What To Do in May in New Orleans

This post covers some of the best things to do in New Orleans in May, updated for 2020, including free, family-friendly fun, and nighttime events and attractions. 

 

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Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text. 

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN MAY

Below is a Top 10 list of the most interesting things to do in New Orleans throughout the month of May.

Some of the best attractions to visit in this city are included for free with a New Orleans tourist attraction discount pass.

For some of the most popular tours, we have the following articles:

For more ideas, see our post on things to do in NOLA all year long.


1. Head to a Concert

This May is jam-packed with some great performers. You’ll find pop, punk, heavy metal and so much more in NOLA. We list the highlights below the video.

See what other concerts are in town this month on StubHub.

 

 

There will also be several great bands at Jazz Fest (#7 below) and at the Mixtape Tour.

Check our New Orleans live music calendar for even more places to see music this month.


2. Watch a Sporting Event

May means baseball season in NOLA so head out to see the Tulane Green Wave play some NCAA baseball!

 

 

Tickets range from $20-$40 per person on average.

Take a look at what other sporting events are on in New Orleans on StubHub this month.


3. See a Musical or Stand-Up Comedy

The Saenger Theatre will be hosting the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof from May 12-17, 2020. This is a fantastic opportunity to see one of the most beloved stories of all time at the most historic theatre in New Orleans!

 

 

In addition to that, the Jefferson Performing Arts Center in Metairie (just North of New Orleans) will have An American in Paris from May 8 – 17, 2020.

If you’re in need of a good laugh, see George Lopez at the Saenger Theatre on May 8 and 9, 2020. Lopez is well-known for his work in films and television, but stand-up is one of the funniest in the business. Take note that his shows go a bit beyond R-rated language, so best not bring the kids! Purchase George Lopez tickets or learn more on StubHub.

Check our things to do at night section for even more fun activities you can enjoy after dark during the month of May.


4. Go on a Sightseeing Tour

May is sunny, warm, and dry, so it is one of the perfect times to do some sightseeing in New Orleans.

Here are a few of the pay-what-you-wish walking tours we currently offer in the city:

 

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If you’re looking for an even more in-depth tour, consider one of these extensive outings from Take Walks:

May is an ideal month to get out on the water and experience a view of the city from a riverboat cruise.

If it’s a particularly hot day, consider taking a nice, air-conditioned hop-on-hop-off bus tour.


5. Attend Jazz Fest

The annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, better known as “Jazz Fest” by locals, is a very exciting activity to consider for music lovers.

The festival starts on April 23 and runs until May 3, 2020. You’ll hear rhythm & blues, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, folk, rap, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, country, bluegrass and of course lots of jazz!

 

 

From May 1st – 3rd, you can expect to see some of the following artists:

  • Wu-Tang Clan
  • Lionel Richie
  • Isley Brothers
  • Stevie Nicks
  • The Lumineers
  • Lizzo

In addition to all the music, you can also expect a variety of local food, drink and art vendors to browse while attending this uniquely New Orleans Festival.

More information and tickets here on StubHub.


6. Think About Getting a Tourist Pass

If you’re planning to visit more than a few popular attractions, you could save a lot of money with a New Orleans tourist pass.

These passes can save up around 55% off of the retail prices of some of NOLA’s most popular tours and attractions.

 

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Some of the attractions included are:

For more details on this opportunity, please read our post covering New Orleans tourist passes.


7. Go on a Swamp/Plantation Tour

With the weather warming up, May is an excellent time to visit the swamps near New Orleans, as warm water brings its inhabitants to life.

There are several swamp boat tours available which will provide a leisurely look at the natural wildlife in the area.

 

 

Alternatively, you may also want to consider an airboat tour for a more exciting and speedy trip through the swamps.

Visitors who want to learn more about the history of Louisiana might also want to consider a trip to one of the nearby plantations.

If you’re planning to get a New Orleans tourist pass, some services include admission to a handful of locations such as Houmas House, Oak Alley and more.

Don’t forget that there will also be swamp tours available after dark starting in the spring!


8.  Attend the Oyster Festival

If you’re looking for some amazing seafood, the Oyster Festival is an absolute must. The oysters aren’t free, but this annual event won’t cost a dime to attend on the weekend of May 30-31, 2020.

 

 

You can also enjoy both an oyster shucking and an oyster-eating contest, as well as various cooking demonstrations.

If you want to learn more about the food in New Orleans, consider taking one of our food tours.


9. Take a Food Tour

New Orleans is known for its cuisine and while you are there, you will certainly want o sample some of the best dishes the city has to offer.

For an experience that includes both delicious food and fascinating history, look into taking one of our food tours.

Our French Quarter food tour is a great way to see one of the best parts of NOLA while sampling its renowned cuisine.

 

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Our tour includes the chance to try foods like PoBoys, crawfish, pralines, beignets, muffulettas, and other dishes.

To see about other food tours in different neighborhoods, see our post one New Orleans food tours.


10. Have Some Fun Jammin’ on Julia

On the first Saturday of May, the Arts District of New Orleans hosts an annual free event known as Jammin’ on Julia.

This activity brings attention to all of the art galleries and institutions in the Warehouse Arts District.

 

 

From 6 pm – 11 pm, a variety of local bands will take the stage on the 300 and 500 blocks of Julia Street.

There will also be food and refreshments available from popular restaurants in the area.

The best part about this activity is that it’s entirely free to attend!

For even more great ideas, check the sections below on things to do at night or things to do for free in May.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN MAY

Here’s a handful of free fun and interesting things you can do in May in New Orleans.

Be sure to look through this whole post for even more ideas such as Jammin’ on Julia, pay-what-you-wish walking tours and more.

 

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If you’re working with a budget, a New Orleans tourist pass is one of the best ways to save money on some of the best activities in the city.

For even more great ideas, make sure to read our full post covering free things to do in New Orleans.


Go to Bayou Boogaloo

Enjoy the warm weather and the waterfront with a free concert with a great line up!

The Bayou Boogaloo is a three-day event to celebrate what NOLA does best – music and food – located on the banks of Bayou St. John.

And it’s not just music! There’s also a section with local artists selling stoneware, woodworking and voodoo dolls!

Even though this event is free, donations at the door are accepted to keep this annual event happening.

You can learn more about this area of mid-city on our self-guided walking tour of Bayou St. John.


Head to Wednesday at the Square

The spring series of Wednesday at the Square will be running until May 13th, so you’ll have two opportunities to enjoy live music for free at this event.

Each of these concerts will begin at 5 pm and run until about 8 pm, making this an excellent activity to enjoy after dark.

The following local bands are scheduled to play this month:

  • May 6: Partners-N-Crime and the Big Easy Bounce Band
  • May 13: Lost Bayou Ramblers

Since admission is free, all you have to do is visit Lafayette Square on the first two Wednesday nights in May.

TIP: If you’re interested in hearing some free live music, don’t forget that there will be several opportunities to hear Jazz at the Ritz.


Go to a Free Art Gallery

There will be a few different art galleries available to enjoy for free during the month of May. We recommend these two:

The Historic New Orleans Collection – This museum has a permanent exhibit that is always free to visit, and also has visiting exhibits.

First Fridays at Newcomb Art Museum – While this museum is always free to visit, they also offer a free tour on the first Friday of every month. 

Sculpture Garden – Outside of NOMA and no tickets are required for this outdoor exhibit! Perfect for a day in May!


Hear Some Free Live Jazz at the Ritz

If you want to hear some of the best jazz in New Orleans, Jeremy Davenport headlines at the Ritz-Carlton for several performances each week.

Each event is free to attend, but you may want to bring some money for drinks and other refreshments.

Schedule

  • Daily for Afternoon Tea at 11 am & 2:30 pm
  • Wednesday & Thursday from 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm
  • Friday & Saturday from 9 pm – 1 am

TIP: You can also see a live jazz performance for free every Tuesday at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.


Attend a Free Wine Tasting

Every Wednesday night from 6 pm – 8 pm, Faubourg Wines offers a free opportunity to try several wines. 

No reservations are required, so all you have to do is show up and start tasting whatever is being offered. 

NOTE: If you’re interested in learning more about the most popular drinks in this city, consider taking our New Orleans Cocktail tour.


Go on a Free Swamp Hike

If you’re up for a 30-45 minute drive, consider heading to either the Barataria Preserve or Bayou Sauvage.

Each location is free to visit and there are several great trails to walk. 

There is also a small swamp in City Park that won’t cost a dime to explore.

Visitors who are up for more than just a hike can also enjoy activities such as bird watching, self-guided tours, and canoe trips. 

While some of these ideas might not be free, they’re definitely fun and you won’t be charged a thing for access to the swamps.

Not quite confident in your ability to navigate the swamplands? Consider taking a professional swamp tour instead!

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

This section will cover some of the best activities you can enjoy in New Orleans after dark this May.

Don’t forget to check our other sections for ideas like free wine tasting, Wednesday at the Square, live jazz at the Ritz, Jammin’ on Julia, concerts, musicals, sporting events and more.

 

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For even more great ideas, take a look at our full post covering things to do at night in New Orleans.


Take a Nighttime Sightseeing Tour

New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in the United States, so it makes sense that there are a lot of ghastly stories tied to its history.

If you want to learn about some of the supernatural tales that were born here, consider taking our pay-what-you-want French Quarter Ghost Tour. This tour is available twice a night at 7:30 pm and 8:15 pm.

Alternatively, you can also take either a voodoo tour or a vampire tour. There is also a haunted bus tour and a haunted pub crawl.

No matter how you want to experience the spooky history of New Orleans, there’s probably an outing available.

NOTE: There are haunted tours available with both the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Pass.


Go on an Evening Jazz Cruise

Each cruise service offered at night includes live jazz music, creating a wonderful atmosphere to enjoy the view or even do a bit of dancing.

You can also choose to get dinner while on your outing, as both major riverboats in the city offer a great buffet full of fantastic local foods.

  • Tickets w/out Dinner: $48/Adults | $24/Children
  • Tickets w/Dinner: $79-$84/Adults | $34-$38/Children
  • Evening Cruise Hours: 7 pm – 9 pm
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

TIP: This service is actually included with both major New Orleans tourist passes, which could save you a lot of money on the normal ticket prices.


Enjoy a Swamp Tour at Night

Starting in May, Cajun Encounters will be offering swamp tours after dark. This service will take you out on Honey Island Swamp at night to see a different side of the swamplands.

Much of the wildlife in this area are nocturnal, so you might even see more after the sun goes down than you would during the day.

You can purchase tickets either with a pick-up option or with your own transportation.

  • Tickets w/out Pick-up: $30.50 Adults | $20.50/Children
  • Tickets w/ Pick-up: $57.50/Adults | $37.50/Children
  • Tour time: 7:30 pm
  • Return time: 10 pm
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

NOTE: Cajun Encounters also offers combo tickets you might want to look at if you’re planning to do more than just a swamp tour.


See the Mixtape Tour

If you grew up in the late ’80s or early ’90s, this may be the most nostalgic concert available throughout the entire month.

The Mixtape Tour includes bands such as New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Naughty by Nature.

These iconic musical groups will be taking their act to the Smoothie King Center this May.


See The Bachelor Live

Fans of The Bachelor will be happy to hear that a live taping of this reality show will take place on May 13, 2020, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts.

Tickets start at $85 and the show will begin at 7:30 pm, making this one of the best things to do after dark during the month of May.


Attend Thursdays at Twilight

In addition to all of the concerts and music festivals taking place this month, City Park will also be hosting their weekly Thursdays at Twilight concert series.

The following musical artists will be performing in May:

  • The Yat Pack | May 7th
  • Creole String Beans | May 14th
  • Julio and Cesar | May 21st
  • Ronnie Kole | May 28th

Tickets are only $10 per person and there are limited seats available, so you might want to purchase admission well ahead of time.

Music will begin at 6 pm and continue until the sun goes down.

If you’re looking for more activities in this neighborhood, take a look at our guide to City Park.

For more nighttime fun, make sure to check our post on things to do at night in New Orleans.  

 


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FAMILY-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO IN MAY

The following section will include several activities and events that families might enjoy during the month of May in New Orleans.

Check some of our other sections for additional ideas such as Wednesday at the Square, a free swamp hike, New Orleans Jazz Fest, sporting events, and more.

 

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If you’re looking for even more family-friendly ideas, make sure to read our full post covering things to do with kids in New Orleans.


Beat the Heat at Audubon Zoo

Spring marks the opening of Cool Zoo, a waterpark in Audubon Zoo which gives kids the opportunity to cool down after a long day looking at all the animals.

There will also be a Mother’s Day celebration complete with a concert starring Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans. Mothers of all ages will receive free admission to both this event and the zoo.

Roughly a week later, the Audubon Zoo will be celebrating Endangered Species Day. There will be several demonstrations and interactive activities to help guests learn more about conservation and protecting our planet.

TIP: Tickets to Audubon Zoo are included with both the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Pass.


Celebrate the Beginning of Sno-ball Season

With the weather warming up, this is the perfect time to grab a sno-ball at one of the many stands that will be opening up for the summer.

This is one of the most popular ways to beat the heat in New Orleans, and there are a lot of great flavor varieties to try.

In addition to being a surefire hit among children, this is also a very affordable activity. Most sno-balls are around $5 or less, so it won’t cost much to grab a few for your kids.

Check this list of the best sno-ball stands to find a great location near you.


Spend Memorial Day at the WW2 Museum

There’s no better way to commemorate the sacrifice of our Veterans than to celebrate Memorial Day at the National WW2 Museum.

This is one of the best museums in the city, and it focuses on one of the most important wars in the history of the United States.

This museum typically holds a special ceremony or event in honor of Memorial Day, including music, speeches, presentations and a moment of silence for our fallen heroes.

Admission is usually free for service members on this day and it is always free for WW2 veterans.

NOTE: Tickets are included with both the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Pass, so it should be pretty easy to save money on admission.


Visit the Insectarium

The Audubon Insectarium at the old US Customs House offers children a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about insects in the world around them.

You can explore the butterfly garden, swamps of Louisiana, and even a Termite gallery! There is even a cooking show where chefs incorporate bugs into the meals!

If your budget is a concern, tickets are included with both the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Pass.

You can also get combo tickets for the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium and Insectarium at a heavy discount when purchased in a package.


Celebrate National Shrimp Day

May 10th is National Shrimp Day, and New Orleans is the perfect place to celebrate this occasion.

One of the most popular ways and very affordable ways to eat shrimp in NOLA is on a Po-Boy. If you’re interested, make sure to read our post on the best Po-Boys in New Orleans.

NOTE: We offer a pay-what-you-want French Quarter food tour that covers a variety of restaurants that serve seafood – including several dishes with shrimp.

 


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About the author

Manager | New Orleans

Sarah first moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in the communities of New Orleans she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife, and most of all history.

Sarah began her career with FTBF, first as a guide, then as an owner/operator. She believes every day is a good day if she gets to impart her love of her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially likes to convert new Who Dat Saints Fans!