Now in it’s 40th year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – or simply Jazz Fest – kicks off on April 23rd for a week-long celebration of music and local culture. While the official event will take place at the Fair Grounds Race Course near the Mid-City neighborhood, a number of unofficial venues through the city will offer excellent music and an excellent taste of the best of New Orleans’ rich cultural flavor. First stop is Frenchman Street in Faubourg Marigny – often referred to as the Marginy by locals, a small neighborhood near the French Quarter known for it’s restaurants and eclectic scene as well as these three must-hit venues.
For over 3o years the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro has offered an intimate, cabaret-style setting for well-known jazz musicians like Ellis Marsalis and the Astral Project, with two shows nightly, seven days a week. Snug Harbor also has a restaurant serving local Creole dishes and a full bar. The building also houses an art gallery featuring works from local artists.
Across Frenchman Street from Snug Harbor is the lively Spotted Cat Music Club, a popular local music venue and bar with more informal setting for jazz and local musicians. It’s small and cozy, but well worth the visit if you want to mingle and drink with true New Orleans locals and listen to some up and coming musicians.
If you’re looking for a lively venue than Snug Harbor, with a larger stage than the Spotted Cat, look no further than the Blue Nile. It’s the Marigny’s biggest venue featuring local, national, and international acts. The bar in the main room overlooks the stage and dance floor, while the upstairs balcony – the only public one on Frenchman Street – offers excellent views of the crowds inside and out.