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Chill out at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest

It's that time of year when New Orleans slathers up and chills out.

Never mind how spring temperatures tend to sizzle. Get a big hat and plenty of sunscreen and everything will be cool in the Big Easy for the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May.

About the festival

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest - that smorgasbord of music, food and fun - allows music enthusiasts to plan an itinerary around everything from musical lectures and demonstrations to impromptu parties. And, oh yes, big-name acts and niche music abounds.

Fans stake out spots in front of stages or under shade trees at the Fair Grounds Race Track, chowing down on boiled crawfish, po-boys, fried chicken and even sushi.

This year's lineup

The fest itself will be 40 years old when it opens for the weekend of April 24-26. Opening day headliners will include Joe Cocker, Spoon and Marc Broussard. Music the first weekend also includes James Taylor, Wilco, Erykah Badu and the Dave Matthews Band.

The festival's second weekend kicks off on Thursday. Performers through May 3 include Emmylou Harris, Ben Harper, Bon Jovi, Neil Young and the Neville Brothers.

Other entertainment

With the huge selection of music and other attractions - including hundreds of booths with food, art, clothing and native crafts - pacing is important for those attending the event.

Many festival regulars set up a headquarters - folding chairs, umbrellas, blankets - near one of the stages or in shaded areas where they listen to music near a favored tent or stage.

There is also plenty of music and food available for visitors after Jazz Fest closes each day - for those with the energy remaining to do more.

Getting there : Jazz Fest runs April 24-May 3 in New Orleans. Continental, Delta and JetBlue airlines offer nonstop service from New York area airports while AirTran, American, Southwest, United and US Airways offer connecting service. Expect to pay about $300 round-trip for flights during the festival.

Where to stay : Rooms in New Orleans during the festival are at a premium, with many people settling for lodging on the Mississippi Gulf Coast or in other areas of Louisiana.

Tickets : $40 in advance or $50 at the gate

More info : 504-410-4100, nojazzfest.com

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