Tet Festival, Mary Queen of Vietnam Church’s annual three-day Lunar New Year celebration, is consistently the most fun, affordable, low-stress festival in New Orleans. When I think of some other festivals, with all the expensive food, tickets, traffic jams, crappy bathrooms (ha!) and huge crowds, I feel my body tense up. Ahhh but Tet Fest, Hoi Cho Tet. You can go with $20 and still have fun; there’s ample free parking nearby (please remember to not be a jerk, as it’s a neighborhood); the bathrooms are immaculate; there’s fun for everyone in the family!
Here’s why I love Tet Fest at Mary Queen of Vietnam:
- Kids love it!
Not only is there a train that rides around the lot where the fest is held, but there’s also pretend fishing, tons of toys for sale, plenty places to sit, more fun games, and kids just hanging out. Last year a nice medical professional made my son Franklin a nitrile glove friend, after he saw Franklin was sad the train hadn’t started yet. Franklin named him “Squishster” and carried him around all day and the next. Try getting love like that at the 17th Annual Who Dat Jazz, Mynez and Zinc Fest.
- It’s affordable!
Numbers make soup in my mind, so I can’t recall exact prices. But you can get pretty full at Hoi Cho Tet for as low as $10! Pro tip: The most affordable things, I’ve found, are at the booth in the front to the left as you walk in. So many carbs. My friend Paul Tran taught me about these beigne-like pastries and I love the banana fritters (chuoi chen) and the pandan waffles.
- There’s so much food to eat!
I been loved Vietnamese food (shout out to my cousins Erin, Farin and Koi who grew up down the street at Gulfway Terrace apartments, where we’d walk to the strip mall on Alcee Fortier!), so Imma go ham. But fa real, I recommend everything. Freshly made sugarcane juice, crepes (banh xeo), boba tea, spring rolls (goi cuon), meats on sticks, oyster shooters (YES WITH THE BOOZE), and of course pho and banh mi and bun. There’s even Manchu chicken! Don’t forget to try balut, a traditional Southeast Asian street food that’s simply a yummy little boiled duck embryo; nem chua, garlicky squares of preserved pork topped with a slice of a chili pepper and even more garlic. I can’t recall if there’s banh chung, the traditional Tet dish of banana leaf-wrapped sticky rice with mung beans and pork. There must be, but I think I get all full and food drunk and forget…
- Entertainment galo’!
Attending Tet Fest in the daytime is lovely, but it’s really poppin’ at night. Or are those just the fireworks? Ha! So much music and dance and fireworks! And I think it’s more fun to visit the gambling booths there at night too. If anyone would like to take me on a date there Friday night or Saturday night, here I am. We can have a tete-a-tete for Tet! Ha! Your treat, I got you next time though!
Here are a few tips!
- Remember you’re in an actual neighborhood with real people who live there. Don’t be loud and crazy, don’t park too close to driveways.
- Before or after, take a stroll on the Bayou Sauvage trail!
- Bring cash. There’s an ATM and I’m sure some booths take cards, but it’s easier to bring cash.
- You’ll find the same dishes at some of the booths, which is great if there’s a line. But definitely visit all the booths.
- See if there’s a somewhat auxillary event to attend. In 2016, there was this great event sponsored by the VEGGI Farmer’s Cooperative and the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation where I got to try green tea shave ice with fresh mochi and red bean paste that was made the night before!
Chuc mung nam moi! If you want to talk Tet and/or be my date Friday or Saturday, hit me up at @megandoesnola on IG! Or Twitter too, if you insist.
Tet Festival/Hoi Cho Tet
Friday, February 6, 2020-Sunday, February 8, 2022
Mary Queen of Vietnam Church
14001 Dwyer Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70129
Friday: 6 p.m.-11 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.