Don't forget the floppy
New to New Orleans' JazzFest? I was a JazzFest virgin when I made the trek last weekend, and although I had a blast (thanks, Amos Lee) there are a few things I'd do differently, if given the chance. Take these tips from the road-weary with the second weekend of the festival starting Thursday:
Cabs out to JazzFest are expensive. If you, like me, are opting to road trip it and will have a car, it's cheaper to park a few blocks away. (We paid $20 split four ways for each day of the fest.) Most nearby residents are selling space in their lots and hanging out all day selling water and beer to passersby, so your car should be looked after.
If you plan on hitting Bourbon Street or any of the French Quarter bars after the fest, take the trolley. It's tres adorable (with wooden chairs and big working windows) and super cheap. It's $1.25 each way and runs until after 2 a.m., although the wait between streetcars gets longer as the night wears on.
What to bring
Closed-toe shoes! Gladiator sandals may look great with your fedora, but the fairgrounds are dusty and real shoes work best. Speaking of hats, invest in a floppy. Best decision I made all weekend.
Beers start at $5 a pop inside the festival gates, and there's no discount for buying en masse. (That means a case of Coors is a whopping $120). Luckily, security is light and bag checks are performed by volunteers. Each attendee can bring in two sealed water bottles, and we learned from a neighboring blanket that a smartwater bottle filled with your favorite alternative fits perfectly between the legs of a collapsed lawn chair, which aren't checked.
JazzFest has a tradition of longtime festival goers planting flags in the ground or attached to their chairs to mark their spots. People get clever, putting their wit on display and dangling various accessories. Make your own so your friends can find you!
Where to stay
With a friend if you have one; hotels are outrageous. But seriously, I would check out CraigsList or ForRentByOwner. My group of four found a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment just off St. Charles in the Garden District that we rented for just $300 total for two nights. Split four ways, that was the best deal in town.
What to do
Walk around the fest. It's easy to get stuck at one stage all day, but try to meander around between sets. It's a massive venue and you're liable to love someone you didn't even come to see. Make sure to see at least one zydeco set — even the most reluctant dancers get down.
EAT EVERYTHING. You're in NOLA for goodness sakes, and the festival food is to die. I recommend the crawfish bread, the Monica and the sno balls, but you really can't go wrong.
Download the app. This a daytime festival, and bands don't play late into the night. Know the lineup so you don't miss anyone by keeping the mobile guide handy.
When it comes to going out, Bourbon Street is great for taking in the scene, but try to hit some local spots. We hit Magazine Street the first night, and loved Joey K's, the aptly named Balcony Bar and Grit's Bar for dancing.
Are you a JazzFest veteran with tips to share? Tell us in comments!