French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
Credit: Karen Chen

The Big Easy is just that: an easygoing, jovial city where you’ll find incredible food, fantastic live music, and friendly locals any time of year. And while there’s no bad time to go to New Orleans, there are more (and less) ideal times to visit, depending on what's on your vacation agenda.

If you’re aiming to catch a major event — Mardi Gras, for example, or the Jazz and Heritage Festival — you’ll have to plan far ahead to make sure you arrive during the exact dates (and book a hotel room before they're sold out). Travelers seeking perfect weather, avoiding crowds, and hunting for bargains will also find some months preferable to others.

Here’s everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to New Orleans.

The Best Months to Visit New Orleans

The Best Time to Visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Hoping to participate in one of the biggest celebrations of the year? To really partake in all the Mardi Gras revelry, you should plan to arrive the weekend before and stay through Fat Tuesday. (In 2018, that's February 13, but this date can fall any time between early February and early March.) That's when you’ll be sure to catch the most popular parades, including Endymion, Orpheus, Bacchus, Zulu, and Rex.

As this is an extremely popular time to visit, plan well ahead: try to make hotel reservations up to a year in advance to get more reasonable room rates, and be prepared for pricey airfare. Keep in mind that many hotels in the French Quarter and Central Business District require a four-night minimum stay. Also, because Mardi Gras is a public holiday, many popular attractions and restaurants will be closed the day of — but you should be too busy dancing in the streets and collecting beads from the parades to mind.

While Fat Tuesday is the culmination of Carnival season, the celebrations actually begin long before, on January 6 (or the Twelfth Night of Christmas). If you’d like to experience Carnival and see krewes parading through the streets, but want to avoid the madness and inflated prices of Mardi Gras, go in January. You can still catch parades, masquerade balls, and parties while enjoying thinner crowds and more availability in hotels.

The Best Time to Visit New Orleans During the Off Season

Winter is a sweet spot to avoid crowds, score solid deals on flights and hotels, and see the city decked out in festive holiday decorations. December and January are the coldest months, though still mild compared to the rest of the country, with daily highs averaging in the low 60s and daily lows in the 40s. While it doesn’t snow much in New Orleans, cold snaps do occur and temperatures have been known to drop below freezing, so be sure to check forecasts and pack accordingly before going.

The Best Times to Visit New Orleans for Weather

If you want to avoid the most popular festivals, and still want to enjoy good weather, there are two ideal times to go: the window after Mardi Gras and before Jazz Fest (usually falling between late February or early March and late April), and in the fall, between September and November.

Go in spring if you’re not too concerned about budget. Because of the idyllic weather and festivals on the docket most weekends throughout spring, this is also the most popular time to visit and you may face higher flight and hotel prices. But New Orleans in spring is marvelous, with the city coming alive as the days get warmer but humidity is still relatively low. You may even want to time your trip with the French Quarter Festival (in early to mid April). This massive, free celebration of Louisiana music, food, and culture features free tours of the French Quarter’s beautiful homes and gardens.

In fall, you’ll also enjoy pleasant weather, with average daily highs in the mid 80s to low 70s. Although hurricane season in New Orleans poses a threat from June through November, keep in mind that severe storms are rare. Barring any major natural disasters, October and November typically see some of the lowest rainfall throughout the year — and the crowds of the festival-packed spring season will be long gone.

The Worst Times to Visit New Orleans

The Worst Times to Visit for Crowds

New Orleans sees the greatest influx of tourists for Mardi Gras and Jazz Festival, which usually fall on weekends from February to early May. Dates for these events change each year, so plan ahead and check well in advance if you want to avoid all the crowds (both tourists and locals) that come along with these high-traffic festivals.

Other popular events linked to thick crowds include the Sugar Bowl in early January, and Halloween in late October, when hotels can fill up quickly.

The Worst Times to Visit for Weather

July and August are the hottest, muggiest, and rainiest months of the year, with average daily highs in the mid-90s and chances of stifling humidity at nearly 100 percent every day. While air conditioning can make this bearable for some, it might put a damper, literally, on your trip. If you think the heat and humidity will hinder your desire to get out and enjoy the city, avoid a trip during the summer.

The Cheapest Times to Visit New Orleans

The Best Time to Visit New Orleans on a Budget

If you can bear the heat, the summer months are when you’re most likely to get a bargain trip to New Orleans. Average hotel rates drop to their lowest in August, and average domestic flight prices are some of the cheapest throughout the year during July, August, and September.

That means to get deep discounts, the best month to visit New Orleans is August. Be on the lookout for slashed rates at high-end hotels and check for summer specials, many of which include complimentary extras such as breakfast and free parking.

During the entire month of August, travelers will also find that many restaurants (including NOLA institutions such as Commander's Palace, Arnaud's, and Galatoire's) also offer “COOLinary” prix-fixe deals: multi-course lunch specials for $20 or less and dinner for $39 or less.

Just be prepared for the intense summer weather. If you want to score a deal by taking a trip to New Orleans in August, avoid outdoor activities during midday and seek out air conditioning whenever you can (pack layers, too, as air conditioning is cranked to meat-locker levels).

If you can afford to wait until September, this might be the best possible time to go, as you can still get good deals on flights and hotels, but you’ll have more enjoyable weather, with less rain and temperatures topping out in the high 80s.