The ultimate guide to New Orleans
If you're planning to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras, that's easy. Just find Easter on your calendar, count back 47 days and book your flight. But if you're heading to the Big Easy for any other reason, it's a good idea to give a little extra thought to timing. New Orleans offers a drastically different experience depending on the season.
Seasons and weather
Let's just get this out of the way right from the get-go. Summers in New Orleans are really, really hot. Average highs are in the 90s, the humidity is oppressive, thunderstorms are common and there's always the threat of a hurricane. Long story short, if you can avoid NOLA in the summertime, by all means do.
Winters, on the other hand, are mild and pleasant, with temperatures usually peaking in the 60s. Spring and fall more or less split the difference, with most days reaching the mid 70s or so. These seasons also offer a break from the rain, which falls heaviest during summer.
Beating the crowds
New Orleans draws a lot of visitors, and for good reason. The busiest season is spring, when major events like Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz Festival draw enormous crowds. Really, Mardi Gras is more like an entire season than a solitary day, and it basically lasts from January to March.
That said, New Orleans is the rare city in which visiting during the busy season isn't necessarily a bad thing. Taking part in all the festivities is a part of the experience, and who wants to go to a party alone?
If you do want to beat the crowds, you have a couple of options. You could visit in summer when, as you may recall, it gets pretty hot. The upside is that not many people visit New Orleans in summer, which means you can find some of the cheapest hotel rates of the year. Your other choice is to visit in fall, when the city is a little busier than in summer, but not nearly as busy as spring.
Best time to visit
Overall, New Orleans is at its best in spring and fall. Winter's not bad either. For peak party season, plan on visiting during February or March. To explore the city when there are relatively few tourists around, go with October or November. Keep in mind that if you do decide to visit during the busy season, the farther in advance you can book your accommodations, the better.