Don't let the four-letter word at the center of its name intimidate you—one need not be a jazz fanatic to love the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. This is no stuffy, high-toned event for music scholars; Jazz Fest, as it's known to locals, is a sprawling, rollicking celebration of Louisiana music, food, and culture held the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. It takes place at the city's historic Fair Grounds Race Course, which reverberates with
the sounds of rock, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, rhythm and blues, hip-hop, folk, world music, country, Latin, and, yes, traditional and modern jazz. Throw in world-class arts and crafts, exhibitions and lectures, and an astounding range of Louisiana-made food—reason enough alone for many Jazz Fest fans to make the trek—and you've got a festival worthy of America's premier party town. Over the years, Jazz Fest lineups have come to include internationally known performers—Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, and B.B. King topped the bill in 2013—but at its heart the festival is about the hundreds of Louisiana musicians who live, work, and cut their chops in the Crescent City. The festival is an important showcase for local musicians, introducing them to fans around the world. For advance listings of artists to be featured and other information about the Jazz Fest, visit the festival website.