Scroll down for details on any of these options.
Click here for a printable version of the map.
Cabs to or from the Fest cost the meter rate, or $5 per person, whichever is higher. Meter rate from Downtown or the Quarter is usually around $10-15. Cost from the Garden District will be more (current meter rates are $3.50 for the first 1/8 mile, 25 cents for each 1/8 mile after that). There are two cab stands at the Festival, marked as A and B on the map above. After the Fest, it's against the rules for cabbies to pick up fares except at these two spots. Expect 10-30 minute lines on most days to get a cab when Fest lets out (or longer on really crowded days).
Here's a hint if you leave using the Stallings Playground location (A on the map). To get on line, you will be directed into the playground at the corner closest to Fest. The line will eventually lead back out onto Gentilly, where they will load cabs from a half dozen spots along the curb. Once you get through the gate back onto the street, listen for the taxi folks to shout out to "move down", then move past the folks waiting at the first few spots, down to the end closest to where you entered the playground. Folks who don't know the procedure always back the line up for the first 2 spots, so groups that move down to the other end will save some time.
The Esplanade cab stand seems slightly better organized. If you're a small group (1 or 2), listen for calls for "quarter or downtown?" as you near the front of the line and be ready to step up, as they try to fill empty seats in cabs heading to the downtown area.
For 2013, the festival express shuttle bus (run by Grey Line) will cost $18 roundtrip per person (or $14) from the City Park location. One way tickets back to downtown are sold at the Fairgrounds for $10(?); they do not sell one way tickets going to the Fairgrounds. See the table below for locations.
Info: http://www.graylineneworleans.com/jazzfest.html or call (504) 569-1401 or (800) 535-7786
2013 Festival Express Bus pick-up locations
Editorial Opinion: Having used both the Express Bus and Taxi in recent years, I just don't see many compelling reasons to opt for the bus if you are staying in the French Quarter or Downtown (CBD):
If you are driving from the suburbs and parking in the free lot in Marconi Meadows, the bus may make sense. Otherwise, Swag says: take a cab.
The Canal Streetcar is once again running out to the Fairgrounds. The Canal Street Streetcar line (#47) runs from the Mississippi River up Canal Street, with one spur that terminates at Beauregard Circle, at the edge of City Park, walking distance (0.7 miles) to the Fairgrounds. On the map, the Fest streetcar stop is marked as S.
Streetcars tend to be slow, but if you have the time, this is a uniquely New Orleans way to get to the Fest. Expect about a 30 minute ride from Canal & the River. Heading to Fest, make sure you get on the red streetcar labeled "City Park/Museum", or ask the driver if you're unsure. On the return from City Park, all streetcars go back downtown. Fare is $1.25 each way. Schedules are here (It's route #48; the Fest stop is labeled "Museum of Art ").
If you are near the River in the lower French Quarter, you can take the Riverfront Streetcar to Canal St and transfer there to the Canal Streetcar line. If you are staying in the Garden District or Uptown, ride the St Charles Streetcar to Canal St (the end of the line) to transfer to the Canal Streetcar.
On Fest days, the RTA supplements the Canal streetcars with bus service that follows the streetcar line up Canal, from the River. Unlike the streetcar, which terminates at City Park, the Canal buses turn onto Esplanade and drop a few blocks closer to Fest. Heading to Fest, these buses run along the steetcar tracks on the "neutral ground" center island of Canal St. Board the bus at any streetcar stop. See the yellow line on the map for the route.
Another bus option is the regular #91 route. To the Fest, the #91 starts at Rousseau & St. Andrew (near Jackson & Tchoupitoulas in the Garden District area). It then runs up Jackson to O.C. Hailey, crosses into the CBD and runs up O'Keefe to Common, then onto Rampart St. It then goes up Rampart along the edge of the French Quarter, and up Esplanade to Fest. (See the green line on my map for the CBD/FQ/Fest part of the route. For a map of the Garden District portion, see the map on the NORTA site). For the trip home, the wait may be as long as the cab wait, and buses are susceptible to getting stuck in traffic on Esplanade.
To meet demand on Fest days, they also run lots of extra buses on the French Quarter part of this route (between the Fest and Canal/Rampart). Coming home, if you need to go past Canal to the warehouse or garden districts, ask the dispatcher or the driver how far the bus is going.
Coming home from Fest, make sure you get on the correct bus. The line that runs down Canal should be labeled 48; the one running on Esplanade/Rampart will say 91. Ask the dispatcher or driver if you're unsure.
On the map, the Fest bus stop for both routes is on Esplanade, adjacent to taxi stand B.
Fare for either bus is $1.25 (coins or bills) each way.
Only VIP's with pre-purchased parking, or handicapped (state-issued plates or id required) are able to park at the Fairgrounds. Cost for 2013 is $65/day.
For street parking, try to arrive early and just keep looking. Expect to end up about a half mile from the entrance or farther. Note that it's illegal to park within about a car length of a crosswalk, which means about 30 feet from the corner. Most corners have this space marked with a painted diagonal line, but even if there's no line or sign, it's still illegal. (I learned this the hard way).
Tow trucks are out in force during the Festival. If you are parked illegally, you can count on being be both ticketed and towed (personal experience). If you are towed, any cab driver will be able to take you to your car. Just tell them to take you to the city impound lot. They may laugh, but they'll know where it is (conveniently located halfway between the Fairgrounds and downtown). If I recall correctly, the cost of the tow plus the ticket is around $200.
Another option is to pay to park in a driveway or lot in the surrounding neighborhoods. Many schools, churches, and private citizens rent their spots to raise money. Expect to pay about $20-30.
Use common sense when selecting a spot. Our first year, we parked behind a small closed store, paying a fellow who did not look like he was affiliated with them. When we returned, our trunk had been broken into, along with several other cars parked there. Luckily, we didn't lose anything of value, but others were not so fortunate.
Some folks charge for the street spot right in front of their house, which belongs to the city. It's not quite legal, but what are you gonna do? Stiff them, and then leave your car there unattended for 8 hours? Not a good idea.
A great option, if you have access to a bicycle. It's about a 3 mile ride from the French Quarter, and there are bicycle corrals at both the Gentilly and Sauvage entrances. Bring your own lock.
Some local shops rent bicycles, expect to pay about $25-35/day, cheaper for multi-day rentals. For longer stays, it may be cheaper to just buy a cheap bike (think Walmart) and leave it behind at the end of your trip. Bike thefts are common, so make sure you have a strong lock.
Most folks (myself included) do enough walking during a day of Fest at the Fairgrounds that they're not wanting any extra time on their feet. But others do enjoy the walk to or from Fest. It's anywhere between 1.6 and 3 miles from the Quarter, depending where exactly you're starting from. I recommend walking on Esplanade St to Dupre St., then head right towards the fest- there will be enough others walking, biking, and driving on that route to make it a pretty safe walk.