The Best Things to do in New Orleans This January
For me, New Orleans in January means one thing: Mardi Gras is coming. It’s kind of a slow unofficial start out the gate on January 6th (King’s Day), lasts a hazy and unknown eternity (okay, 46 days exactly), and ends in a raucous, drunken, even hazier abruptness on Fat Tuesday.
But January in New Orleans definitely isn’t only about Mardi Gras. 2018 marks the tricentennial of New Orleans, and brings with it a swath of events celebrating the city’s storied past, plus extra loud (and big) celebrations at any of our regular activities and events. You heard it here first, for the city’s 300th birthday, we’ll be partying like it’s 1718.
What to do in New Orleans in January really depends on your interests. Everything from getting outdoors to getting loaded up on king cake is available if you know where to look. So, without further ado, here is your guide to New Orleans in January.
The Best Things to do in New Orleans This January
>>What to Bring
So for your visit to New Orleans in January, keep in mind that our weather is as fly-by-night as our politicians. This year the weather’s been particularly chilly and wet (which makes it feel even colder than it is), so be sure to bring sturdy shoes that’ll keep your feet dry, and some warm clothes. But also bring summer clothes… just bring it all.
Average High: 62 F / 17 C
Average Low: 45 F / 7 C
As I mentioned, there’s a lot of great Mardi Gras activities happening in January, which means lots of opportunities to dress your best. I don’t mean heels and suits. I mean like, that feather boa sitting in the bottom of your closet? Yeah, you’ll want that. Haven’t put away your Halloween masks, wigs, hilarious costumes? Me either. Bring it all! You’ll want it for Krewe du Vieux and Phunny Phorty Phellows.
1 | Get a Jump Start on Your Resolutions
New Orleans has a lot of great parks, and January just about the best month to go explore them. January in New Orleans boasts the lowest risk of you being snatched up out of the ocean of New Orleans air by bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and it makes New Orleans outdoor excursions much more bearable.
One of my favorites is Crescent Park (seen in the cover photo)-- you have a great view of the city and you can snag a slice of Pizza D’s and some beer in a go cup (if your New Year’s resolution is to live it in New Orleans fashion). But of course, you can wander through City Park’s Sculpture Garden before grabbing a bite at one of my favorite restaurants-- Cafe Degas. Audubon hosts a beautiful walking path lined by ponds and ancient oak trees and isn’t far from a surplus of shops, food, and a zoo that’s work checking out on a nice day.
2 | Get in the Spirit
As a tour guide myself, I always love taking visitors on a history tour of the city. It’s a great opportunity to learn about New Orleans history And a fun and relaxing varmint why are you soak up the city. January was a great time for this because the weather is usually fair and there’s less of a chance you’ll be caught in the rain.
Any good history tour will also include stories of New Orleans’ many ghosts. Likely stops will include Muriel’s, The LaLaurie Mansion (yes, from AHS), And the Ursuline convent. There’s a variety of companies offering the stores in New Orleans, both adult and kid-friendly.
3 | Go Sports!
I may or may not be notorious for asking what inning of the Saints game we’re in, why the ump made a particular call, or how many “points” the Baby Cakes have. I’m wondering how many true sports fanatics are clicking off the page already.
As it turns out, there are quite a few sporting events (sadly no baseball) in New Orleans this January that are sure to make some people click their cleats in joy. Namely, the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day is a playoff game (which I’m told is notable) between Clemson and Alabama*, which, considering all of Louisiana is carrying a bit of a chip on its shoulder… should be interesting.
In addition, here are some great home basketball… matches to check out:
Pelicans vs. Detroit Pistons (Jan 8)
Pelicans vs. Portland Trail Blazers (Jan 12)
Pelicans vs. Memphis Grizzlie (Jan 20)
Pelicans vs. Chicago Bulls (Jan 22)
Pelicans vs. Houston Rockets (Jan 26)
Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Jan 28)
Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings (Jan 30)
*If you don’t know why there’s an asterisk by their name, even you might know less about football than me. Admittedly, I’m a little envious.
4 | Mardi Gras Madness
While Mardi Gras won’t really get ramped up until February, King’s Day AKA “Saturday, January 6th” to the rest of America marks the official start of the holiday, and it brings with it a host of festivities including fireworks on the river at 9 PM.
This year, the celebration is getting started a day early with The Phunny Phorty Phellows who will be pitching the first prizes of the parade season.Their non-traditional fashion is most notable about their crew, which invites parade-goers to don satirical costumes as they watch them ride up and down St. Charles on the streetcar line, beginning at 7 PM.
While not strictly a Mardi Gras parade, Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc rolls on King’s Day at 6 PM, and celebrates the birthday of French heroine, Joan of Arc. And, I mean, if you happen to have some chainmail laying around, you should probably join the medieval procession.
Krewe du Vieux, which is what marks the real start of the Carnival season in Arianna’s-Unofficial-But-Totally-Existing-New-Orleans-Carnival-Season-Calendar, is on January 27th this year. It’s definitely more of an “adult” parade, featuring scantily clad humans donning costumes that are typically both raunchy, satirical, and politically fulminating. Check them out in the Vieux Carre, but get there early and ready to party, because this is a hugely popular parade.
Or, you can get your fill at the King Cake Festival (Jan 28) and feel like a champion (in Champions Square) until you inevitably hurl out the gooey purple, green, and gold mess you gorged yourself on. Wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking and standing in lines while munching on slices of delicious cakes. You’ll quickly discover that all the most notable cake makers like Randazzo’s, Haydel’s, and Gambino’s have long lines (and are definitely still worth checking out) but don’t be afraid to try some of the less well-known samples-- I’ve honestly never been disappointed.
Other notable parades happening throughout January in New Orleans include Krew of Little Rascals and Krewdelusion, so don’t let the party stop here!
5 | Let the Spirit of Christmas a Linger a Little
As aforementioned, 2018 is the Tricentennial of New Orleans (yeah, it’s a pretty big deal). Of the many events to mark the occasion, The St. Louis Cathedral will be hosting the Tricentennial Mass to welcome the new year.
Come in your Sunday best January 7th at 11 AM, and get there early, as it’s sure to be a pretty big affair. Pro tip: grab something sweet from Cafe Beignet after mass to avoid looking like you spent too much time in the bathroom at a rave.
6 | Celebrate the Life of MLK the NOLA Way
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day doesn’t just have to be a day off from work. Join the community for City Year New Orleans' Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 15th to celebrate his life and work.
Maybe you celebrate in different ways. Join New Orleanians for a MLK, Jr. program at Al Davis Park. Afterwards, there will, of course, be a community block party on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
Whichever way you choose, there are a variety of ways you can honor the life, accomplishments, and efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. (and you should).
7 | In 1814 We Took a Little Trip...
I’m hoping 2018 will be the year someone in the crowd will be playing Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans. Pay a visit to the Chalmette Battlefield, and you’ll enjoy a lively reenactment of Andrew Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
Other festivities other living history reenactments include tours, craft demonstrations, live music and dancing, and plenty more.
8 | Sing and Dance into the New Year
Of course, pretty much any visit (or January) in New Orleans isn’t complete without a bit of live music. While the good weather lasts, you can be sure to find street musicians playing throughout the quarter--particularly Royal Street. Then, of course, there are your jazz clubs and music halls throughout the city that will surely help you melt those holiday handles if you’re so inclined.
Of course, Frenchmen is a reliable go-to when you’re looking for late night fun. The Spotted Cat will have Andy Forest, The Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, and The Cottonmouth Kings every Friday of January. While Ashton Hines and the Big Easy Brawlers will be at nearby Maison January 6th, 13th, 19th, and 26th.
If you’re looking for a mix of music and people, St. Claude hosts a broader range of music and some more local flavor. Or, if your more into being the star of your own show, drop into Kajuns and hop up on stage for karaoke.
9 | Shows and Events
Yes, I’m one of those millennials. I might as well not have a radio tuner in my car because it’s always set to NPR. Which is why I’m pretty excited that A Prairie Home Companion is coming to New Orleans January 20th.
As I write this, there’s still time to get tickets for Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Lives (Jan 21). Which, in short, will surely be ste-pendous.
I kind of feel gross putting this here, but I also kind of couldn’t resist. Katy Perry is doing a thing (Witness Tour) January 5th. And that’s all I really have to say.
10 | “Holy King Cakes, Batman!”
Okay, that might be one of the few outbursts Robin didn't have (but it should’ve been). Between January 8-10 New Orleans will be graced with the presence of the likes of Stan Lee and Chris Evans (among many other equally important and nearly as handsome men and women) at the Wizard World Comic-Con.
Though it's admittedly kind of pricey to get in, but if it’s your dream to share a bite of king cake with Stan Lee Lady-in-the-Tramp-style, this might be your last (and hopefully only) gross chance.