) is no joke and past hurricanes have proven how quickly the weather can shift for the worse here. That’s what makes it essential to know the best time to visit New Orleans!

Finding out the best time to visit New Orleans means knowing what you’ll be in the city to do. What’s the real purpose for your New Orleans trip?

  • Festivals?
  • Great food and drinks?
  • Cheap prices? Small (or nonexistent) crowds?

Take a look below to see the best time of year to go for your specific trip goals. Whether you’re seeking the party out or prefer quietly admiring the city’s diverse architecture and history, we’ll show you the best time to go.

As they say in the Big Easy, “Laissez les bon temps rouler” – let the good times roll! 

Overall Best Time to Visit New Orleans

Mardi Gras pictured during the best time to visit New Orleans, in the middle of Summer

pisaphotography/Shutterstock

  • February to May is the best time to visit overall
  • Mardi Gras, French Quarter Festival, Jazz & Heritage Festival, and more
  • Daily highs range from 70s to mid-80s

Springtime – February through May – is the peak tourism season and it’s the best time to visit New Orleans for most people.

The weather is mild and warm, the city’s biggest festivals are picking up and entering full swing, and the lush greenery and blooming flowers are a sight to behold this time of year. 

Mardi Gras dates shift every year, but the 2-week+ celebrations typically kick off in February through March. Plan your stay to overlap with Mardi Gras to experience the full NOLA Carnival tradition!

From parades and costumed revelers to midnight parties and copious amounts of food and booze, there’s always something happening in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. 

If you’re here to spot wildlife, spring is a great time for it. Swamp tours are a great way to see the wild side of New Orleans from a safe distance.

Spot native plants and flowers in full bloom, hanging Spanish moss, birds, gators, turtles, wild boar, snakes, and more while traveling through the cypress swamps in an airboat, kayak, or canoe.

The weather is great in New Orleans during spring. The daily highs reach the low 70s and mid-80s, which is comfortable and mild. That’s perfect for this walkable city, where you’ll likely be spending a lot of time outdoors.  

While spring (February to May) is truly the best time to visit New Orleans, it does come at a higher price. With more tourists arriving at this time of year, prices go up considerably during these months.

With the exception of April, when prices and visitor numbers take a brief dip, this is the most expensive time to visit NOLA. You may have trouble booking hotels that are close to the action, so book early if you plan to go in spring. 

Cheapest Time to Visit New Orleans

Cheapest time to visit New Orleans pictured with empty streets

Ellie-Rose Cousins/Shutterstock

  • June through September are the most affordable months
  • Hot, humid, rainy, and the start of hurricane season
  • Major discounts on flights, hotels, and tours

The best time to visit New Orleans on a budget is June to September. The month of August sees the lowest rates of the year on hotel rooms in NOLA, so it’s the perfect time to go if you’re seeking the most affordable trip.

But all of the hot summer months – June, July, August, and September – will net you cheaper rates on hotels, flights, rental cars, and even food in the city. 

Let’s be upfront about why New Orleans is cheaper to visit in the summer: It’s hot. Real hot. Humid, sticky, muggy hot. With daily highs soaring to the upper 90s and extremely high humidity levels (as much as 97%), it can feel like 110F+ on summer days.

It’s not for the faint of heart, but with plenty of water and frequent breaks indoors, it’s bearable. There are lots of events and festivals in summertime, but it’s not as crowded as during the milder spring months.

Frequent rain, storms, and severe weather is common during the summer and early fall months. June also marks the start of hurricane season here. That’s definitely something to consider when planning your trip.

Bring a lightweight rain jacket, umbrella, and comfortable shoes that can get wet. Travel insurance is a good idea when booking a trip during New Orleans’ hurricane season, too. If saving money on your trip is your main goal, summer is easily the best time to visit New Orleans.

Hotels, flights, activities and tours, and rental cars are all cheaper at this time of year because demand is much lower. For the savvy traveler, that’s a perfect recipe for an affordable getaway to one of the world’s most famous cities. 

Least Busy Time to Visit New Orleans

New Orleans pictured during the least busy time to visit

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

  • June-August and December-January see fewer tourists here
  • Prices on hotels, flights, and rentals take a dip
  • Keep hurricane season in mind (June 1-November 30)

The best time to visit New Orleans for smaller crowds and fewer tourists is June through August and December through January. These are the least busy periods for NOLA tourism and you’ll appreciate that the streets, hotels, restaurants, and city tours aren’t jam-packed at these times of year. 

Since springtime is New Orleans’ peak season and busiest time of year, heading to the city in summer, after the main spring festivities are over, is perfect for those seeking a less-crowded trip.

You’ll have better room and hotel availability, shorter lines and waits at NOLA’s famous restaurants and establishments, fewer crowds to deal with, and a more laid-back experience in the Big Easy.

But be warned that in summer, it gets hot, muggy, and stormy in NOLA. Visiting New Orleans in winter (December through January) will give you a milder weather experience than the summer.

The early winter months are pretty calm in the city overall with fewer tourists. Hurricane season is upon the city until November 30, so going in December can lessen your chances of being caught in severe weather.

Keep this in mind as you plan and purchase travel insurance in case you need to cancel last-minute due to weather concerns! While there are still lots of exciting festivals and events scheduled during the summer and winter months, it’s less intense than the busy springtime.

And if you plan your visit during November or December, you’ll get to see New Orleans decked out, holiday-style! Both June-August and December-January will net you cheaper prices on hotels, rentals, and even food in the city.

With fewer tourists in town at these times, hotels, car rental companies, and restaurants typically drop their rates in response. Lucky you! 

Worst Time to Visit New Orleans

Streetcar pictured on a rainy day during the worst time to visit New Orleans

Elliott Cowand Jr/Shutterstock

While it seems like anytime is a great time to visit New Orleans, is there a time of year that’s considered the worst time to go? That depends on what you’re traveling to the Big Easy to do. Here’s a look at the worst time to go for different trip types:

  • If you’re seeking the quintessential New Orleans experience, the worst time to go is during the winter (December and January especially). These are the calmest months of the year down in NOLA, and you’ll miss out on the city-wide parades, parties, and festivals that are so common in the spring, summer, and fall. You’ll be able to see the city decked out for the holidays and check out holiday-themed events, but it’s not quite the classic New Orleans experience most party-goers hope for. 
  • If you’re seeking the cheapest trip possible, the worst time to go is during the spring festival season (February through May). Mardi Gras, spring break, music festivals, and seasonal events make this the busiest time of year for NOLA tourism and prices on rooms, rentals, flights, and food jump in response. Go during the heat of the summer for the biggest savings instead. 
  • If you’re seeking the least crowded stay in New Orleans, the worst time to go is during the spring festival season (February through May). The increased number of events and perfect weather conditions draw visitors from around the world to the Big Easy. The result is large crowds, packed hotels, reduced booking availabilities, and higher prices all around. Go during the summer or winter for a less-crowded stay. 

More Things to Consider

You know the best time to visit New Orleans now – but what else should you know to better prepare for your trip?

Enjoying the Big Easy is easy when you have a few tips from seasoned travelers. Here’s what the experts recommend to make the most of your NOLA excursion:

  • Plan out an itinerary before you go. There’s so much to do in the Big Easy that you likely won’t be able to cross everything off your list. But if you have a NOLA to-do list to follow, you’ll be able to squeeze more fun stuff in! Make a list of the tours, landmarks, restaurants, and shops you don’t want to skip while you’re there. We recommend making a list of the different foods you’d like to try while you’re there as well – from rich, authentic dishes like gumbo and po’ boys to fine Creole fusion dining, there are so many yummy things to try here. 
  • Consider purchasing all-inclusive passes. A few all-inclusive pass options are available in New Orleans, and they’ll help you save money if you plan to visit a lot of the main attractions and landmarks. For example, the Go City New Orleans pass gets you free admission to museums, bus tours, swamp tours, and day cruises as well as discounts on other tickets and attractions for as little as $60/day. 
  • It’s the #1 cheap spring break destination. According to U.S. News & World Report, New Orleans is the number one destination for a “cheap” spring break. This means spring breakers descend on the city in droves at that time of year. When spring break overlaps with Mardi Gras, the city really gets wild and the crowds are intense. Plan your trip away from the spring break period if you’re trying to avoid big crowds, limited hotel and flight availability, and higher prices. 
  • Try biking the city. If there are a lot of sights you want to see and you’d like to get a little exercise (hey, gotta work off those beignets somehow, right?), try biking the city (just not during Mardi Gras). Grab a map and rent a bike to see the city from a different perspective – and at a faster pace than walking. You’ll be able to get familiar with the layout of the city, see tons of landmarks and architecture, and chain up the bike when you want to stop into a restaurant or bar for a spell. It’s one of the best ways to tour the city and feel the true vibe of NOLA!   
  • Keep your wits about you. Stay aware when you’re out and about in New Orleans, especially after dark. Since this is a tourist town, there are always scammers waiting for naïve tourists to swindle. If you’re approached by someone with a strange proposition (Example: “I bet $10 I can tell you where you got your shoes”), just say no thanks and keep walking. Keep your wits about you, keep your valuables contained or at home, and don’t engage with scammers to keep your trip safe and scam-free. 

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit New Orleans?

St. Louis Cathedral pictured during the best time to visit New Orleans

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

It’s flashy, it’s fun, and it’s friendly down in New Orleans. We’ve covered the best time to visit New Orleans – springtime, when the major festivals and best weather happens – as well as the cheapest time to visit and the least busy time to go.

You’ve seen the worst times to visit and a list of things to consider to make the most of your trip. Let’s quickly recap the ideal time to go to the Big Easy! 

The Best Time to Visit

The overall best time to visit New Orleans is anytime between February and May, which is when springtime blooms in NOLA.

You’ve got Mardi Gras, spring break, excellent and mild weather, and tons of activities and things to do this time of year. It’s a little pricier and the crowds are unavoidable, but this is when you go for the quintessential New Orleans experience. 

The Cheapest Time to Visit

The cheapest time to visit New Orleans is during the summer (June to September). It’s really hot and muggy during the summer months, so fewer tourists are visiting the city at this time.

With fewer rooms booked and less outdoor festivals planned (though there are still lots of great ones), rates on rooms, flights, and rental cars take a major dip. This is the time of year to score amazing deals on a NOLA vacation. 

The Least Busy Time to Visit

The least busy time to visit New Orleans is during the summer (June to August) and winter (December to January) when the crowds have died down and all is calm.

The weather is much milder in December and January than in the dead of summer, but it’s also a little pricier than summer visits. We recommend planning your visit during the early winter if your main goal is avoiding crowds.

Final Thoughts

Whether tasting the Big Easy’s culinary classics, catching live music, touring the city’s amazing architecture and history, or getting a look at Louisiana’s unique landscapes and wildlife is the reason for your stay, a trip to NOLA is something everyone should do at least once.

With so many activities, festivals, and tours available across the city, your time in New Orleans will be packed with fun. There’s always something going on and something to do here!