What to Do in January in New Orleans

This post covers things to do in January in New Orleans, including free, nighttime, as well as family-friendly activities and events, updated for 2020.

 

 


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. 

For tips on the most popular activities in New Orleans, check out our other popular posts:

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


1) Take a Walking Tour

We offer a variety of pay-what-you-wish walking tours in New Orleans covering a vast array of subjects. If you’re interested in learning more about the city, consider one of the following tours:

 

 

If you’re looking for a tour with a different focus, we recommend the following options:

For even more great outings, make sure to read our post about New Orleans walking tours.


2) Go to a Concert

Many famous musicians are drawn to New Orleans throughout the year – even in January! If you’re looking for a great concert to see this month, consider one of the following opportunities:

 

 

For more great musical performances, check this list of concerts in New Orleans. Alternatively, you can also find more information on our post covering live music in NOLA.


3) Attend a Sporting Event

If you’re a football or basketball fan, there will be several great games to attend in New Orleans during the month of January. Here are some events you might want to see this month:

 

 

College Football

New Orleans Pelicans | NBA Basketball

For more great sporting events, make sure to check this list of sports tickets in New Orleans.


4) See a Popular Musical

Although New Orleans may not be known for having an expansive theater scene, there are often at least one or two excellent musicals to see in this city each month. 

 

 

If you’re visiting in January, you may want to consider going to see Miss Saigon at the historic Saenger Theater. This musical tells the tale of a failed romance as an Asian woman is abandoned by her American lover.

This is one of the longest-running touring Broadway shows in history, and it’s quite popular among fans of the theater.

Find all theatrical productions in NOLA here.


5) Go to a Mardi Gras Parade

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 five 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 Phellows. This wacky Krewe dresses up in satirical costumes and starting at 7 pm rides a streetcar along St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street and back again. The parade concludes in a Coronation Ball.

Along the way, they will be handing out classic Mardi Gras beads to the spectators. Check the Mardi Gras website for more details

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

This is an excellent activity after dark. If you’re looking for more things to do when the sun goes down, check our nighttime activities section.


6) Save Money With a Tourist Pass

No matter what you’re planning to do in New Orleans this month, chances are you’ll be able to save a few bucks by using a tourist pass.

There are currently two different types of passes in NOLA, and each one includes admission to dozens of popular activities and attractions.

An all-inclusive pass will be the best way to save the most money. It features 20+ fun and interesting things to do for a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days). The more activities you enjoy, the more you save!

 

 

Here are a few of the most popular tours, museums, and entertaining locations included with both passes:

  • Hop on Hop off Bus Tour | $39
  • Creole Queen Jazz Cruise | $48
  • New Orleans Botanical Garden | $8
  • National WWII Museum | $29.25
  • Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour | $52
  • Audubon Butterfly Garden | $24
  • New Orleans Jazz Museum | $6
  • Audubon Aquarium | $32
  • Mardi Gras World | $21.50
  • Audubon Zoo | $24
  • And more!

Alternatively, you can purchase a flex pass which allows you to pay one flat price for a set number of attractions (2, 3, 4, 5, or 6). 

You can also enjoy a nice discount with this service, but you’ll have to use it for the most expensive activities possible in order to get the best deal.

Depending on how you use these passes, you should be able to save anywhere from 10% – 50% off general admission prices.

For more information, please read our post covering New Orleans tourist passes.


7) Commemorate the Battle of New Orleans

Every January, live actors reenact 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 three days and it is free to attend.

Another way to see the Chalmette Battlefield, you can take a historic river cruise on the Creole Queen, which includes a guided tour.


8) Attend Wizard World Convention

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 2020 will be held in New Orleans from January 3rd – 5th 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.

  • Hours: Jan 3rd/4 pm-9 pm | Jan 4th/10 am-7 pm | Jan 5th/10 am-4 pm
  • Ticket Prices: $34.99/General Admission | $150+/VIP Packages
  • Photo Ops & Autographs: $10 and up
  • Up to 2 Kids 10 and under get in FREE with a paid adult.
  • Click here for additional details.

This is a great event to enjoy with the kids. For more things to do with your children, make sure to check our family-friendly section.


9) Pardis-Gras

If the traditional Mardis Gras celebrations aren’t your thing, perhaps you should look into Pardis-Gras! From January 16th – 19th, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of live music, food tasting, pub crawls & 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. 


10) Experience 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.

  • Free to attend
  • Date: January 26th, 2020 from 10 am – 4 pm
  • Location: Champions Square
  • Click here for more information.

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

If you’re looking for more events that won’t cost a dime, make sure to check our section covering free things to do in New Orleans this January.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY

Although several of our top 10 activities won’t cost you a thing, those 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. 


Stop by the Mardi 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.

If you’re interested in learning about the history of Mardi Gras, this is the perfect time of year to do it! Stop by during restaurant hours to see the collection for free. 

See the Mardi 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.

Best of all, most of their exhibits and collections are entirely free to see!


Enjoy a Free Jazz Performance

The history of jazz has its roots in New Orleans, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that you can usually find at least a few free performances to enjoy throughout the week.

One of the most popular options is at the Davenport Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton. Here, Jeremy Davenport performs a jazz set multiple times per week that won’t cost a thing.

Although this activity is free, we do recommend bringing some money for tips and/or drinks!

Find more budget-friendly activities in our full post on free things to do in NOLA.

 


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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.


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, hear 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 will help you figure out 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 month. 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. These events are perfect for families and give younger children plenty of opportunities to explore and have fun.

 

 

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


Mardis Gras World

Although you can visit all year long, it’s even more fun to see Mardi Gras World right before the actual event! 

For those who don’t know, this is the location where several notable Mardi 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.


See 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.

Take the Kids to 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 has exhibits featuring animals such as Giraffes, Jaguars, Zebras, Cougars, and more.

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.

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

 


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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!