Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Essence Festival Insider Tips For A Fun And Safe Weekend In New Orleans

The 30th Annual Essence Festival of Culture is taking place this weekend (July 4 – 7) in downtown New Orleans. Created by Essence Lifestyle Magazine, the festival celebrates all things having to do with African American culture including music, beauty, food, and empowerment. Events will take place at Caesars Superdome, The Sugar Mill, and the Morial Convention Center all weekend.

The list of activities at Essence is endless, and includes some of the following: roundtables, conferences, keynote speakers, beauty demos, comedy shows, live podcast recordings, latest fashion, film, food & wine, and much more. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to make an appearance on July 6 and participate in a moderated conversation. Last year she discussed topics like economic equity and maternal health as they relate to the African American community. 

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Famous pop stars Janet Jackson, Usher, and New Orleans legend Birdman & Friends will be featured in the amazing line-up in the Superdome throughout the weekend. A special 30th anniversary tribute to Cash Money Records is planned for Friday night with Birdman as well as a special Gospel celebration on Sunday. 

To prepare for the Fest this weekend, we gathered together some of the best advice and tips we have for attending and how to make the most of your experience. Whether you’re a local or traveling from out of town, here’s everything you need to know to enjoy Essence Fest. 

How and where can I buy tickets?

Festival activities at the Morial Convention Center are free but you must register beforehand. Tickets for the concerts held at Caesars Superdome must be purchased online. On the Essence website, the link for tickets directs you to Ticketmaster, but you can shop around on other ticket sale sites for other prices. Single-day tickets range from $85 to $95 and full weekend passes begin at around $700. You’ll want to buy weekend passes ahead of time because they sell fast. 

Where is the best place to stay nearby?

There are plenty of hotels to stay at in New Orleans, many of which are boutique hotels that stay true to local culture and offer a more comfortable and quiet experience. TripAdvisor is a great tool to use for where to stay. You can view all of the reviews specific to Essence Festival in years past to make the best decision on where your home away from home may be this year. 

However, make sure to book a reservation in advance to get the best deal at the perfect hotel. Some hotels may sell out fast or have limited availability months before the Fest. 

Essence Festival Insider Tips
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What should I wear?

Both the Superdome and the Convention Center have AC, but remember, you’re still in the hot and humid New Orleans summer. Outfits that are light but still embody some of your own personal pizazz are exactly what you should pack for the weekend. Don’t be afraid to try something different like fun prints or a two-piece outfit. Make sure that all of your outfits are something you can be comfortable in all day, or bring a change of clothes for when you’re ready to take off the heels. 

Essence’s own fashion editor has an article out about her outfit suggestions for this year’s Fest. Some of her best advice is to “dress like yourself but a bit more elevated–you never know who you might run into. The festival also moonlights as a spectacular networking opportunity.”

What form of transportation should I take?

If you’re staying close enough and are willing to walk to the Convention Center or the Superdome, street parking is available and various downtown lots will be open. Special parking at the Superdome can be purchased in advance for $47/day. For ride shares like Uber or Lyft, the Convention Center has a drop off zone at 400 Calliope St., but there isn’t a specified drop-off zone for the Superdome.

How will I know what events are happening and when?

Luckily, there’s a super convenient app called E360 that guests are encouraged to download. The app will walk you through and show you all of the events happening at the Convention Center, where to find them, and when they will be occurring. You can even enter into giveaways and receive notifications on your must-see events. 

Who will be performing?

Here’s a list of the artists that will be performing each night beginning at 7 P.M. in the Caesars Superdome:

Friday, July 5:

Birdman joined by Cash Money Millionaires

Juvenile

Mannie Fresh

T-Pain

The Roots

Saturday, July 6:

Usher

Lloyd

Donell Jones

Charlie Wilson

Big Boi

Sunday, July 7:

Janet Jackson

Tank And The Bangas

HaSizzle

SWV

Teedra Moses

Essence Festival Insider Tips
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What can I bring inside with me?

Food or drink purchased outside of the Convention Center will not be allowed in. Bags at both the Convention Center and the Superdome will be searched to ensure everyone’s safety. Make sure to take a look at the Superdome’s clear-bag policy: “Any bag, purse, or briefcase that is larger than 12” x 6” x 12” will not be allowed into the Superdome. All bags that enter must be clear with the exception of medical bags which may be subject to inspection and small clutch bags. The maximum size for a clutch bag is 4.5”x 6.5”.”

Essence Festival Insider Tips
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What personal items should I bring?

Definitely wear shoes that you are comfortable walking long distances in. The Convention Center is huge and could have long lines for entry, food and drink at times. It’s probably a good idea to bring a portable charger, as you may find your phone battery draining after documenting the day on your smartphone. New Orleans is one of the rainiest cities in the country, so bring along a small umbrella if you don’t want to find yourself caught in the rain.

What kind of food will there be?

The ESSENCE Eats section will have dozens of vendors and cooking demonstrations. You’ll find all you need as far as recipe inspiration goes, trying new dishes, or having one of your favorite meals. The ESSENCE Eats food court will be available with Southern vendors offering a wide range of classic New Orleans food and drink, world cuisine, vegan and vegetarian, and desserts. In the spirit of supporting and celebrating African American culture, join the “Where Black NOLA Eats” Facebook page for suggestions on the best Black owned businesses to stop for a bite at. 

Words by Emily Cigan @emily.cigan and Amy Harris @thetraveladdictig

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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