National Park Getaway: New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

By Karen Armagost, Park Ranger, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Jazz performers playing instruments in the street
Get in the groove with live jazz at New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. The park hosts live performances from local and international musicians.

NPS Photo/Bruce Barnes

Come to the city where jazz was born and visit the National Park Service site that traces its story from West African drums to modern influences. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is small in size, but it tells a story as big as America.

Take a ranger-led walk and discover the sights and sounds of New Orleans’ French Quarter while learning about the unique mix of European, West African, and American Indian influences that created the city’s culture—and created jazz too. Stand among buildings dating back nearly 200 years and imagine yourself in the multicultural city around 1900, hearing the exciting strains of a new kind of music.
Park rangers and volunteers holding instruments and an NPS Centennial sign
Many of the park rangers and volunteers are musicians and have produced recorded music and books available at the park.  n 2016, the New Orleans Jazz Band traveled the country to give live performances in honor of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary.

NPS Photo/Nathan Hall

Visit the Louisiana State Museum’s Old U.S. Mint to explore the exhibits presented by the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The museum features special temporary exhibits, such as “Louis Armstrong’s Life in New Orleans,” which included the cornet Armstrong learned on when he was 12 years old. Next, take a seat in the state-of-the-art theater for a live performance. You may be surprised to find National Park Service rangers performing—many of the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park rangers are professional musicians who perform as part of their daily duties! Performances also feature area musicians, both masters known throughout the jazz world and young musicians learning their craft, and special guests from around the world. Every performance includes a chance for you to ask questions and interact with the musicians, and most are free.

Rangers at the New Orleans Jazz Visitor Center in the Old U.S. Mint can also share recommendations on where to listen to live music. And once you’ve enjoyed the city (and its food), you may feel like you need some exercise. Come on back to the park and join a jazz yoga, jazz Pilates, or jazz bounce aerobics class. Part of the National Park Service’s “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” initiative, each workout includes live or recorded jazz music. When jazz was born, it was music that made people dance, so the park’s exercise classes are designed to keep you moving to the beat of New Orleans.
Ranger and youth brass band holding Junior Ranger badges
Young musicians of all ages and experience levels are welcome to bring their instruments. Join the fun of playing in a "real-time" performance or earning a JAZZ Junior Ranger badge!

NPS Photo/Joe Stolarick

Explore the park’s website to learn more about the people who created and continue to make jazz and the places where jazz developed in New Orleans. And there’s a bonus for educators: lesson plans that accompany park-produced CDs.

The New Orleans Jazz Visitor Center in the Old U.S. Mint is located at 400 Esplanade Avenue on the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter and is open 10 am–4:30 pm Tuesday–Saturday (closed on federal and state holidays and on Mardi Gras). Admission to the Old U.S. Mint, the visitor center, and most performances is free, so jazz up your life with the National Park Service!

Last updated: April 5, 2017