My first trip to Essence festival was in 2017. I was a tag along with my co-worker and her girlfriends. Since then I have been back one other time and now, I am gearing up to go again. It has become my favorite annual trip. The city of New Orleans creates an atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else. Which makes it the best place to hold the biggest festival catering to black people and their experiences. If you have not made it to Essence festival, you have probably noticed every other black woman on your feed was in attendance and you missed out. Year after year more and more black women flock to experience the creole culture that is found in NOLA from the good eats, cheap drinks and simply a good time; and sadly you are missing out. If you have no idea how to even begin with planning your trip, don’t worry I am here to help, just keep reading.
Before the Festival
Book Hotel Early: Let me tell you one of my best travel secrets. Each year during Essence Festival, I use Booking.com and go ahead a book my hotel online for the next year. 1) Because no one is thinking about next year because we are still living in the moment of the current year and 2) hotels have not jacked up the prices yet for the weekend. Booking.com is my favorite hotel booking site because it gives you the option to book now and pay later. Even if you change your mind about going you can always cancel but you have already locked in your room for my hotel for Essence festival, I book a double queen size room for Wednesday-Monday for only $375.96. The same room 6 months before Essence was $2,007.98.
Figure Out Transportation: Are you flying, taking a bus, train or driving? Essence festival always falls on the first weekend of July. Sometimes that means it is during 4th of July and if you know anything about holiday travel then you know prices will be sky high. My advice is to decide early how you are going to get there. Don’t wait on your friends secure your way sis. If you want to book a flight use Airforable.com. It is a black owned company that lets you put plane tickets on layaway and provides different payment plan options. Taking a bus or train? Use the Wanderu app to find CHEAP bus and train tickets. Also, look at your local travel agent because they use offer Essence Festival packages. A few great groups that I know offer packages
Concerts or Nah? Most people attend the Festival for the live concerts that begin Friday and ends Sunday. I personally have not attended the concerts, but they seem like fun. Around April-May the full concert line up is released by Essence.
What to Pack?
New Orleans is very humid on a normal day. So, imagine humid and HOT weather in July. My natural ladies let me give you the tip that now is not the time to rock the curls. Do a protective style, your future self will be thankful. Because who wants to spend Essence Festival constantly fixing your hair from fizz?
Now what to pack to look chic and stay cool at the same time.
Any one-piece item that requires minimal slay effort will be beneficial for you for the weekend. Think Maxi Dresses, T-Shirt Dresses, Jumpers and Rompers something that you only need to add accessories to create the look.
If you are do not like for your thighs to rub together (GULITY) in the heat, I suggest the two-piece pants outfits. They are usually flowy that allows movement and the pants/shorts option allows for not thigh rubbing.
Now shoes, THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOUR CUTE WEDGES AND HEELS.
The some of the streets in the French Quarters, Garden District, and Bourbon Street are cobblestone. As person that frequently travels let me tell you any type of heel on cobblestone is a recipe for sore feet and regret. But if you must wear heels because that is your aesthetic then go for the low block heels 2.25” or lower. They are very popular now and can be found pretty much anywhere. Of course, pack your sandals and sneakers.
Experiment with your outfits before you pack them and have an idea of when you would wear them. This will help you minimize stuff you don’t need and leave room in your bag to go shopping because there are a million vendors in the convention center, boutiques, thrift stores (YAY), and markets where you will want to shop.
During the Festival
Download the Essence Festival app: The Essence Festival app gives you access to the convention itinerary. The app lets you view the schedule for the entire weekend and rsvp for the events. After you RSVP for the event it will notify you 30 minutes before it starts so you won’t miss it.
Don’t Sleep on the Convention Center: Attend Essence Festival for the Culture. Maybe concerts are not your thing, cool, but there is so much going on in NOLA other than the concerts. The convention center is where you need to be during the day. There are tv/movie screenings for new and upcoming pieces, celebrity Q&A panels, fashion shows, games, vendor events and so much more. Honestly, I skip the concerts every year and just attend the convention center that is where the culture is. Plus, it is FREE! Just use your already downloaded Essence festival app to get scanned in.
Location: New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
900 Convention Center Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70130
Utilize Public Transportation During Essence festival think of traffic being on New York status with Atlanta parking. My advice utilizes a public transportation pass and just travel like a local. The bus passes are only $3.00 for unlimited uses for 24-hours AND you have access to the trolley too.
Step Outside of Bourbon Street: This section might seem weird because the title is about how to survive Essence Festival but now, I am telling you to ditch one day of the festival and go experience other things in New Orleans. Each year thousands of people (in 2018- 510,000 to be exact) flock to New Orleans for Essence but they never leave the comfort of Bourbon street. In 2018, Essence brought in 1 billion dollars, yes BILLION, to the city of New Orleans, but small and black owned business barely saw any of that money because they are located outside of Bourbon street.
Check out my blog on Small & Black-Owned Business to See in NOLA
Look for Other Events: If you are siting out the concerts this year but still want something to do during the evening time check out EventBrite for events. Just search New Orleans and the dates for Essences. This is usually where you will find the celebrity hosted white parties and day parties. Check out viator.com and book a jazz dinner cruise or ghost tour.
I hope you are feeling inspired to come down to Essence Festival and celebrate a sisterhood. Have you ever been to Essence Festival? Let me know in the comments