New Orleans
Bop around at the Jazz Festival

From the March 26, 2001 Issue of New York

The best combination of music and food in America, hands down, is at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the end of April and beginning of May. It's this simple: a homegrown celebration of pleasure on 35 acres of stages with nonstop blues, Cajun, gospel, R&B, and more. (This year, the festival starts on April 27 and features Lucinda Williams, Max Roach, and the Dave Matthews Band.) The midways are thick with food stands where four or five bucks gets you soft-shell-crab po' boys, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and other local delicacies best washed down with ice-cold beer. A highlight every year is the performance (with surprise guest stars) of Allen Toussaint, a man of riverboat-gambler elegance who wrote every rock-and-roll hit that Leiber and Stoller didn't ("Mother-in-Law," "Working in a Coal Mine"). When other stages are crowded, hit the gospel tent, which always has room and is out of the sun. If you can get a reservation, stay at International House.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 504-522-4786 or (Ticketmaster, 800-488-5252; admission $15 in advance, $20 at the gate); International House, 800-633-5770 (rooms start at $189 during the fest).