First I should let you know, there’s all kinds of music at Jazz Fest, not just jazz.
I’ve been coming to Jazz Fest off and on since 1999. I came before I moved to New Orleans, as a resident, and now it’s a good excuse to come visit. I prefer it to Mardi Gras as it’s less crowded and more laid back.
Many bands play for about an hour, but a lot of bands come out and jam with each other and that can go on for quite awhile, producing truly unique and rocking sets.
If you are coming from out of town, book your air and hotel the second you get your tickets as they do sell out. I’ve found it cheapest to book air and hotel together on Expedia.
There are shuttle buses from the French Quarter to the fest and back, but if you have a lot of people, a cab’s cheaper.
You’re probably going to want to see a lot of bands, and if you don’t want to stand around for hours, I highly recommend bringing a chair, something to shade yourself from the sun, and sunscreen.
You can buy beer, wine, and now booze, and delicious, delicious food at a bunch of little stands. Drink lots of water. There are two craft vending areas, one near the Congo tent and one that looks like more of a juried show back in the parking lot next to the grandstand.
These days we go a little less often and buy the Big Chief passes because one member of our party is prone to heat stroke and I’m kind of a princess anyway. The trick with those is to immediately forget what you paid for them. But, they get you access to a shaded seating area at Gentilly, Acura, and a VIP room in the Grandstand. Each of these has a bar and a real, air conditioned bathroom. Sweet deal if you can swing it.
People tend to be really laid back and friendly, so have a good time, make some new friends, and run into some old ones.