By Chris Waddington, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
French Quarter Festival (April 9-12) resembles an old New Orleans friend, one valued both for her changeless habits, and her graceful adjustments to change. The 2015 edition brings a host of new details -- some totally cool, some merely practical -- without altering the basic fabric of the fest: four days of free music on 23 stages in the city's most historic neighborhood.
Here are the top fives changes for 2015:
Parking and Shuttles: Unlike previous years, there will be no fixed-rate parking in the CBD for weekend festival visitors and no free shuttles to carry them to the Quarter. Festival organizers expect plenty of parking to be available in CBD surface lots, but costs will vary from location to location. For details about this change and other transit alternatives, see our full story.
New stages: The festival has added two stages for 2015, bringing the total number of stages up to 23. One of them, at Riverwalk's Spanish Plaza, falls outside the traditional footprint of the Vieux Carre. It will present local bands on Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m to 7 p.m. Headliners include Hot 8 Brass Band, Big Sam's Funky Nation and the exploratory modern jazz band, Magnetic Ear. See the festival website for details. The Omni Royal Orleans stage, at Royal and St. Louis Streets is also new. It features music on Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., including such artists as cellist Helen Gillet and singer Sophie Lee.
Dining: Seven new food vendors will join the 2015 festival lineup: Voleo's Seafood Restaurant, McHardy's Chicken, Patois, Squeal, Rue 127, Koz's Restaurant and the Westin New Orleans Canal Place. All the entrees are $8 or less. For a full discussion see the preview filed by our food writer, Judy Walker.
Designated driver service: A designated driver service for intoxicated visitors will debut at the 2015 French Quarter Festival. For those needing assistance, the service provides a $20 discount on rides to and from the festival. Our French Quarter transit preview includes full details about this new service.
Kids stuff: French Quarter Festival continues to expand the range and quantity of its weekend activities for children, with programs set for a tented area at the Natchez Wharf (where Toulouse Street reaches the river); and at the courtyard garden of Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis St. Activities at the river focus on interactive engineering and science exhibits, April 11 and 12, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hermann-Grima House will have music crafts and educational projects, April 11 and 12, noon to 5 p.m. For full details visit the special events page of the French Quarter Festival website.