What to Do in January in New Orleans (2019)

This post covers things to do in January in New Orleans, including a top 10 list, some free activities, things to do at night as well as with kids and events. It is updated for 2019. 

 

 


TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY

This section covers our top 10 activities that you can enjoy in New Orleans in January. Many of the events listed here are good for a night out in New Orleans, if they are family-friendly, or if they are free, but be sure to look at the sections below for more ideas. 

For tips on the most popular activities in New Orleans, check out our ghost, swamp, plantationriverboat, and dinner cruise posts.

Many of these items are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.

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1) Mardi Gras Parades

Though Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Lent, you can get a jump start on the festivities in January! The Carnival season begins on the Day of Epiphany, which is January 6th and kicks off with four free parades most of which take place in the evenings and are geared toward adult audiences. 

If you are traveling with children, the Joan of Arc Parade listed further down in this post is a good option. 

 

 

One parade not to miss is the Phunny Phorty PhellowsThis wacky Krewe dresses up satirical costumes and starting at 7 pm rides a streetcar along St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street and back again. It concludes in a Coronation Ball.

Along the way, they will be handing out classic Mardi Gras beads to the spectators. This video shows you what it is all about. Check their website for more details. 

To learn about Mardi Gras beads and other traditions, see our post about Mardi Gras and Carnival Season


2) The King Cake Festival 

For those who aren’t aware, King Cake is a traditional dish typically served during Mardis Gras festivities. It’s such a popular dessert that they actually hold a festival for vendors each year. It’s also 1 of the top 13 foods you must try in NOLA.

 

 

During this event, dozens of local shops sell samples of their own version of King Cake for $1 each. As you try out all the different confections, live bands will play music onstage at Champions Square. 

We cover King Cakes on our pay-what-you-wish French Quarter Food Tour.


3) See a Sports Event 

Basketball

In January you have several opportunities to see the New Orleans Pelicans at their home arena, the Smoothie Center. Here are the dates 

New Orleans Pelicans (tickets)

  • Jan. 7 (vs. Memphis Grizzlies)
  • Jan. 9 (vs. Cleveland Cavaliers )
  • Jan. 23 (vs. Detroit Pistons)
  • Jan. 26 (vs. San Antonio Spurs)
  • Jan. 30 (vs. Denver Nuggets)

Football

On New Years Day, the Sugar Bowl showcases some of the best college football teams in the nation. This event has been a staple of the sports scene in New Orleans for over 80 years, and though it can sell out quickly, you can still obtain tickets on Ticketmaster’s resale service.


4) Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans

Every January, live actors re-enact the events of the final battle of the War of 1812, which took place just outside of New Orleans at the Chalmette Battlefield.

Spectators will enjoy period music, hear stories of the battle, and even see cannon and musket firings. The events take place over two days and it is free to attend. 

  • Date: Friday, January 11 and Saturday, January 12
  • Time: 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Free to attend
  • More information here.

Another way to see the Chalmette Battlefield, you can take a historic river cruise on the Creole Queen, which includes a guided tour. Find out more about this cruise here.


5) Take a Spooky Walking Tour

New Orleans is regarded as one of the most haunted cities in the United States.  What better time to take a tour that will give you the chills than the winter month of January!

 

 

All of our tours are pay-what-you-wish, and they are all offered several times per week. Reservations are required so make sure to secure your spot in one of the following tours ahead of time to avoid missing out.

TIP: For more information about New Orleans’ dark side, read our full posts about haunted tours in New Orleans and Visiting the Voodoo Museum.


6) Attend a Concert 

New Orleans is known for its great local music scene but you can also hear some top performers here. Here are a few of the more popular concerts/performances happening this month:

For more concerts, check our post about finding live music in New Orleans.


7) Wizard World 

Comic conventions are becoming more of a common sight nowadays, and Wizard World is one of the most prominent names in the business. Their first convention of 2019 will be held in New Orleans from January 4th – 6th at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. 

In addition to the local businesses that will no doubt be on display, you can also expect to meet quite a few celebrities at this event. Stars from some of the most popular movies and tv shows will be in attendance.

  • Dates: Friday, Jan. 4, 4 pm – 9 pm |Saturday, Jan. 5, 10 am – 7 pm | Sunday, Jan. 6 10 am – 4 pm
  • Ticket Price: $40 Friday | $55 for Saturday | $50 for Sunday | $80 for all 3 days
  • Up to 2 Children, 10 and under, get in free when accompanied by a paying adult
  • Click here for additional information

8) Pardis-Gras

If the traditional Mardis Gras celebrations aren’t your thing, perhaps you should look into Pardis-Gras! From January 17th – 20th, 2019, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of live music, food tasting, pub crawls and more. 

Although this event is intended to celebrate the singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, it has evolved over the years to welcome attendees that simply enjoy a tropical atmosphere.

As a result, you don’t have to be a member of any particular group to take place in this activity. 


9) Take a Bus Tour

Bus tours are a great way to see a lot of New Orleans in a comfortable and warm setting. There are many different kinds of bus tours at various price points. Bus tours are particularly good if you are traveling with young children as they may tire quickly. 

Our post about the many New Orleans Bus Tours is a good place to start when deciding if a bus tour is right for you.

 

 

One of our favorites is the Cajun Encounters City and Cemetery Tour. This tour begins on Canal Street and covers neighborhoods like the Central Business District, the French Quarter, the Treme, Frenchman Street, and Faubourg Marigny as well as the Garden District. 


10) Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In 2019, January 21st is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and New Orleans celebrates the life of this historic civil rights leader with many special events.

The city hosts its annual official parade and some museums, like the Louisiana Children’s Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, will have free entry along with special activities.

See the city’s official website for a calendar of events.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY

Although several of our top 10 activities won’t cost you a thing, such as the early parades, the Battle of New Orleans commemorations, the King Cake Festival and a trip to the Historic New Orleans Collection, these aren’t the only free events you can enjoy in New Orleans this January.

 

 

Also, check out our guide to visiting New Orleans on a budget and our list of free things to do in Nola for more free and almost-free ideas. 


First Saturday Art Walk

Discover some of the most wonderful art that NOLA has to offer for free! On the first Saturday of every month, Arts District New Orleans opens its doors to visitors and provides a free art walk from 6 pm – 9 pm. See a variety of work from contemporary artists and learn all about their historical influence.

If you happen to miss this event, check out our pay-what-you-like Music, Arts and More Tour which explores the Tremé, French Quarter, and Marigny neighborhoods. This walking tour takes place every Friday and Saturday at 2:30 pm.

We also have this tour available in a GPS-enabled audio tour which you can take any time. 


Stop by the Mardis Gras Museum

The timing is perfect as you are experiencing New Orleans during Carnival Season. This museum is located at the famous Arnaud’s Restaurant and includes more than two dozen historic costumes and other memorabilia. Stop by during restaurant hours to see the collection for free. See the Mardis Gras Museum website for more information. 


Check Out the Historic New Orleans Collection

Whether you’re interested in history or art, the Historic New Orleans Collection is definitely worth a visit. Their permanent collection is distinguished and their temporary exhibitions are always intriguing.


Free Comedy at the House of Blues

Whether you’ve got a set you want to try out or you just feel like laughing, the House of Blues offers an Open Mic night entitled Comedy Gold every Wednesday night at 8 pm. Not only is it free for comedians to come and test out their material, but it’s also free for the audience to laugh and jeer as they wish. 

The House of Blues is located on 225 Decatur Street in the French Quarter. Before or after the comedy show, explore the district using our Self-Guided Tour of the French Quarter


Save Money with a Tourist Pass

If you plan on seeing many attractions, you could easily save so much money with an all-inclusive tourist pass that you will eventually receive free tickets for several activities.

We’ll use the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass all-inclusive pass as an example. It is currently $69 for a one day pass for adults which will grant you access to the following locations:

  • Audubon Aquarium | $30.85
  • Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour | $39
  • Total Value | $69.85

If these were the only two services you used, you would still get your money’s worth. However, chances are you’ll have more than enough time to include the following activities without paying a dime extra:

  • Creole Queen Cruise | $34
  • Mardi Gras World | $21.50
  • National WWII Museum | $27.81
  • Additional Value | $83.31
  • Additional Cost | FREE

Needless to say, these tourist passes are a great way to save money and get some of your tickets for free. Read more about this opportunity on our New Orleans City Pass post.

Be sure to check out our master post on free things to do in New Orleans for many more budget-friendly ideas.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN JANUARY

In addition to all the parades and krewe celebrations, the evening events of Jimmy Buffet-themed Pardis-Gras and Comic-Con taking place at night in January, there are also a few live performances and events to consider.

Be sure to check out our definitive guide to things to do at night in NOLA, including our night tours, as well as tips on hearing live music in the city.

 

 


See a Musical

Two fantastic Broadway musicals touch down in New Orleans in January. From Jan. 8-13, 2019, you can see Les Miserables, the classic musical about peasants in post-Revolutionary France struggling to survive. The show is at the renown Saenger Theatre. Purchase tickets here.

For something a little less depressing, you can see Rock of Ages, which was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show features the big rock bands of the 1980s, like Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister, and more. It’s a fun, singalong, dance-along kind of show.

It will be at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on Saturday, January 5th at 8 pm (with a second show on Sunday, January 6 at 2 pm). Purchase tickets here.


Take in the sights and sounds of Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street is great for live music, food, and drinks. There are dozens of places to try local cuisine, here the sounds of the city at clubs and plenty of watering holes to enjoy bourbon and other spirits. Our guide to Frenchmen Street and the Marigny tells you where to go to enjoy it all. 

TIP: You can find out about other great venues to hear live music from our post on Music performances in New Orleans


Visit the Art Market

While you are on Frenchmen Street, this is one of the more interest stops. Known colloquially as the Art Garage, this market welcomes artists who wish to sell their work. They also host several events and art shows at various times throughout the years. It’s free to visit and look around. There is more information on their website, Art Garage.


See a Burlesque Show

Burlesque shows are more popular in NOLA than ever before. You’ll even find a few locations taking a neo-burlesque approach with a brand of entertainment that is very similar to circus arts.

If you’re in the mood for a fun and interesting night on the town, check this list of the Top 10 Burlesque Shows in New Orleans.

You can find more ideas from our guide to Things to Do at Night in New Orleans

 


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FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

Below is our list of things to do with kids in January.  Most of these attractions are not free, but they are very well priced. These events are perfect for families and give younger children plenty of opportunities to explore and have fun while they learn about various subjects such as fairy tales, animals and more! 

Previously mentioned activities that are also family-friendly are the Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans, Wizards World Comic-Con, and the King Cake Festival

We also have a guide to New Orleans with kids for more family-friendly ideas for any time of year.


Krewe of Joan of Arc Parade

As the name suggests, this event celebrates the birthday of St. Joan of Arc. Members of the parade are usually found wearing gold clothing based on a medieval theme and eating king cake.

There are three theatrical stops during the parade, and we recommend visiting one of those locations to get the best view of the show. Not only is this event free to enjoy from the sidelines, but it could also be educational, making it a somewhat family-friendly experience. Here is a short video of the parade.

  • Ticket Price: Free
  • Starts at 7 pm on Saturday, January 6, 2019
  • See their website for additional information

Mardis Gras World

Although you can visit all year long, it’s, even more, fun to see Mardis Gras World right before the actual event! For those who don’t know, this is the location where several notable Mardis Gras floats have been created over the course of over 75 years.

 

 

Take a trip through the history of this celebration and find out how they build the floats that you see during the parade. Tours of the studio are affordable and fun for guests of all ages. See our detailed post for more information.

TIP: Mardi Gras World is included for free with both the New Orleans Sightseeing Pass and the New Orleans Power Pass. For more information, check out our post on discount passes in New Orleans.


Storyland in City Park

Have your children heard the tales of Peter Pan and Captain Hook? Do they know about Pinocchio and Cinderella? If so, Storyland will give them an opportunity to see these fairy tales come to life! Everywhere you look, you’ll find displays related to popular children’s stories from throughout the ages.

Give your kids the chance to meet the three little pigs and climb Jack & Jill’s hill. As if that weren’t interesting enough, a ticket to Storyland also includes admission to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park!

  • Ticket Prices: $4 per person | Kids 36″ and smaller get in for free
  • Availability: Daily from 10 am – 5 pm
  • Tickets include admission to Carousel Gardens Amusement Park
  • Click here for additional information

Audubon Zoo

Although they aren’t hosting any events, in particular, a trip to the zoo could be quite exciting for younger visitors. The Audubon Zoo recently welcomed a new Gorilla, and they also have exhibits featuring animals such as Giraffes, Jaguars, Zebras, Cougars, and Asian Elephants.

In addition to these animals, they also have an Aquarium and an Insectarium which offer a rare look at both aquatic and insect life. Tickets for each of these attractions must be purchased separately, but they do offer a combo ticket for both the Aquarium and Zoo.

To find out about ticket prices, hours and other information, see our post about the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.


Girl Scout/Boy Scout Day

If you’ve got any Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts in your family, they may want to celebrate this event! On January 20th, the National WWII Museum celebrates their annual Girl Scouts Day, offering a variety of special presentations and activities for visitors. One week later on January 27th, the museum celebrates Boy Scouts Day and provides similar services for them. Each of these events will be free for scouts in uniform and discounted for families. Who knows? This could even count toward a merit badge!

  • Ticket Prices: FREE for Scouts in Uniform | $5 for non-Scout Children | $10 for Adults w/ Scouts
  • The Museum operates from 10 am – 2 pm
  • This is a great educational opportunity for families
  • Click here for more details about visiting the museum

We also have a guide to New Orleans with kids for more family-friendly ideas for any time of year.

 


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