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What To Do in May in New Orleans

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This post covers some of the best things to do in New Orleans in May, updated for 2023, 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 (#5 below) such as Dead & Company, Tom Jones, and the Lumineers.

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

Baseball

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

If you’re in need of a good laugh, or want to see something on the stage, there will be several opportunities to enjoy open mic stand-up comedy in New Orleans this month.

Theatre

Stand-Up

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 28th and runs until May 7th, 2023. You'll hear rhythm & blues, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, folk, rap, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, country, bluegrass and of course lots of jazz!

You can expect to see some of the following artists:

  • Lizzo
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Mumford & Sons
  • Santana
  • Jon Batiste
  • Jill Scott
  • Robert Plant
  • Alison Kraus
  • Steve Miller Band
  • Tedeschi Trucks Bank
  • Trombone Shorts & Orleans Ave
  • Kenny Loggins,
  • and much more!!

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.  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.

In 2023, the dates of the festival are May 19th-21st.

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.


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. Attend the Greek Festival

Want to celebrate Greek culture, music, food, and dance? The New Orleans Greek Festival is the place to do it.

This spring festival provides authentic Greek entertainment and cuisine, showcasing their rich heritage and traditions.

There's also a Greek Festival Run scheduled.

Note that the website for Greek Festival is currently under construction so dates haven't been released yet. But it's sure to be updated soon!

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


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.


Head to Wednesday at the Square

The spring series of Wednesday at the Square gives you three opportunities to enjoy live music for free.

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:

  • The Soul Rebels + Tonya Boyd-Cannon | May 3rd
  • Nigel Hall + Miss Mojo | May 10th
  • glbl wemng + Letrainjump | May 17th

Since admission is free, all you have to do is visit Lafayette Square.

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 three:

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!


Attend a Free Jazz Performance

In addition to Wednesday at the Square and the French Quarter Festival, there will also be opportunities to hear live jazz throughout the month of April.

The Ritz-Carlton will be hosting a free concert with Jeremy Davenport on Wednesday & Thursday from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm, and Friday-Satuday from 7:00 pm - midnight.

Every Tuesday at 2 pm, the New Orleans Jazz Museum holds a free live jazz performance on the third floor. There may be additional live performances throughout the month which you can learn more about from their event calendar.

TIP: Tickets to the New Orleans Jazz Museum are included with the New Orleans Pass.


Attend a Free Wine Tasting

Every Wednesday night from 5 pm - 7 pm, Faubourg Wines provides a free wine tasting event that includes a few different wines to choose from. 

If you’ve been interested in learning more about wine and/or trying out some new flavors, this is an excellent opportunity to broaden your horizons.

Reservations are not required for this event, so feel free to drop in and taste a few wines. It is recommended to arrive before 6:30 pm if you want to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything.

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!


THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN MAY

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.

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: $32.75 Adults | $21.75/Children
  • Tickets w/ Pick-up: $59.75/Adults | $38.75/Children
  • Tour time: 6:00 (with pickup) or 7:30 pm (self transport)
  • Return time: 10:15 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.

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


FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES 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.

In addition to everything else you can do, there are usually at least one or two special activities planned for the month of May, especially for Mother's Day. Check their events calendar to see what is happening and when.

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.


Temporarily Closed & Moving: The Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

In addition to the zoo and the aquarium, the Audubon Nature Institute also has a Butterfly Garden/Insectarium that your kids might enjoy. 

Located just down the street from the aquarium, this attraction is a great place for children to learn all about bugs from around the world. 

The Insectarium includes exhibits covering monarch butterflies, ladybugs, honey bees, dung beetles, leafcutter ants and more. 

As the name implies, there is also an Asian garden with thousands of butterflies freely fluttering around. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that CNN once voted this the top museum for you and your kids!

Admission is included with each major New Orleans tourist pass.


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

Sarah

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!
Updated: February 7th, 2023
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