After a three year break (two years because of the rona!), I got to go back to Essence Festival and let me just say per usual it did not disappoint. This is my third time visiting New Orleans for Essence and I have written at length about my trips in previous blog posts. One may think, what else could she have to say?! So much more! Since my last visit to Essence Fest, the organizers made some small changes that really made the event all the better. So here is my reap of Essence Festival 2022.
For the most part Essence Festival has generally been divided into two different events. During the day, you visit the convention center for interviews with celebs, performances, interactive exhibits and giveaways. Then at night you head to the concerts at the Superdome. Smart promoters fill in the gaps with all white parties and other day parties. Well, Essence has elevated all of this by adding evening events like evening concerts and comedy shows. Other brands also started creating events outside of the convention center which are more intimate and super creative. Each of these new aspects makes Essence all the better.
American Express Event
Speaking of small intimate events, on Friday night we visited the American Express event. It included drinks from Black Girl Magic Wine, bites from famed Chef Nina Compton, great live performances from folks like S.I.R. The whole time my friend Lauren kept saying, this is the elevated grown woman Essence that we have been looking for. We had a funky good time. This event was limited to those with American Express cards. As you prepare for Essence fest, take an inventory of what credit cards that you have that offer perks and keep an eye out for events for cardholders.
St. Jude Event
A college friend of mine is part of the events team at St. Jude and invited us to their brunch event on Saturday morning. It had great bites and mimosas to start of the day. But best of all we got to learn valuable information about the work that St. Jude does particularly for the Black community. I know that we think about Essence as a turn up time, but it is also a great time for philanthropic opportunities too so don’t skip out on those.
Mannie Fresh Party at House of Blues
We were cutting it close, so we did not get to stay here very long, but basically it’s just a dance party at House of Blues curated by Mannie Fresh. It costs about $30 and sells out quickly, but in general I think it’s worth it.
For the single ladies, I typically tell everyone all those men you see at Essence are married! Even if you don’t see a ring, they are married! But I will say that the Mannie Fresh party seemed to pull more men than other Essence events and I didn’t see rings or ring prints so take that information as you will ladies.
We also stopped at an event at Apartment 4 Lifestyle, a black owned boutique in New Orleans and swung through the Shea Moisture pop up. Both were great and highlighted why the small intimate events are the best.
Where We Ate
For our last dinner we opted for an Italian restaurant at the ACE Hotel. This is another popular spot for Essence goers with a rooftop bar and pool, plus large lobby bars. I thoroughly enjoyed the food here and think it’s a great option if you are looking for something that is not typical New Orleans food.
Court of Two Sisters
I arrived to New Orleans super early so I met up with some friends for brunch at Court of Two Sisters. I visited here years ago for my 30th birthday and gotta say its still just as good. The brunch includes typical New Orleans fare, a beautiful courtyard with live music. It’s also in the French Quarter and walking distance to many attractions.
I have been to New Orleans more times that I can count and feel played that each of those visits included Cafe Du Monde and not Loretta’s. If we are being honest with ourselves, the famous beignet place truly lacks flavor outside of the powdered sugar. There are MUCH better places in New Orleans and one happens to be at the French Market. Loretta’s Pralines is Black owned, takes cash, smaller lines and just about every other plus you can think of. Be sure to support on your next visit.
The Commons Club
Located inside of the Virgin Hotel, the Commons Club serves up a great brunch. This is also a great hotel to visit if you are looking to catch the Essence crowd at a cute bar.
The Convention Center
We were a bit confused with the convention center setup this year. On our previous visits, everything at the convention center was free. Now, there are some elements that cost, but don’t like that deter you from visiting. Much of the space is still free including the Beauty Carnival where you get all of the great swag.
They also reworked the space making it bigger and more spread out. Some elements such as Essence Eats were removed from the convention center and hosted at a nearby parking lot as a food and wine festival. The last year I went to the convention center the crowd was almost unbearable, so this setup was a win to me. As always, arrive to the convention center early and visit the popular spots first.
Essence includes three days of concerts and each day is jam packed with so much talent. We decided to only do Saturday night for the concerts with Janet Jackson as the headliner. No regrets on that decision! It seems that Essence is giving more people a chance on the main stage as opposed to the super lounges, as such these concerts are LONG. Like six hours sitting in one seat long. I am not a huge fan of this change, but all and all the talent on that stage is something to be admired. I mean I saw THE Patti LaBelle, Jazmine Sullivan and Janet Jackson all in one night.
As one of my friends said, I’ve never had a bad time at Essence Fest! If you are debating going next year, just do it. From the music, to the food, and the general family reunion feel you are guaranteed to have a great time.