October 17, 2012


Voodoo Music Experience 2012 Survival Guide

Andy Sheppard
Andy Sheppard

Can't wait for the music and magic of New Orleans' Voodoo Music Experience? Neither can I! That's why I've already sifted through the festival’s FAQ, Yelp, the 2012 fest map, and more, saving you hours of painful research. Consider this your Voodoo Fest cheat sheet, detailing how to get there, where to stay, what to wear, what to bring and, most importantly, the inside tricks to maximize your fun. Oh yeah, and we also got tips on the best hang spots from Preservation Hall Jazz Band leader, Ben Jaffe. You’re welcome.


If you purchased the LOA Experience pass (AKA VIP) then you can get a $50 on the grounds parking pass for the entire weekend. General admission ticket holders will have to use street parking. But beware – there will be a plethora of street closures with fines for those who don’t heed signage. Oh, and if you’ll have space in your car or need a ride, look into Voodoo’s rideshare program.

Taxis are allowed access near the festival entrance/exit, but given the festival's massive attendance, be prepared to fight for them.

Public Transit
There’s a streetcar stop located by the festival entrance in front of the Museum of Art. The only problem? There are only two cars that leave after the headliner finishes, so by our calculations that means .10 percent of the crowd can squeeze onto them. We've reached out to the transit authorities to see if extra cars will be running Voodoo weekend, but as of publication date have not received a response.

Voodoo recommends biking and provides bike racks by the entrance (in front of the Museum of Art). You’ll get to your next destination quicker and skip the traffic jams you’re likely to face leaving by car. New Orleans has plenty of bike rental shops too. Here’s a list of Yelp's most highly rated:



New this year, Voodoo is bringing camping to City Park. Since every festival has different guidelines, we're highlighting the crucial ones to know before you decide where you'll sleep. While camping adds a lot of fun to the festival experience, realize there's bound to be bumps in the process for a festival with 80K+ attendees. (Read: If you're the kind of person who passed on the first iPhone to wait for the improvements, you'll probably want to opt for a hotel). We've also listed the essential elements for camping. If you don't have these or can't borrow them from friends, a hotel might be cheaper.

  • You must pay to camp. The packages range from $150 (for 2 people without a car pitching their own tent) to $2500 (for 2 people to be treated like royalty with perks out the ass) for the 4-night stay.
  • All campers must be 18 and up. Sorry, kiddos. You’ll understand when you’re older.
  • You can only check in during certain times. In other words, get there early or you’ll be sleeping in your car. Camping check-in hours:
    • Thursday 12 pm – 9 pm
    • Friday 9 am – 9 pm
    • Saturday 9 am – 5 pm
  • Your car won’t be parked next to your campsite. Voodoo says the walk isn’t far, but they recommend handcarts and wagons to transport your stuff. And remember rule #1 of festival camping: don’t leave anything valuable in your tent. Easy as pie when your car doubles as your suitcase, but you’ll probably want to think minimally for this camping setup.
  • Open fires and heating appliances are prohibited. Because a drunken marshmallow roast can quickly turn into disaster. There will be plenty of warm goodies available from the food vendors.
  • Leave the couches at home. Just because it fits in your vehicle, doesn’t mean it can fit on your 12’ x 12’ campsite. Voodoo only permits regular sized camping furniture.
  • Pack the Necessities. You will need: A tent to sleep in, canopy tent for shade, sleeping bag, pillow, cooler, camping chairs, small table, food (and not a lot that needs to be kept cold), bottled water, baby wipes, a towel, flip flops (for the showers - yes, there are showers!), a flashlight and last but not least, duct tape.

Even if you don't mind roughing it, know that sleeping in a bed each night seriously improves your energy the following day. So if you're not the Energizer Bunny, or just like AC and a private shower this is one easy way to optimize your weekend. Below are some downtown hotels with openings Voodoo weekend and high ratings on Trip Advisor :

Alternative Lodging
 is an innovative alternative to hotels. If you’re not familiar, the site lets normal people list their extra rooms, apartments, homes, whatever, and rent them out for a night, weekend or more. Ten days out and there are about 80 options on the site, a handful just blocks from the Voodoo entrance.

Couch Surfing is similar to Air BNB, and has a reputation for making friends out of strangers. If you're adventurous and extroverted, this might work for you!

Maybe this is obvious, but JIC, see if you’ve got any buddies who’ll let you crash for free. Facebook makes this easy by letting you sort through your friends by current location.

You might not see all these items as necessities, but in my 10 years of attending festivals, I’ve learned it’s better to be over-prepared than under. Don’t forget to take a peek at Voodoo's list of allowed and prohibited items since every festival's rules are a little different. On to the checklist:

  • Water – An empty refillable plastic bottle or a CamelBak. If you’re worried about leakage, carry it in a Ziploc bag to keep your other items dry.
  • Cash– Aside from merch, most transactions will require cash. Sure there are ATMs, but expect long lines and hefty fees.
  • Spray sunscreen – Spray is quicker than lotion and gives you better coverage. Just make sure you grab the plastic spray bottles to avoid any trouble with aerosol containers.
  • Poncho – Umbrellas aren't allowed, so this is your best defense against rain.
  • Hand sanitizer – You'll be using Porta Potties and sweating all day.
  • Tissues or TP – Because the Porta Potties will no doubt run out of TP by mid day.
  • Phone charger – You never know what will happen at a festival, so pack it just in case.
  • Lightweight blanket - To sit on during down times.
  • Notebook and pen – You’ll be discovering new bands and songs alongside making new friends and memories. Be prepared to jot down those details.
  • Caffeine pills – These are more effective than energy drinks or coffee at kickstarting your day or giving you a second wind. Extra bonus; They don't make you have to pee.
  • Bug spray
  • Extra bobby pins/hair ties
  • Gum
  • Earplugs
  • Band-Aids
  • SPF chapstick
Tim Mosenfelder
Tim Mosenfelder


One of the charms of Voodoo fest is that the summer heat has died down  – average high is only 77, low is 59. But that doesn’t mean you should forgo your tank tops for hoodies. Layers are the trick to staying comfy, and more comfy equals more fun. Bring extra clothes for hitting up the town post-Voodoo as well. The Nola night is still young at 11pm, so rid yourself of the mud and sweat-soaked garb before you head out. Here’s your essentials to start with:

  • Backpack – You’ll be carrying at least a couple of pounds and a backpack distributes that weight evenly. Save yourself unnecessary pain and leave the shoulder and cross-body bags at home.
  • Two pairs of comfortable shoes - I personally prefer Keds or Vans, but many advocate boots. Either way, these shoes should be broken in to avoid blisters. (If blisters do crop up, that’s when you break out the second pair of shoes.) And please oh please, don’t wear flip-flops or heels. Your little piggies will get stomped or you’ll break an ankle. Major festival fail.
  • Shorts – I avoid pants like leaves-of-three. If it’s sunny, you’ll be sticky as hell. If it rains, you’ll feel like there are shackles around your ankles. Long skirts are practically pants. And short skirts? You don’t want to pull a Britney.
  • Bandana – This is your most versatile tool. Pull it over your face to keep out dust. Drench it in water to cool your self down. Keep the sweat out of your eyes. Or make an impromptu tube top.
  • Watch – You’ll be checking the time constantly to hit up your choice sets, so spare your phone’s precious battery and pack a watch instead.
  • Extra socks – Because soggy socks can make you homicidal.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Costume – It's the weekend before Halloween in New Orleans at a festival called Voodoo. Need I say more? Voodoo festival-goers are known for their penchant for dressing up, so join in on the ritual.


Make a Plan
Get the festival guide as soon as you get through the gate and make your game plan for the day. If you’re with a group and want to meet up during the day, agree on a common meeting place for each stage and for the end of the night. Don't expect to rely on your phone, since without fail, it’ll either be dead or without service. The Voodoo grounds only span about .3 miles, so you should be able to move from stage to stage quickly, but still take walking time into consideration.

Break Your Plan
Festivals are about adventure and discovery, so don’t treat your plan like a class schedule. See the sets you want to even if your friends aren’t as jazzed about them. If you’re walking past a band you don’t know, but dig the sound, stop and listen. Just go with the flow.

Avoid the Hottest Time of the Day
If you can’t stand the heat, go later in the day. You might miss out on discovering some new bands, but you’ll have loads more energy going into the night.

Drink Water Constantly
Passing out is the opposite of fun. As is nursing a brutal headache, taking a trip in an ambulance, etc. Refill your water bottles in between sets to avoid a medical emergency.

Douglas Mason
Douglas Mason

Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 
When it’s hot, eating can feel like a chore, but with constant walking and standing, you’ll need all the energy you can get. If you're from out of town, this is also a good chance to explore the unique cuisine of Nola (alligator on a stick, anyone?), so dive right in.

Don’t Overdo the Booze 
Yes, beer and live music are an excellent pair, but pace yourself. Nothing kills the fun like a massive hangover. And how bummed will you be if you don’t even remember the best set of the weekend?

Prepare for the Worst 
Make sure your name, e-mail address and phone number are in your wallet in an obvious place. Consider putting labels on your phone and camera too. Nice people return these items all the time, so make it easy for them to find you.

Live in the Moment
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, iPhones – they’re hardwired into our lives now. But concerts are always better when you’re absorbed in the experience, so let your social network wait. And let’s be honest: You’re never going to watch those phone videos again anyway.

Don’t Be That Guy
This isn’t a private show, so be respectful of fellow festival-goers and the friendly vibe. If you’re tall, don’t wear a top hat. Don’t block other people’s view with a giant inflatable monkey or excessive sitting-on-shoulders. Don’t shove aggressively through the crowd. If you can’t get any closer without groping people, stay where you are. Don’t litter. Just be a nice person like your momma taught you, okay?

Remember the Golden Rule
If you take nothing else from this guide remember this mantra (it came from a memoir on neurosurgery, but that doesn’t make it complicated): “Never stand when you can be sitting, never sit when you can be lying down and always eat and sh-t at the first available opportunity.”

Take Part in the After Party
New Orleans is a late night town, so if you want the full Voodoo experience prepare for a marathon. Get clean after the headliners and check out legendary bars Snake and Jake's, One Eyed Jacks, or one of the many insider recommendations shared with us by Preservation Hall Jazz Band leader, Ben Jaffe. You won't sleep much, but that's what Monday is for.

Got any festival tips of your own? Add them in the comments below!