French Quarter Fest 2018: 6 new things to expect this year

Some new things are in store for the 2018 French Quarter Fest. A new Abita Beer Garden and a new VIP experience are only a couple of the features music lovers can look forward to when the free, four-day festival kicks off on April 12.

Here's a list of new, exciting things festival-goers can expect this year.

Photo courtesy: Abita Brewing via Facebook

Abita Beer debuts a beer garden

Fans of Abita Beer can kick back in the new Abita Beer Garden. Abita is building out a beer garden near the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint featuring a variety of brews.

Some of the varieties include Abita Amber, Light, The Boot, Strawberry, Hop On and 30-90. The beer garden opens on April 13.

Photo courtesy: Flamingo A-Go-Go

Seven new food vendors head to the fest

French Quarter Fest brings together dozens of local restaurants to offer a taste of the city. Festival-goers can enjoy food from more than 50 vendors offering delicious options. Some new food vendors make their debut this year.

New restaurants at 2018 festival include: Café Beignet, Café Dauphine, The Company Burger, The Daily Beet, Flamingo A-Go-Go, and SoBou. New drinks include Luzianne tea, French Market Coffee, Bubly and a variety of Abita beers.

See the list of food vendors and offerings.

Photo by Zack Smith Photography, Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals, Inc

Fireworks and other elements will celebrate the Tricentennial

As an official Tricentennial event, the 2018 festival will offer several ways for attendees to commemorate the anniversary.

On Saturday, April 14, French Quarter Festival will celebrate the Tricentennial with fireworks on the Mississippi River immediately after the music ends on the Abita Beer Stage, at approximately 9 p.m.

The Tricentennial Homecoming Pavilion, located near the Jack Daniel’s Stage, will feature elements all four days to honor the event. The area will feature an exhibit showcasing New Orleans notables throughout history, a hospitality lounge, and the One Time in NOLA story booth.

In Jackson Square – the Hilton Tricentennial Stage features a four-day lineup that includes John Boutté, Ellis Marsalis, and Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns.

Plans for a new 'Gateway to Bourbon Street Stage'

This year, festival organizers say they plan to bring music back to the first block of Bourbon Street, now re-opened after months of construction. Music lovers can check out the Gateway to Bourbon Street Stage in the 100 block of Bourbon Street.

“The goal is to spotlight and support affected businesses,” festival organizers said in a release.

Photo by Zack Smith Photography, Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals, Inc

New VIP fest family experience passes offers perks

The French Quarter Fest jumps on the VIP perks trends this year with a new “Fest Family Experience.” The VIP passes are sold as full-weekend passes for $375.

The pass comes with several festival perks. Members can enjoy an elevated viewing stand near the Abita Beer Stage, a hospitality lounge, private bars with free beer and cocktails, complimentary festival snacks, free water, air-conditioned restrooms, merchandise discounts, memorabilia and exclusive programming.

Learn more about VIP passes.

Photo by Zack Smith Photography, Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals, Inc

New 'Ernie's Schoolhouse Stage' will spotlight rising student musicians

Festival organizers also plan to unveil a new initiative to invest in the city’s young, future musicians.

Ernie’s Schoolhouse Stage will give rising student musicians the opportunity to perform at the French Quarter Festival while learning business and marketing skills.

The new stage will be located at the Homer Plessy Community School, 721 St. Philip Street. Ernie’s Schoolhouse Stage artists include Landry Walker High School, Martin Luther King High School Brass Band, and NOCCA Jazz Ensemble.