Upon returning from my first trip to the Essence Festival, I was left with many thoughts of enlightenment, not only from the immense black culture in New Orleans but also from the many hiccups I encounter that could have been avoided. Looking back I just kept thinking “If only I had known.…”, I could have enjoyed my trip that much more. Knowing what I know now, I feel its my duty to inform my fellow travelers how to enjoy NOLA to the fullest.
- Buy concert tickets in advance
Although it may seem tempting to wait and try and snag a last minute deal, I can almost guarantee you, that wont happen. Essence Festival is extremely popular and tickets go quickly. I made the dumb decision to wait till May to buy my ticket and ended up paying $150/night. Had I bought then in August or September I would have paid $150 for the three day package! That’s a saving of $300 I missed out on.
- Skip the full face make up, you will sweat it all off
I know it’s the hottest event of the season and the pool of sexy singles is never ending…… BUT the
heat and humidity in New Orleans is brutal. It’s impossible to walk even a block without being drenched in sweat. Believe it or not I actually left the house in a full face of make up and within an hour I looked like the photo to the right. (See that melanin mixed with sweat glow?) No point in putting $100 worth of make up on your face only to have it melt off. There’s not a setting spray in the world that could save you.
- Carry a functional side bag rather then a fashionable purse
It’s is a known fact that New Orleans, unfortunately has a rather high crime rate. Wearing a cross bag on you will deter pick pocketers and help you keep an eye on your belongings. Also this allows you to explore the city and enjoy your evenings with your hands free. There’s nothing more annoying than having to hold a clutch covered in hand sweat.
- Pace yourself with the alcohol
It is SOOOO easy to go overboard on the alcohol in New Orleans (especially if you’re from a state in the Bible belt where alcohol isn’t sold past 2am). Imagine how happy I was to learn that not only can you drink 24 hours a day but you can also take drinks to go! The first night I basked in all the alcohol glory and payed the price for the remainder of the trip. It’s no fun being hung over in 100 degree weather.
- Visit the marijuana edibles truck
Once again, as someone from a conservative southern state, I was pleasantly shocked to see how open people are in New Orleans about marijuana. Although it is still technically illegal, it is clearly not strictly enforced. On every corner in the French Quarter you will find colorful trucks selling edibles. You absolutely must stop by and grab something! Just for the simple fact that in most states this would get you arrested.
- Hydrate hydrate hydrate
I seriously cannot stress enough how hot and humid is it in NOLA. Being Jamaican and growing up in North Carolina I am definitely use to warm weather, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was hit with in New Orleans. Its hot, muggy, clammy, and you’ll sweat buckets. You will likely be doing a lot of walking and therefor a lot of sweating. It is SO important that you drink tons of water. Especially if you are drinking alcohol as well. The last thing you want to have is a heat stroke in the middle of an amazing weekend.
- Carefully consider your travel group
This is probably the second most important tip aside from staying hydrated. Who you travel with can make or break your vacation. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t go a weekend without getting annoyed with that person you probably shouldn’t travel with them. Everyone has different ideas, standards, and interest. Add in extreme heat and alcohol, and now you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
- Relish is the experiences happening around you
There is nothing worse then a person who cannot stop and smell the roses. Find a moment to relax and take in all the city of New Orleans has to offer. After all you’re on vacation, in a beautiful city, with the people you call friends. These memories will carry you till your last breath, make sure they are marvelous!
I hope these tips are able to help you properly prepare and navigate your way through the festival. Still unaware of what the festival actual is? Check out my article What is the Essence Festival. If you are already aware of this amazing celebration of black culture and need help planning, check out my blog on how to plan for your Essence Festival getaway.