This post is a guide to choosing the best time to visit New Orleans.
We include when it's cheapest, when to expect the best weather, and a month-by-month comparison.
Let's get started!
THE QUICK ANSWERS
The best time to visit New Orleans depends on what "best" means to you.
If by “best” you mean cheapest, then you’ll want to visit during the off-season – December through February (minus holidays) and the summer months of June through early October.
In the on-season, you’ll usually find cheaper rates in April, May, and October. (See our section below on the cheapest times to visit.)
If your definition of “best” means good weather and lots of events, then you should visit between Mardi Gras (a moving target – see below) and May or between October and November.
The spring months are more events-intensive, while the fall months can be a little quieter and cheaper.
That said, New Orleans is a festival and event town, so if you want to experience that scene – or avoid it – then it’s worth getting more specific about each month.
So we’ll also have a section of this post breaking down the offerings of every month.
CHEAPEST TIME OF YEAR TO GO TO NEW ORLEANS
The short answer is that both flights and hotels are at their cheapest during the summer off season.
Prices can also be low in the winter, with exceptions for holidays that we’ll discuss below. And, it's easier to make hotel reservations.
Cheapest Hotel Prices
Hotel prices can easily fluctuate from the low $100s during the off season to the $200s, $300s, and $400s during the spring and fall – and sometimes even higher during Mardi Gras.
The New Orleans tourism calendar is heavily influenced by events, so if you have flexible dates, you may see a large difference in cost just by moving things forward or back a few days.
Since March and November tend to align with school breaks, April, May, and October are usually slightly less competitive for rooms.
Cheapest Flights to New Orleans
As with hotels, flights from many locations will drop in cost during the summer and winter off-seasons, except around major events.
See below an example from Google Flights, where a direct flight from NYC starts high for the week of Christmas and New Year’s, then drops off . . .
. . . and stays low through the rest of the winter, then rises again for Mardi Gras.
Things to Think About
Know Your Tastes in Weather . . .
From parades to street music to people watching on Bourbon Street (to walking tours!), a lot of New Orleans life happens outside.
We’re also a great city for outdoorsy activities, including swamp tours, boating, fishing, and biking.
You can absolutely make a trip out of indoor attractions like museums, restaurants, and bars.
However, if you want to do the full menu of classic activities, you’ll likely find yourself outdoors more often than on other trips.
So the weather deserves special consideration.
And since we’re a fairly rainy town, it’s best to embrace outdoor activities when you get the chance.
. . . and in Crowds . . .
We get lots of visitors in New Orleans during the springtime, and our festivals will put you side by side with your fellow visitors – and with locals, who tend to feel comfortable talking to strangers.
The social ease of our city is one of its joys, but if you need some quiet in your day, it’s easier to find than you may expect.
The tourist scene is very concentrated in the French Quarter, on the grounds of whatever festival is happening today, and, during Mardi Gras, along the parade route.
There’s always a lot more to see and do beyond that list.
. . . and in Music
Music is one of New Orleans’s main attractions, and the cost of attending music events is all over the map.
Many festivals are free, and those with admission fees generally offer a lineup of several bands, often simultaneously playing on multiple stages.
Outside of festivals, music venues may or may not charge a cover.
We typically hold music events at venues across town for all kinds of holidays.
And part of the attraction of festivals like Jazz Fest is the stellar lineup of music outside the festival grounds at the city’s bars and nightclubs.
But with high demand comes higher prices, and since many venues in town are on the small side, it’s common to see them sell out fast.
So during the busiest times of the year, music can be more expensive and also require more preparation to enjoy.
There are several periods in the year when New Orleans restaurants offer citywide discounts on special fixed menus. These include:
- NOLA Restaurant Week (June)
- Coolinary (mid-July through early September)
- Reveillon, based on the Creole Christmas tradition (December through New Year’s).
BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW ORLEANS WEATHERWISE
As in the previous section, the best time of year for weather is a subjective question.
The short answer is that for most people, the best times to visit New Orleans weatherwise are between March and May as well as mid-October through November.
Or average highs and lows are available here: https://www.neworleans.com/plan/weather/
Another visualization of both here: https://travel.usnews.com/New_Orleans_LA/When_To_Visit/
These spring and fall months combine comfortable temperatures with average or below-average rainfall.
These are the times of year that New Orleans residents spend outside, and between the good weather and the plentiful festivals, especially in the spring, you’ll find the city at its peak demand.
Winter in New Orleans means milder temperatures than in most of the US, but it does remain humid in winter, so windchill can make a difference.
It’s worth packing as if it were going to be a little colder than the forecast.
The time from late May through early October gets hot and humid in New Orleans, including at night.
These months are the city’s off-season, and travelers and locals alike tend to spend their time indoors.
This period also overlaps with hurricane season, and August and September in particular fall at its peak.
Dangerous storms only strike the city rarely, and weather services can predict a storm’s course anywhere from a few days to a week in advance.
So while hurricane season alone isn’t a reason not to plan a trip, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on local news or the National Hurricane Center.
Finally, New Orleans is on the rainy side throughout the year, with rain falling one out of every three or four days.
We’re also prone to quick changes in temperature almost all year.
Basically, before you pack, look at the forecast, then pack for it to be wetter, warmer, or colder than expected.
Light layers that you can add and subtract throughout the day can go a long way.
After you read this section, check out our section on things to do by month.
Weather Overview by Seasons
Winter temperatures in New Orleans tend to be in the 40s to 60s Fahrenheit, but with humidity and windchill often causing them to feel colder.
Snow is extremely rare (and more or less shuts the city down when it happens), but rain isn’t.
After days of slow warming, rainfall usually signals a sudden drop in temperature.
By and large, this is the most pleasant and beautiful time of year in New Orleans.
Plants begin to leaf out and bloom earlier than in much of the country, and temperatures will center on the 60s-70s F, with daytimes consistently in the 80s by the end of the spring.
Rainfall is a little above average this time of year, and like in the winter, it often signals a drop to cooler temperatures.
Summer (June - August)
Between the heat (consistently 80s-90s F) and the high humidity, these are the times visitors and locals alike minimize their time outside.
Nighttime is a little cooler, but still very humid. Summer is also the bulk of hurricane season, with chances rising as the months go on.
June is typically the rainiest month of the year, with July and August not far behind, which helps mitigate the heat – but the sun coming out just after a shower can leave the streets steaming.
Visiting during this time of the year isn’t unpopular, especially for families taking advantage of summer vacation.
But, indoor activities are a must during the peak heat of the day.
And it’s important to think about hydration, sunscreen, and comfort (as opposed to style – no one dresses to look sharp in the summer).
September is, for all practical purposes, is a summer month in New Orleans.
It tends to be about as warm and humid as the preceding months, and alongside August, it’s the peak of hurricane season.
October can be a month of fast change, often beginning with summer temperatures and sometimes ending with a Halloween cool enough to discourage skimpier costumes.
Fall temperatures settle around the 60s and 70s, and October and November are typically the driest months of the year.
For great weather with a little less going on in the way of events and crowds, this is a prime time of year.
By late November, lower temperatures and humidity can combine to make for a few wintry-feeling days.
But First – Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras is the most popular time to visit New Orleans but is the elephant in the room when it comes to planning a New Orleans trip early in the year.
It tends to confuse travelers in two ways.
First – Mardi Gras is on a different day every year. As part of the Catholic calendar, Mardi Gras moves relative to Easter. It can fall anywhere from early February to early March.
So whether you’re trying to be here for the holiday or to avoid the most crowded and intense time of the year, it’s crucial to check the date before you make plans for a trip during the months of January, February, or March.
Why January? That brings up the second point of confusion.
Many people expect Mardi Gras to only last a day, but over time, we’ve given more and more of the calendar to our favorite holiday.
Carnival, the season leading to Mardi Gras, always begins on January 6th – a day we commemorate with some smaller parades.
After that, we have four (and counting) weekends of parades leading up to the big day.
The home stretch is a solid week of parades, starting with a Wednesday and concluding on Fat Tuesday itself.
This means different things depending on whether you’re trying to enjoy Mardi Gras or avoid it.
If you like the idea of participating, but you find the prices or the crowds daunting, then good news!
You have multiple weeks of parades you can attend more affordably and with less competition for space.
If you want to dodge the season entirely, then you still need to know parade dates so you don’t accidentally land right in the middle of the festivities.
Either way, you can find full parade schedules online starting about a year in advance (https://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades/).
Finally, if you do decide to attend Mardi Gras, decide early!
Even with the high prices, hotels and flights alike tend to book out as much as a year ahead, especially the hotels located close to the action.
New Year’s Day closes off the Christmas season with one last day of Reveillon dinners and lights in City Park.
This closes off a brief high-traffic moment for us, after which point travelers are few, usually until late in the month.
Christmas is barely past when the next holiday comes along – January 6th is Twelfth Night, the first day of the Carnival season that leads us to Mardi Gras.
The 6th includes a few smaller parades, and this is also the traditional day for bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants across town to start selling king cake, the seasonal carnival pastry (although some places serve it up earlier).
If it’s a year when Mardi Gras falls early, it’s also possible that more parades will roll as early as mid-January.
Another movable holiday also sometimes falls in January – Lunar New Year, the main holiday of the year for New Orleans’ large Vietnamese population.
Between late January and mid-February, churches around town will host Tet festivals, which welcome all comers.
The centerpiece of February is always Carnival season.
While Mardi Gras day itself doesn’t always fall within the month, February always contains some – usually most – of the season’s parades.
Because of this, travel prices are particularly variable in February, although it’s much cheaper to travel here for the earlier parades than for the big day itself.
Parades also make this a very outdoor month to visit, so pack layers (and a costume or two!).
The bulk of the Tet festivities usually also fall in February.
February is also Black History Month, and given New Orleans’s particular connection with the African diaspora, it usually means a whole host of events around town.
Food-wise, February begins crawfish season, the most important of Louisiana’s seafood seasons.
Boiled crawfish are more event food than restaurant food, so look around for boils in town, or if the weather is nice, buy by the pound and make a picnic of it.
Early March may include some Mardi Gras parades if the holiday falls unusually late.
Regardless, higher flight and hotel prices start this month as the weather warms up and as spring breakers come to town.
The passage of Mardi Gras makes way for a long list of spring festivals, like the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, Hogs for the Cause, and the Buku Music and Art Project.
March also gives us chances to celebrate several of New Orleans’s major ethnic groups.
Most famously, there’s the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, for which we have block parties and multiple parades.
But we also toast the local Italian population on St. Joseph’s Day, when a couple more parades roll, and churches and restaurants across town create elaborate food altars.
St. Joseph’s is also important to Mardi Gras Indians, members of a masking tradition who take this day to give a second airing to intricately crafted suits they first debuted on Mardi Gras.
They march again late in the month for one of several events called Super Sunday.
Between festivals, the spring bloom, and outdoor crawfish boils, this is a month to be outside as much as possible.
Beautiful weather continues in April with slightly diminished crowds as spring break passes, making this the slightly more affordable end of the spring.
Easter gives either April or May a day of parades in the French Quarter.
Festivals featuring local food and music also continue, with Freret Street Festival uptown, French Quarter Festival, and finally the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival or just Jazz Fest, which caps off the month and continues into May.
This month begins the warmth of summer and closes out festival season with three events along Bayou St. John.
First comes the second weekend of Jazz Fest, the last major tourist event of the spring.
Then comes Bayou Boogaloo, a smaller food and music festival on the banks of the bayou.
And finally, Greek Fest offers Greek food and music at the local Greek Orthodox Church.
While Jazz Fest is considered to be the end of festival season, June still has its share of events despite the warmth.
New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and New Orleans Restaurant Week happen mainly indoors, while New Orleans Pride has a daytime parade and lots of nighttime events.
We also have a Cajun-Zydeco Fest with food and music and lots of events around Juneteenth.
The main attraction for out-of-towners in July is Essence Festival, a huge celebration of black culture that makes for one busy week in otherwise one of the quietest months of the year.
The 4th also brings parties and a riverfront fireworks display.
The month also includes Creole Tomato Festival, Bastille Day events, a local riff on Spain’s Running of the Bulls, a beverage industry gathering called Tales of the Cocktail, and a season of restaurant specials called Coolinary that continues through September.
A final festival, Satchmo Summerfest, dedicated to Louis Armstrong and traditional jazz, often straddles the end of July and the beginning of August.
Apart from the close of Satchmo Summerfest, August is a quiet month best suited to indoor activities.
The exceptions are Red Dress Run, an event that draws a mob of people wearing red dresses into the French Quarter, White Linen Night, an evening of walking between contemporary art galleries on Julia Street in the south’s signature hot weather clothing, and Dirty Linen Night, the follow-up event at the French Quarter’s art galleries.
September is another quiet month, with locals celebrating the beginning of the Saints football season, the Beignet Festival in City Park, and Labor Day weekend kicking off the fall with Southern Decadence, a gay festival in the French Quarter and Marigny.
With cool weather comes an increase in outdoor festivals – Fried Chicken Fest, Crescent City Blues and BBQ Fest, Oktoberfest, and the Voodoo Music and Arts Experience.
We also devote much of the month to Halloween, with haunted houses and events across town, including the Krewe of Boo parade.
Halloween weekend in the French Quarter and Marigny is the closest experience to New Orleans Mardi Gras without actually being there.
As football season continues, besides staying glued to the fate of the Saints, New Orleans also hosts the Bayou Classic.
Festivals this month include Oak Street Po-Boy Fest, Treme Creole Gumbo Fest, Congo Square Rhythms Fest, the Bayou Bacchanal Caribbean festival, and the New Orleans Film Festival.
Christmas gets a full month of attention in New Orleans, with Celebration in the Oaks, our lights display in City Park, opening early and concerts throughout the month at St. Louis Cathedral, concluding with an evening of caroling in Jackson Square.
Homes and hotel lobbies are decorated, and two parades roll, the cheerful Krewe of Jingle and the creepy Krewe of Krampus.
Traditional and innovative Reveillon dinners, once reserved for Christmas Eve, are served at restaurants throughout the month.
And a Cajun Christmas Eve tradition – bonfires lit along the Mississippi – still is reserved for just the one night.
Non-Christmas activities for the month include the Sugar Bowl and the New Orleans Bowl, a festival of interactive light art called Luna Fete, and New Year’s Eve events of all kinds, including a fleur-de-lis drop on the Mississippi riverfront.