Beginning in 1981, the free Baton Rouge Blues Festival is the longest-running blues festivals in the United States. Although it was first held on the Southern University campus, it soon grew too big and had to be moved to a larger area in Baton Rouge.
North Boulevard Town Square, where it is now held, is a huge green space that hosts events and cultural activities all year long. With more than an acre of space and innovative water features to beat the heat, it’s the perfect place for a music festival in the spring. And you cannot beat the fact that it is free, too.
The Blues Fest is more than just a concert, though. It is a place where music lovers of all races, ages, and cultures can come together and celebrate what they love together.
Produced by the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation to honor the blues legends such as Raful Neal, Schoolboy Cleve, and Guitar Kelly, locals and visitors from all over the world come here each April to enjoy the music together. You can make new friends and memories with all the blues lovers in Baton Rouge beyond the festival as well at hangouts around the area.
In the past, repeat performers at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival have included OMT, Henry Gray, Sam Hogan, Kenny Neal, Cedric Watson, John 'Papa' Gros, William Bell, Greyhounds, Little Freddie King, and Tyree Neal.
You do not need tickets to attend the Baton Rouge Blues Festival as it is free to the public. However, the event coordinators have put together an All-Weekend Experience Pass that includes many VIP perks, which has been $200 in the past. This pass typically includes exclusive entry to private viewing areas, private restrooms, unlimited drinks including water, soda, beer, and cocktails, free food all weekend, and a one-year membership to the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival is at North Boulevard Town Square on the corner of North and St. Phillip in downtown Baton Rouge. Just a short way from the Mississippi River and a block from the Old State Capitol, the central location makes it easy to get to right off of I-110 and I-10. An hour from both Opelousas and Lafayette and only 81 miles from New Orleans, and you are not far from the Gulf of Mexico as well. Since you will be on major roads the whole way, you should have no trouble getting there no matter how big your rig.
Parking at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival in an RV can be tricky since the street parking on River Road is limited, and the River Center Parking Garage has a height restriction. There are several parking lots in the area that can accommodate RVs, which are accessible by phone. You may also choose to keep your RV parked at the campground and take public or private transportation service to the park.
Next to Galvez Plaza in the square you will find the Transit Pavilion where you can catch a ride from any of the public transportation services. There is even a digital message screen, which displays the arrival and departure times. The nearby Hollywood Casino on River Road North also offers shuttle service for those who use their parking lot. Parking is free and you can catch the shuttle in the valet parking area. You can also check with your campground to see if they have a shuttle.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival does not offer any kind of onsite camping or RV parking. However, you can find several great campgrounds that can accommodate even the largest RVs and trailers. Within 20 miles of the square, you will find more than a dozen campgrounds and RV parks to choose from in this region near the Mississippi River.
Whether you want a primitive and secluded spot in the woods or a family-oriented park with activities and tons of stuff to do, you can certainly find what you need nearby. A few of them have pools, Wi-Fi, cable television, dog parks, full hookups, and planned activities and events. A couple of them even have accommodations for your horse, if you happen to have one with you.
Within the square, they have a bike corral for free valet bike parking if you want to bring your bike to the festival. However, you will be walking while you are at the festival grounds. No motorized or wheeled transportation is allowed except wheelchairs and strollers. Don’t worry, as the park is big enough to have fun but small enough that you won’t get worn out heading to the restrooms.
Baton Rouge is somewhat warm year-round, so you will want to pack some cool clothes like tanks, tees, and shorts. However, in April it can get down in the 50s in the evening, especially by the river. Pack some jeans and long-sleeved shirts as well as a light jacket to be on the safe side.
Bring your backpack or fanny pack to carry your extras like jackets and warmer clothes, a change of shoes and socks in case it rains, and a hat or scarf to keep the sun off your head. Don’t bring weapons, coolers, alcohol, professional cameras, or beach umbrellas. If you have any questions, check with the event coordinators.
Since it is sunny and warm in Louisiana most days, it is best to bring (and use) some type of sunblock and sunglasses. A water bottle is allowed, but make sure it is empty when you get there. Bug spray is also important because these southern bugs get hungry when the sun goes down, especially by the waterfront.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival has a plethora of food choices while you are there from BBQ ribs and burgers to ice cream and funnel cake. However, you are not going to be at the festival the whole time and may need to bring some essentials to cook with at your campground. Bring a camp stove in case the park’s hookups are not available. There is usually a BBQ grill or campfire grill to use, but you cannot count on that. You can find a variety of grocers and convenience stores in town for anything you may need.
Baton Rouge is full of fantastic restaurants. In fact, they are famous for cuisines like jambalaya, crawfish, gumbo, boudin, and po’boy sandwiches. However, you can also find burgers, fries, chicken, pizza, Mexican, Chinese, and seafood restaurants. Whether you want fast food or a nice sit-down restaurant, you can find it all in Baton Rouge.
The Baton Rouge Blues Foundation is the main sponsor of the festival, but local entities like Launch Media, Eagle 98.1, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation have also been known to support the cause. Beverage vendors who have participated in the past include Coors Light, Heineken, Miller Lite. Art and food vendors also stand at the ready to delight your eyes and your tastebuds.
The Baton Rouge Blues Festival provides its own security service and welcomes security from the City of Baton Rouge. This includes the men and women of the Baton Rouge Police Department, who will be in attendance during the festival. In addition, you can call 911 if you see something questionable or need help.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana is a warm city even during the cooler months of spring. During the April Blues Festival, the average high can range from 66 to 82 degrees while the low can drop from 60 to 46 degrees. However, it is not abnormal to see temps as warm as the 90s or lows dropping into the low 40s. Rain is possible during April, but unlikely.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival personnel take your health seriously and provide cooling areas as well as free water fill-up stations around the park. There is a first aid station on North Boulevard and Third Street in front of the Shaw Center. The nearest hospital is only 2.2 miles away straight down North Boulevard.