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Each summer, Essence Magazine produces a 4-day live experience in New Orleans. With hundreds of free daytime events, including a cooking showcase, a beauty carnival, and celebrity meet-and-greets, as well as a star-studded lineup of performers at the Superdome, the Essence Festival is packed with empowerment, excitement and unforgettable experiences.

The day starts with the Empowerment Experience, where guests can attend presentations by a panel of thought leaders, entrepreneurs and media influencers in the Black community, and continues with a series of community-oriented events and programs. Each day ends with performances by music industry powerhouses.

Essence was created as a way to celebrate communities of color and honor Black excellence. The Essence Festival is a continuation of that mission and draws nearly 500,000 participants who support it.

essence festival guide
Photo by Essence Festival

Essence Festival Dates & Location

Essence Festival 2017 takes place from Thursday, June 29 through Sunday, July 2 in the rich city of NOLA.

The free Essence Empowerment Experience will take place during the day at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center from Friday to Sunday, and the 4-day concert series will be at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Essence Festival Guide
Photo by Essence Festival

Essence Music Festival Tickets

All Essence Experiences are free with registration and open to the public. One of the highlights of the festival, the concert series, will feature huge names from the entertainment industry, including Diana Ross, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Chance the Rapper, Solange, Jill Scott, Monica and so many more legends. See the full Essence lineup.

Tickets to the concert series are available as single-day passes, weekend passes, or VIP passes. 

VIP registration includes premium seating, access to the backstage lounge with free food and drink, exclusive seating to the empowerment series and a one-year Essence Magazine subscription.

Essence Festival Guide
Photo by Essence Festival

Essence Experiences

The Essence Festival is much more than a star-studded concert series (as awesome as the line-up is). The festival offers empowering events from day to night, including seminars, beauty tips, cooking demos and more. See below for the full rundown on the Essence Festival experience. All experiences run from Friday through Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm at the New Orleans Convention Center.

Path to Power Conference is a seminar series that focuses on entrepreneurship and business. Speakers range from former White House Social Secretary, Deesha Dyer, to Harvard Scientist of the Year and Forbes 30 Under 30, Jessica Matthews. The powerful lineup will leave you empowered and equipped to take your next steps in business. The event is free with registration. See the full speaker lineup.

Beauty and Style Expo will feature product giveaways, beauty and style consults, mini makeovers, and meet & greets with popular bloggers in the industry. There will be appearances by Tina Knowles Lawson, Ty Hunter, and India.Aire among many others.

Entertainment All Access gives you the opportunity to meet Essence performers in the Fan Zone and see them perform at Center Stage throughout the weekend.

Essence Eats features some of the best cuisines that New Orleans has to offer, from live cooking demos with celebrity chefs to food vendors showcasing delicious Southern cuisine.

(Read: Where to Eat in New Orleans)

Essence Festival Guide
Photo by Essence Festival

Essence Lifestyle is all about holistic health that engages the mind and body. Dance it out to fun rhythms, get fitness tips from industry experts and learn about organizations that help you live a more healthy life.

Essence Day of Service is an opportunity to give back to the community of New Orleans through volunteering your time or giving donations. Spend a day beautifying homes for seniors or purchase tickets to the celebrity basketball game, where proceeds will go to NOLA youth. Day of Service will take place on Thursday, June 29. Register or purchase tickets on the event page.

Community Center is a place where you can inquire about employment opportunities, gather information on enrolling in higher education programs or learn how to advance your career. University enrollment advisors, business executives and career experts will be waiting to take your questions.

Shops at Essence is the festival marketplace where you’ll find handmade goods from quilters, jewelry designers, painters, sculptors and more.

Essence Bookstore will be open all weekend long with books available for browsing and purchase.

Many Essence Experience Events require advance registration, so make sure to check the event page for more information.

Essence Festival Guide
Photo by Essence Festival

Where to Stay for Essence Festival

An event that draws 500,000 guests to a city with a population of fewer than 400,000 will most likely mean a hotel shortage. Not only will you want to book your accommodations as soon as possible, but you’ll also want to browse places other than hotels to find the best rates. Check out these great finds in New Orleans.

Airbnb

This 4-bedroom Victorian home near the venue sleeps up to eight guests. Rent the entire house for only $400/night for you and a few friends to get a great deal.

Hotels

If you’re set on a hotel (at a good price), then the 4.5-star Omni River Hotel for $269/night is your best option. Not only is this hotel right across the street from the convention center and the Mississippi River, but it’s also a 5-minute walk to the famous French Quarter.

The Renaissance New Orleans Hotel offers large, well-designed rooms in the business district across from the convention center and near the French Quarter for $269/night.

essence festival survival guide
Photo by Sandra Alphonse

Essence Festival will draw close to 500,000 people to the city of New Orleans for the largest (and arguably most fun) summer party in the NOLA. Our first pro tip is that you shouldn’t miss it. Read on for the rest of our tips and survival guide for this year’s Essence Fest.

Tips

1. Get the festival app

The days will be full of activities and events. Make sure to download the Essence Festival App for iPhone and Android to keep up with it all.

2. Book your hotel, yesterday

Do not wait until the last minute to book your hotel. You will regret it. Check out the Essence Festival Guide for places to stay in New Orleans, or check here. Do it now!

3. Experience NOLA before the chaos

Get to New Orleans a day early or stay a day after the festival. This will give you a chance to enjoy the city without the heavy crowds. NOLA has its own special magic with and without Essence Fest.

4. Keep it cute and comfy

Pull out the comfy shoes. Traffic is inevitable, so you’re better off staying close by and walking. Between the commute and the convention, you’ll be on your feet for hours.

5. Prepare for tricky weather

New Orleans is hot to say the least, so dress accordingly, but also be prepared for the random rain storms.

6. Know who you want to see ahead of time

A lot of shows will be occurring at the same time in different locations. Check the festival app for the concert schedule so you don’t miss the artists you want to see.

7. Party responsibly

If you know of a particular party you really want to attend, grab tickets early because they always book up and the prices will go up.

8. Party spontaneously

That being said, there are SO many parties happening that weekend, so don’t feel pressured to pick one right away. You are guaranteed to have plenty of options.

9. Check out Bourbon Street

After the concerts, head to the unofficial after party on Bourbon Street. Even if you don’t have tickets to any events, you’re still guaranteed a great time.

10. Head to the exclusive areas

If Bourbon Street is a bit too hectic for you, grab a cab and head over to Frenchmen Street, which is equally fun, loaded with bars and restaurants, but much less crowded.

11. Enjoy the cuisine

Eat everything. Seriously. Make it a priority to check out all the great New Orleans restaurants.

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