Things to do in January in New Orleans

This post, updated for 2018, covers things to do in January in New Orleans, including a top 10 list, some free activities, things to do at night as well as with kids.  January marks the start of Carnival Season, which ends on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day), so January means parades and celebrations.  If you are coming at the start or end of the month, then you might want to read our December and February guides.  

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TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS IN JANUARY

This list features some of the most exciting and entertaining activities that you’ll find in NOLA during the month of January. We will mention if an item in the top 10 is also free, family-friendly or part or a good nighttime option, but you could also click on these options at the top of the page to take you to these sections for more ideas.  For tips on the most popular activities, check out our ghostswamp, plantation, and riverboat tour posts.  


1) Mardi Gras Parades

Technically, Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Lent, but the name has been appropriated for the entire Carnival season, which begins on the 12th Night (Feast of Epiphany), which is January 6th and ends sometime between Feb 3rd and March 9th.  The season kicks off with 4 parades, including the family-friendly Joan of Arc Parade.  Another family-friendly option is a visit to Mardi Gras World, a museum for all ages on the topic of Carnival.  All of these parades take place in the evening, usually kicking off at 7 pm.  Read our post on FAQs concerning Mardi Gras and Carnival Season.
 

 
The first official parade takes place on January 5th. On this day, the Phunny Phorty Phellows hop aboard a streetcar and ride all the way from Uptown to Canal Street and back. Along the way, this Krewe will hand out the first beads of the season as they drink champagne and eat king cake. The Phellows typically dress up in satirical costumes that reflect topical issues. Due to the inclusion of alcoholic beverages, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as a fun family activity. That being said, you’re more than welcome to join in or watch them travel down St. Charles Avenue for free!  Watch this short video.  You could also learn more about this Krewe on their website.


2) The Sugar Bowl

On New Years Day, the Sugar Bowl showcases some of the best college football teams in the nation. This event has been a staple of the sports scene in New Orleans for over 80 years, and it actually sells out rather quickly. Thankfully, you can still obtain tickets by getting a hotel and ticket package. Alternatively, you can also check Ticketmaster for tickets being sold on the secondhand market. Needless to say, this is going to be a must for sports fans, but it’s definitely not going to be cheap.


3) Krewe du Vieux Parade/krewedelusion Parade

Although there are a few other parades in New Orleans during the month of January, this is one of the biggest celebrations you’ll find in the French Quarter before the main events in February. This parade attracts all kinds of artistic minds, including some of the best brass and jazz bands in NOLA. You can expect a plethora of interesting floats and costumes – some of which may involve adult or political themes. Due to some of the more adult costumes that are sometimes on display, this may not be the best family activity.

 

 

Following the Krewe du Vieux, the krewedelusion parade takes place using some of the same routes. As a matter of fact, if you get a spot on Royal Street, you’ll probably be able to enjoy both parades without moving. Unlike other parades, the krewedelusion keeps their theme a secret until the day of the parade. Regardless of the themes, you’re more than welcome to enjoy the festivities at almost any location along the parade route.

  • FREE
  • Krewe du Vieux Parade starts at 6:30 PM on Saturday, January 27th
  • krewedelusion Parade starts at 7 PM on Saturday, January 27th
  • To enjoy both parades, get a spot on Royal Street between Conti Street and St. Philip Street
  • Click here for more activities in the French Quarter

4) 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. During this event, dozens of local shops share their own version of King Cake with visitors. Guests are welcome to vote for their favorite food. Although it doesn’t cost a thing to attend this event, each sample is only $1. As you try out all the different confections, live bands will play music onstage at Champions Square.  So, what’s a King Cake?


5) Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans

Did you know that the final battle site of the War of 1812 is actually very close to New Orleans? To this day, events are held to commemorate the incidents which took place at the Chalmette Battlefield. Every January, live actors re-enact the events of that day for a crowd of onlookers. This re-enactment includes live cannon and musket fire to ensure accuracy. In addition to this free presentation, there are also lantern tours of the battlefield which can be purchased separately. Alternatively, you can also take a historic river cruise on the Creole Queen, which includes a guided tour of the Chalmette Battlefield.  Check out the National Park Service’s website for more information.


6) Hot Buttered Rum Day

When it gets cold in New Orleans, locals often reach for warm cocktails such as a Hot Buttered Rum. What better time to celebrate this delicious drink than on the day named after it? January 17th is Hot Buttered Rum Day, and there are several different ways to celebrate. You could visit one of the many fine bars in NOLA and order the drink, but it’s also possible to make it for yourself. The drink is available not just on Jan 17th, but you will find it in many more places on this day.  Additionally, you can enjoy a guided cocktail tour through many famous New Orleans watering holds or take our free, self-guided cocktail tour and take the opportunity to discover which establishment sells the best Hot Buttered Rum!

 

 


7) Wizard World Comic-Con

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 2018 will be held in New Orleans from January 5th – 7th 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 such as David Tennant, Jason Momoa, and Stan Lee will be on hand to provide autographs for fans.

  • Ticket Price: $39.95 for Friday | $49.95 for Saturday | $44.95 for Sunday | $79.95 for the entire weekend
  • Duration: Jan 5th from 4 PM – 9 PM | Jan 6th from 10 AM – 7 PM | Jan 7th from 10 AM – 4 PM
  • Up to two children, 10 and under are allowed to enter for free w/ adult supervision
  • Click here for additional information

8) Pardis-Gras

If the traditional Mardis Gras celebrations aren’t your thing, perhaps you should look into Pardis-Gras! 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. From January 11th – 14th, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of live music, food tasting, pub crawls and more.


9) The Historic New Orleans Collection

When all else fails, a trip to this fantastic museum may be in order. They will have two exhibitions on display during the month of January, both including historical and fascinating pieces of art. One exhibit includes images of Hurricane Katrina and the devastating effect it had on the region. Whether you’re interested in history or art, The Historic New Orleans Collection is definitely worth a visit.


10) Martin Luther King Jr. Week

The city of New Orleans celebrates the life of this historic civil rights leader with a variety of special events during the weekend leading up to MLK Jr. Day and beyond. In addition to parades such as Pardis-Gras, the Milky Chance will also be performing at Joy Theater on January 14th. The Jazz Playhouse will also be hosting the Martin Luther King Jr. Jazz Awards on January 17th. On the very next day, the New Orleans Cigar Box Festival will begin.

With so many activities to choose from, there should be plenty of opportunities to honor the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY IN NEW ORLEANS

Although several of our top 10 activities won’t cost you a thing, such as the early parades, the Battle of New Orleans commemorations, the King Cake Festival and a trip to the Historic New Orleans Collection, these aren’t the only free events you can enjoy in New Orleans this January. Whether you want to hear some live music or learn more about this wonderful city with an interesting tour, there’s plenty to see and do during the winter. If you’re working with a budget and you want to have some fun, consider one of the following services.

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.


First Saturday Art Walk

Discover some of the most wonderful art that NOLA has to offer for free! On the first Saturday of every month, Arts District New Orleans opens its doors to visitors and provides a free art walk from 6 PM – 9 PM. See a variety of work from contemporary artists and learn all about their historical influence. If you happen to miss this event, you can also check out our very own Music, Arts and More tour which explores the Tremé, French Quarter, and Marigny neighborhoods. This walking tour takes place every Friday and Saturday at 2:30 PM.


Monday Blues

If you’re in the mood to hear either live Jazz or Blues music, there are two options on Monday nights. Your first option is at the House of Blues, where musician Sean Riley will play wonderful tunes without a cover charge. His performance starts at 6 PM, but if you arrive early, you can take advantage of Happy Hour from 3 PM – 6 PM. This event runs until 8 PM on each Monday in January.

 

 

Alternatively, you can also visit The Maison to hear Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses. This Jazz band will be playing live on every Monday of the month from 7 PM – 10 PM. Although their music is inspired by traditional Jazz, many have said they bring something new to the genre. Although food and drinks are not free, you can visit and listen to this inspiring band play without paying a dime.

TIP: If these options aren’t enough, check out some of our tips for finding live music performances in New Orleans.


Open Mic Comedy

Whether you’ve got a set you want to try out or you just feel like laughing, the House of Blues offers an Open Mic night entitled Comedy Gold every Wednesday night at 8 PM. Not only is it free for comedians to come and test out their material, but it’s also free for the audience to laugh and jeer as they wish. Comedians must sign up ahead of time before Monday at 12 AM in order to make the list. Everyone else is welcome to walk in and enjoy the jokes at their own leisure!

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN NEW ORLEANS 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. As a matter of fact, this month promises a lot of interesting nighttime activities! Most of the following services will not be free, but they will be perfect for adult audiences.  The list below includes options that are either exclusive to January or most appropriate for the month. 

Be sure to check out our definitive guide to things to do at night in NOLA as well as tips on hearing live music in the city.


Visit the Saenger Theatre

January is an excellent month for live shows at the Saenger Theatre. On the 16th, The Moody Blues will be playing this venue for their 50th Anniversary tour. Just a week later on the 21st, both Steve Martin and Martin Short will team up to provide “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Lives.” On the 30th, An American in Paris will start its week-long run. With an interesting selection of rock & roll, comedy, and even a musical, Saenger Theatre promises to be a popular location this winter!


Tango Fire

For those who love dancing, The Mahalia Jackson Theater for Performing Arts will be hosting Tango Fire on January 27th. This show features ten dancers and a quartet of musicians performing a critically acclaimed authentic Argentine tango. These world champion tango couples from Buenos Aires perform what one critic called “some of the best dancing you’ll see on stage.” Tickets are fairly affordable, ranging in price from $25-$110 per person.


Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of everyone’s favorite hot sauce: Tabasco! In honor of this memorable event, the New Orleans Opera will be hosting Tabasco: A Burlesque Opera. Believe it or not, this musical is almost as old as the sauce itself, dating back to the 1800’s. Although this show doesn’t exactly explain the origins of Tabasco sauce, it will probably put a smile on your face. The play will run from January 25th – 28th, giving you four opportunities to discover an American classic you may have never known about. Ticket prices range from $25-$50 per person.

 


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FAMILY FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS IN JANUARY

Below is our list of things to do with kids in January.  Most of these attractions are not free, but they are very well priced. These events are perfect for families and give younger children plenty of opportunities to explore and have fun while they learn about various subjects such as fairy tales, animals and more!  There is one parade that is relatively family-friendly. Previously mentioned activities that are also family-friendly are the Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans, Wizards World Comic-Con, and the King Cake Festival

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.  Here is a short video of the parade and you can visit their website for additional information.

  • Ticket Price: FREE
  • Starts at 7 PM on Saturday, January 6th
  • Second event of Mardis Gras
  • Recommended for families
  • Three theatrical presentations:
    • The Royalty Toasts – At the corner of Chartres Street and Conti Street
    • The Sword Blessing – At the St. Louis Cathedral on Chartes Street
    • The Crowning of the King – At the end of the parade, just south of Jackson Square on Decatur Street

Mardis Gras World

Although you can visit all year long, it’s, even more, fun to see Mardis Gras World right before the actual event! For those who don’t know, this is the location where several notable Mardis 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.

 

  • Ticket Prices: $19.95 for Adults & Children (12+) | $15.95 for Seniors & Students | $12.95 for Kids (Age 2-11).  
  • Entry is free with the purchase of the New Orleans Power Pass, a tourist discount pass.  
  • Availability: 7 days a week from 9 am – 5:30 pm
  • Tour Duration: 1 hour
  • Click here for more information

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

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 recently welcomed a new Gorilla, and they also have exhibits featuring animals such as Giraffes, Jaguars, Zebras, Cougars, and Asian Elephants. 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.

  • Zoo Ticket Prices: $22.95 for Adults | $19.95 for Seniors | $17.95 for Children
  • Aquarium Ticket Prices: $29.95 for Adults | $24.95 for Seniors | $21.95 for Children
  • Insectarium Ticket Prices: $22.95 for Adults | $19.95 for Seniors | $17.95 for Children
  • Aquarium/Zoo Combo Ticket Prices: $39.95 for Adults | $32.95 for Seniors | $29.95 for Children
  • Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Girl Scout/Boy Scout Day

If you’ve got any Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts in your family, they may want to celebrate this event! On January 20th, the National WWII Museum celebrates their annual Girl Scouts Day, offering a variety of special presentations and activities for visitors. One week later on January 27th, the museum celebrates Boy Scouts Day and provides similar services for them. Each of these events will be free for scouts in uniform and discounted for families. Who knows? This could even count toward a merit badge!

  • Ticket Prices: FREE for Scouts in Uniform | $5 for non-Scout Children | $10 for Adults w/ Scouts
  • The Museum operates from 10 AM – 2 PM
  • This is a great educational opportunity for families
  • Click here for more details

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

 


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