Festival Season Fever

All of Birmingham is buzzing to head south to New Orleans and Hotel Monteleone this spring.

By Lauren Lockhart


We’re calling it: the countdown to spring is officially over. Those who have dutifully crossed off the days on their calendars until the arrival of the spring season know that beyond the warmer weather and brighter sun awaits an even better part of spring. Yes, those who have been aching to embrace spring do so because to them, the spring season equates one thing: the start of festival season. And with Birmingham sitting squarely in the heart of the Southeast, Magic City festival-philes are only a short drive away from the region’s best in music and food festival experiences.

Easily, one of the biggest festival cities in the U.S. is the town always up for a celebration: New Orleans, LA. The cool, spirited vibe of New Orleans invites year-round travel and has hosted some of the country’s leading festivals for decades.

“We are going through a renaissance,” says Kent Wasmuth, Director of Sales and Marketing for the iconic Hotel Monteleone. “People like the relaxed atmosphere when they come to New Orleans. There isn’t a lot of pretense. It’s a real city—it’s got a heartbeat, it’s got character, and it’s got flavor.”

With a legacy as synonymous to New Orleans as beignets and jazz, the Hotel Monteleone has been a staple of festival season in the city, serving as the official headquarter hotel for five major festivals, including the French Quarter Fest, which is known famously as the largest free music festival in the South. This year’s event from April 10-13 boasts more than 800 local musicians and 70 local restaurants participating.

“The French Quarter Fest tries to employ as many local bands as possible,” says Wasmuth. “It’s spread out all along the French Quarter, along the Mississippi river from the Morning Call Café to the aquarium. It’s truly iconic.”

Foodies and wine buffs flock to the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience (NOWFE), happening this year from May 21-24. This annual festival offers food and wine tastings, demonstrations, classes, dinners, and Wasmuth’s favorite event, the Royal Street Stroll.

Carousel Bar“All of the art galleries are open and serving wine and cheese, so you’re able to stroll up and down Royal Street to enjoy certain wines, cheeses, and art,” he explains.

Other notable festivals include FestiGals, the “ultimate girlfriend getaway” focusing on food, fashion, and friends June 19-22; Tales of the Cocktail, a premier cocktail festival celebrating the latest in mixology and bartending July 17-21; and the Satchmo SummerFest, a celebration of the music and legacy of Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong through intellectual seminars and non-stop music July 31 – August 3.

“If you want to have a good time no matter the time of the year, there is always something going on in New Orleans,” says Wasmuth. “If you come here and don’t have a good time,” Wasmuth pauses, racking his brain for an answer, “Well, that would be a shame!” he chuckles.

As the sponsor for these local festivals, Hotel Monteleone warmly welcomes festival goers to stay the night—or two, or three—after a long day of festivities. Says Wasmuth, “When people think of New Orleans, we hope they’ll also think of Hotel Monteleone. We’re located right in the heart of the French Quarter, and our hotel has been around for 128 years.”

What started as a 60-room hotel some hundred years ago has now grown to a nearly 600-room staple of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Beyond its luxurious hotel rooms, Hotel Monteleone also features a new restaurant, Criollo, which boasts a farm-to-table Creole-style menu, and the iconic Carousel Bar, an actual 15-seat carousel that rotates while offering up local libations.

“We certainly encourage people to come in for their entrée and stay for the encore,” Wasmuth explains. “You can have a terrific meal at Criollo, then take a few steps and have a nightcap and hear live music in the Carousel Lounge.” The legacy of Hotel Monteleone runs deep through New Orleans’ history, and a stay at this hotel seems to capture the spirit of the city like no other.

Carousel LoungeWhether you’ve never been to New Orleans or you’re a NOLA regular, consider visiting the city during festival season for an unforgettable cultural experience. You’ll easily see why this historic town is such popular vacation spot for Birminghamians.

“It really is amazing the draw that New Orleans has,” says Wasmuth. “With the close proximity to Birmingham—being only 4 ½-5 hours away—it’s a short drive. You can get here on a Thursday evening for the weekend and enjoy yourself quite nicely.”

This spring, festival season is calling. Don’t ignore it—tap into your inner traveler and explore a new side of New Orleans, a city so close to Birmingham in distance, yet with an energy that feels a world away. In just a few short days, you’ll experience the best in local food, music, and culture the city has to offer, all with that trademark New Orleans feeling of ease.


Hotel Montelone logoThis story is sponsored by Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, LA. Click here to learn more about Hotel Monteleone.


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