Another Essence Festival is wrapped up and a week later I still have so many thoughts! Over 510,000 folks gathered in New Orleans to celebrate black culture, music and just good ole black girl magic! We spent a whole weekend in New Orleans right in the thick of all of the activities and had so much! So here are my thoughts, tips and Highlights of Essence Festival 2018!
Secure the Bag, EARLY
Last year I shared that the day time exhibits at the Convention Center was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. We visited the convention center on Saturday and Sunday afternoon last year encountering huge crowds. So we decided that this year we would arrive on Thursday night so we could hit the Convention Center first thing on Friday morning. We stayed true to that plan, but apparently TONS of others had the same plan!
On Friday morning, the line to enter the Convention Center went about half the length of the Convention Center! Listen, y’all’s cousins were ON TIME for those good giveaways and let me tell you it was worth it! We picked up the cutest bags from a variety of sponsors. Many had great samples of new hair products and skin products that I cannot wait to try. (Check out my haul on my Instagram Highlights)
Essence also revamped the setup from last year! Probably the cutest thing were the Essence Magazine covers were you could jump in and take a cute picture. I would have loved to have taken a picture in all of them, but those LINES. I also felt there were more brands represented especially in the beauty section. Like I said last year, I just love being courted by major brands! There was so much effort in to courting the black dollar at Essence Festival so kudos to those multicultural divisions!
Hotel Monteleone and the Carousel Bar
I was fully prepared to write a whole blog post raving about how fabulous the Hotel Monteleone in French Quarter is. Oh was I wrong! So here is a little context. The Hotel Monteleone is the hotel that Dina gets put out of after slapping Ryan’s husband in Girl’s Trip. It also features the famous Carousel Bar that really does spin as you sip. It is also a block away from Bourbon so it just seemed like the perfect hotel for our trip!
Here are some things you should know before you select this hotel. First, unlike every other hotel in America, the word “double” refers to ONE bed that can sleep two people, NOT two queen/full sized beds. Next, because it is an older hotel the rooms are smaller than newer hotels which I suppose is part of the charm. Since it is in the quarter you will encounter road closures to get home after the concerts. Finally, be mindful of the charges they make under “incidentals” because I came home with two parking charges on my card.
I will say though, that Carousel Bar is a vibe so be sure to stop by.
I consider myself a food blogger first, so of course when a food blogger steps foot in a city like New Orleans I am looking for the good eats! This go around, I wanted to focus on eating at some of the classic black owned restaurants like Dooky Chase and Willa Mae’s Scotch House. We found a two long wait at Dooky Chase and went around the corner to Willa Mae’s under the promise of a 50 minute wait. About an hour in we stopped at a little liquor store down the way to pass the time. Two hours in to what would have been a three hour wait, we gave up on Willa Mae’s. If I ever visit there again, it certainly will not be Essence Fest weekend.
We did luck up and get in to Dooky Chase on Saturday which is when they are normally closed. There were a few things that I really liked like the sweet potatoes and greens while other items just did not wow me. I am willing to go back though because again during Essence Festival things were a bit crazy. For the most part, all of the black owned restaurants were packed which is great it just meant that you had to dedicate more time for your meals. Other spots I heard people rave about were Neyow’s and We Dat Wings. So again, I will swing back by there when it is not a big event going on.
Since we could not get in to the hot spots, we did find a couple of other good places for a simple po boy. Verti Marte is in the Quarter and open 24 hours. They use a great bread and mayo for their dressed po boys. SO good that I went back a second day. Another good spot was Parkway Bakery and Tavern.
So first mistake we made, was not picking up the 3 night packages way back in 2017 when they were only $250 for the lower level seats! At the time we were reluctant to purchase considering they had not released the lineup just yet. Well that was a rookie mistake. Those tickets skyrocketed leaving us to the nosebleeds for 2/3 of the nights. We splurged on better seats on Janet Jackson’s headlining night and it was worth it! I can’t say I am a big Janet fan, but she puts on a show that anyone can appreciate! Other highlights were the Teddy Riley tribute featuring Blackstreet and Guy, then H.E.R. in the Superlounge! As always, Essence knows how to bring together a lineup of good artists!
I typically dodge Bourbon street because it is just a lot going on! This year though, we grabbed some hand grenades and made our way to Razzo’s on Bourbon. That was hands down the most fun I have ever had on Bourbon and it all happened at 4pm on Saturday! While the locals say Frenchman street is better (it is), you can still have a good time on Bourbon!
Alright this post is already WAY longer than I thought it would be, but clearly I have a lot to say! In short, Essence Festival was FUN despite it being packed with record setting crowds. My general advice is plan ahead, arrive early and be prepared to wait in line. Grab a cocktail while you wait and enjoy the celebration of #BlackGirlMagic