Despite being famous for Mardi Gras, New Orleans is actually a fantastic destination all year long.
While the Crescent City always has something going on, it’s important to note that every season brings something new and different. From citywide parties to relaxing sea breezes, NOLA offers something for everyone.
Read on to discover the best time to visit and what you can expect from New Orleans whether you visit in spring, summer, fall, or winter. Just remember to always come ready to chow down and enjoy some of the coolest culture America has to offer.
Travel Tips for New Orleans
- Take hurricane and tropical storm warnings seriously. Enough said.
- If you’ve heard that New Orleans isn’t a safe city, keep in mind that safety is relative. Different lists of the most dangerous cities in the country list New Orleans anywhere in the top 40 cities, though generally never in the top ten. It’s a city that thrives on tourism and where there are a lot of tourists, there are typically a lot of thieves. The good news is that danger in New Orleans is pretty easy to avoid: stick to well-lit and populated areas, keep your wits about you, don’t bring attention to your valuables in public, and listen to your gut.
- New Orleans is a slow city. Service will be slow, people speak slowly, pedestrians walk slowly – nothing moves quickly. If you’re from a city with a more fast-paced culture, prepare to practice patience and maybe give yourself something to do while you wait.
- Avoid driving in New Orleans, if you can. Driving in the Big Easy can quickly become overwhelming when simultaneously avoiding the multitude of potholes, pedestrians, streetcars, and cyclists. Parking is also either non-existent or expensive because the city is below sea level, meaning there’s no option to dig down and have underground garages. Rideshare fares will likely be less than parking fees and will undoubtedly be more convenient.
- On average, the city has annual festivals every three days, so check out what’s going on no matter when you go. You’re bound to find one event or another.
- There’s a high chance you’ll mispronounce street names. French and Spanish roots are strong here, but the originally-European names have been so anglicized that everyone but the locals will get them wrong.
Summer: Best Time of Year for Local Life
New Orleans’ summers (also known as the off-season) are wet. With temperatures ranging from a low of 74 to a high of 92 degrees, most days typically include an afternoon storm. They dump, clap, and strike for an hour or two, after which the sun returns and dries up every last puddle by the time supper is served.
Don’t be fooled. When it’s not raining, it’s still wet. The humidity doesn’t technically change all that much – with a pretty consistent humidity range throughout the year between 60 and 80 percent – but you can certainly feel the difference come summer. It’s the type of humidity that makes it difficult to feel dry after a shower.
Summer also brings the devastatingly notorious New Orleans hurricane season, which runs from June through November. Don’t let the weather scare you away though. There are plenty of perks to visiting during the off-season. Weather-wise, the most all-around intense months are July and August, making these the best months for deals on accommodations.
Plus, New Orleans is more of a college town than you might expect. This means that there is typically a mass exodus after the school year ends in late May as students go home for the summer.
When students leave and tourists are less likely to visit thanks to the weather, summers are left to the locals. The entire city slows down and the only people there are those who know the best spots in town.
Besides the great prices and local lifestyle on display, some of the city’s best, albeit lesser-known, festivals take place during the summer. These include, but certainly are not limited to, ESSENCE Fest, San Fermin in Nueva Orleans (the Crescent City’s version of Running of the Bulls), White Linen Night, and Dirty Linen Night.
As far as food goes, summer is the season for snoballs, brown shrimp, and crab. Ask a few locals for their favorite places to get snoballs. The best part is you’ll get a few different answers as this is forever a city-wide debate, so you’ll just have to try them all!
Autumn: Best Time of Year for the Package Deal
Spring and autumn are the sweet spots for NOLA weather. Fall is such a great time to visit because it’s both the driest season and shoulder season. Combined with average temperatures between 53 and 88 degrees, autumn offers some pretty beautiful weather during months that can get quite wet and cold elsewhere in the country, and at a great deal.
With better weather and students coming back to town, the city’s population rises compared to the summer months but doesn’t yet hit the crowded feel of peak season.
Fall also brings the start of football season. The love and support New Orleanians have for their team is loud, ubiquitous, and infectious. Visiting during football season may just turn you into a Saints fan!
In October, visitors will find that Halloween celebrations back home pale in comparison to New Orleans’ Halloweekend. So bring a costume for October 31st, but bring a second and third for the nearest Friday and Saturday, too because New Orleans is a three-costume (minimum) Halloween city. Plus, it’s known for its year-round hauntings, creepy above-ground cemeteries, and the three-day music festival that is Voodoo Fest.
With the combination of stunning and comfortable weather, awesome festivals (did I mention the New Orleans Film Festival?), football shenanigans, friendlier rates, and fewer people, fall is the best time to get a little bit of everything out of your New Orleans trip: the perfect package deal.
Winter: Best Time of Year to be Dazzled
With average temperatures of 45 to 66 degrees, it may feel like fall to northerners, but make no mistake, this is winter in New Orleans. Though some may not consider this too cold for comfort, mosquitoes certainly do, giving New Orleanians a few months of reprieve from the bane of their existence. The cooler weather also means fewer crowds and cheaper prices for hotels.
As usual, festivals and traditions are always in full swing. December boasts holiday traditions such as Celebration in the Oaks for a light show, Reveillon dinners in New Orleans restaurants, and Bonfires on the Levee. January captures the excitement of football fans with the Sugar Bowl. Then, February, of course, is taken over by Mardi Gras.
Since Mardi Gras occurs 47 days before Easter, the famed event may fall anytime from the first week in February to the first week in March. Parades liven up the city for several weeks before then, and the bulk of them are practically non-stop for almost a week leading up to Fat Tuesday. Once these parades roll into town, it’s goodbye shoulder season and hello peak season.
From slurping oysters to Mardi Gras beads hanging from telephone wires, there’s something altogether enchanting about New Orleans this time of year, making it an exciting escape from reality.
Related Read: 9 Free Things to Do in New Orleans, Louisiana
Spring: Best Time of Year for Outdoor Activities
Spring in the Crescent City offers arguably the most beautiful weather: with average temperatures between 54 and 85 degrees, the city has not yet reached its sweltering summer highs nor its infamous humidity levels. In fact, March is typically the least humid month of the year. Naturally, during March the whole town is outside. From weddings to crawfish boils, everything is an outdoor affair.
After Mardi Gras wraps up, the two most popular festivals for the season are the French Quarter Fest as well as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The gorgeous weather also makes this an excellent time to enjoy a swamp tour, since animals are coming out of hibernation, or a plantation tour as the local flora blooms.
Of course, between the exceptional weather and some of the year’s most popular festivals, spring is the peak season. It is the most expensive time to visit the Big Easy and, depending on which event is happening during your visit, it is recommended to make reservations six months to a year in advance.
Whether you want to see the city as the locals do, get the most bang for your buck, enjoy the weather, or party it up in the French Quarter, New Orleans is sure to leave you wanting more.
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